mindfulness myths

mindfulness myth

Hype and Confusion

In recent years, mindfulness has gained a lot of attention. A quick google search and you can find a range of mindfulness resources and programs. Mindfulness has been adopted by “wellness” culture, big corporations, and marketing departments. In this context, it is often portrayed as a “fix” for normal human emotions like anxiety or depression; or used as a buzz-word to help sell things like books or training programs. 
Along with all of the hype, there is also a lot of confusion about what mindfulness is, what it is supposed to do, and how effective it is. The reality is, it isn’t a fix-all. As with all forms of psychological strategies, it will work for some people and not for others. For some people it can be extremely effective, some experience no benefits, and for others mindfulness can cause negative consequences.

What is mindfulness?

Simply put, mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment in a way that is without judgement. There are many different ways that we can practice the skill of mindfulness. We can pay attention to our breath, our thoughts, or our emotions, and it can be active or passive. These different practices are essentially about bringing non-judgemental awareness to different aspects of our experience.

Mindfulness Myths

One of the common misconceptions about mindfulness is that it can be used as a way to remove uncomfortable thoughts or emotions. We think that  we can “fix” our anxiety or depression if we are just mindful enough. Instead, it should be thought of as a different way for us to experience our thoughts and emotions. Rather than struggling against our emotions, we practice noticing, accepting, and non-judgement. Another common misconception is that it is a relaxation exercise. Sometimes we will feel relaxed after a mindfulness exercise. However, we can also be mindful at times when we are experiencing elevated levels of anxiety or stress.

The Mindfulness Beach Ball

My clients often find the beach ball analogy a helpful one. Imagine you are in a pool with a large beach ball, and the beach ball represents all of our thoughts or emotions. When we struggle against our thoughts or emotions, it’s like trying to push the beach ball under the water. We can often manage this for a short time, but it takes energy and effort. Inevitably, the beach ball eventually pops up from underneath the water.

Rather than expending the extra energy and effort to push the beach ball under the water, it may be more helpful to sit back and observe the beach ball floating on the surface of the water. The beach ball may float away, it may float close to us or it may float behind us. We practice letting our thoughts and emotions come and go, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. It is our attempts to struggle with or control the emotion which often makes them more unbearable.

Achieving Mindful Success

Being clear about the purpose and limitations of mindfulness may help to set our practice up for success. Understanding the different types of practices and the best ones for the issues we are facing, may also be helpful. Lastly, for those of us who have tried mindfulness before and it hasn’t worked (or it made things worse) perhaps it isn’t the best option. Other techniques may be more helpful for you. 

A trained Psychologist may be able to support you with your mindfulness practice or help identify other techniques if you find that mindfulness doesn’t work for you. Contact Uplift Psychology to find out how we may help.

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