Politicians and health professionals are now beginning to understand that when it comes to getting people to change their behaviour for the sake of their own health, lectures and dictates are not hugely effective.
What does work is what is known as ‘nudging’. A subtle hint, a suggested change, a gentle recommendation.
And this is exactly what we have been doing at Maggie’s for 25 years.
We don’t tell people what to do, we don’t tell them what not to do, and we don’t judge them for eating a biscuit or enjoying a glass of wine.
What we do is use our expertise to gently guide them towards a healthier way of being. And then of course support them to make those changes in a way that is manageable and allows the person to feel more in control of their mental and physical health.
We suggest someone joins our gentle exercise classes, we show them easy ways to incorporate healthier food into their diet, we listen to their needs and nudge them towards the cancer support that we know would suit them best – a conversation with our cancer support specialists, a chat around our kitchen table with people in similar situations or, if necessary, an appointment with one of our psychologists.
We also know though when a person needs some time and space to themselves more than anything else.
Our centres are designed to provide exactly that and all we need to do is encourage them to keep making the most of our beautifully designed spaces if that’s what they need.
So for 25 years, we have been nudging people towards taking small steps to give themselves the best possible chance during treatment, to ensure they have the energy to be carers, or to protect against recurrence as best as possible.
With that nudging though comes more than just the obvious physical benefits.
Nudging rather than dictating allows people to feel empowered and in doing so feel better mentally and emotionally as well. Suggesting options, step by step offers people choices when it might otherwise feel as if they have none.
Showing what difference a few small changes could make cultivates hope for the future. And when the slips come, which they will as we are all human and cancer, with its exhaustion, fear, and anxiety, makes human moments all the more frequent, we are here. Not to scold, judge or reprimand, but simply to accept, acknowledge our humanness, before gently nudging them back towards healthier choices once more.