Hey readers, happy blogmas day 11! Today I want to talk about the power of occupation. At the heart of occupational therapy is occupation. Occupations are essentially any activity that you need or want to do in your life. This can be anything from performing job-related tasks, getting dressed, cooking a meal for your family, or participating in leisure activities that you enjoy (e.g. biking, painting, reading, etc.). You can read more about what OT is here, and you can learn about the eight areas of occupation here. So, why do OTs care so much about whether or not you can participate in these everyday tasks? Let’s chat about it!
What is Meaningful to You?
Think about an activity that you really enjoy. For me, this could be writing blog posts. I love the connections that I have made through this blog on Instagram, I love sharing what OT is and why it is important with my readers, and I love having a creative outlet to share my thoughts and experiences as an occupational therapy student and one day as an occupational therapist. Each of these things make writing blog posts meaningful for me.
Now, think about how you would feel if you were no longer able to participate in that activity. This could be due to an illness, disability, or other factor. How would you feel?
For me, I would feel like I lost part of my voice. I feel like this blog gives me a voice in many ways, and I love how I get to share that with anyone who wants to read it. But, think about all of the skills involved in the seemingly simple tasks that you love to do. How would an illness, disability, or other affect your ability to perform the skills?
To write a blog post, some of the skills I need are typing ability, some tech-savvy skills, attention, vision, memory, organization, planning, fine motor skills, executive function, spelling/grammar/clear and concise language, and the list goes on! This is where an OT can step in.
The heart of occupational therapy is occupation. OTs work with patients to find ways to adapt the task, strengthen the person, or change the environment to allow the individual to have success in the activities that are meaningful to them. By doing so, we are improving occupational engagement and satisfaction, mental health, and quality of life.
Now, imagine that an OT helped you to find strategies to be able to participate in the thing that you were once unable to do. How would you feel now? I would feel empowered, strong, heard, and above all, happy.
Participating in the things that you love to do can bring you happiness. This is why I strive for occupational balance! Among all of the things that I need to do (e.g. school, work, etc.) I always try to make time for the things that I want to do that bring me joy (e.g. my blog, exercise, friends & family, reading, etc.). Think about ways that you can change your habits or routines, modify your environment, or prioritize your tasks to be able to participate in what is meaningful to you.
There is unfortunately not much research on this yet, but I found one article that I wanted to share with all of you. In a study among individuals who have had a stroke, Bergstrom, Guidetti, Tham, and Eriksson (2017) found that there is a significant increase in satisfaction among people who do not have limitations to participation in meaningful occupations compared to those who do have limitations to participation in meaningful occupations. In other words, individuals who were able to participate in meaningful occupations were more satisfied than those who were not able to do so. Of the 69 people who participated in the study, 70% perceived that they had limitations to participation in meaningful occupations (Bergstrom et al., 2017). Furthermore, individuals who were able to participate in meaningful occupations reported 79-100% satisfaction (Bergstrom et al., 2017). Satisfaction was described as a personal evaluation of occupational performance that may reflect goals and priorities related to optimal performance (Bergstrom et al., 2017).
Through this research, we can see that occupational performance is so important. If we can help a person participate in the things that they need or want to do, then we can help to increase their satisfaction and overall quality of life. This is why OT is so amazing! We specialize in occupational performance, whatever that may look like for the individual that we are working with.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out the previous Blogmas posts on the blog, and keep an eye out for the final Blogmas post coming tomorrow. Happy holidays.
Bergstrom, A., Guidetti, S., Tham, K., & Eriksson, G. (2017). Association between satisfaction and participation in everyday occupations after stroke. Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 24(5), 339-348. https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/11038128.2016.1245782