Let me start by saying that mindfulness is great. Many people find it supremely helpful. In fact, in a UK 2010 report on mindfulness 72% of GPs felt their patients with mental health problems would benefit from learning mindfulness meditation skills. And 86% of 2,007 people surveyed agreed that ‘people would be much happier and healthier if they knew how to slow down and live in the moment’. However, in recent years, mindfulness has become some kind of panacea. Suggested at the drop of a hat.
For more thoughts on how to achieve a slower pace in life read here.
The Mindfulness Panacea?
Moving house was undeniably one of the most stressful experiences I’ve encountered to date. And, whilst people meant well with their advice, they kept on recommending mindfulness to counter any stresses. For many it seemed an obvious solution. If one is stressed, one must practice mindfulness. Yet, whilst I have had some success with mindfulness. It’s not for everyone. In fact, many people baulk at the thought of mindfulness and it’s associations with stillness and meditation.
Mindfulness is not a panacea. The practice of which will not eradicate all stresses with the wave of a magic wand, or indeed, deep breathing for a few minutes. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly has it’s place in one’s self-care toolkit. And I encourage all and sundry to give it a try for a few weeks and see if it sticks. But it isn’t and shouldn’t be a replacement for the provision of support. Whether this be taking the time to really listen to someone’s stresses and responding in an appropriately empathetic way. Or the undertaking of help from a medical professional.
To Meditate or Not to Meditate
Suggesting mindfulness as a cure for everyone’s ailments. No matter who they are or the problem in question. Not only starts to look dismissive and insincere. As well as the aforementioned concern that it will be seen as a replacement for further support. But also stops people fully appreciating or benefiting from mindfulness. Although, it has to be said that mindfulness is not for everyone. No matter how you practice it. And that’s ok.
But my worry about mindfulness is this. It often comes with the assumption of meditation and deep breathing. And mindfulness meditation is certainly that. But that is not the whole picture. It is my belief that it is the meditation part of mindfulness which has many dismissing the practice out the gate. Citing disbelief that deep breathing will help. Fidgetiness. Inability to focus. And the list goes on.
But mindfulness is so much more than sitting cross legged on a cushion in stillness. At root it is about being in the moment. The best description I have heard for this is ‘be where your feet are’. Indulging your senses by taking a moment to be in the present moment. A Harvard study from 2010 found that people spend approximately 47% of their time not in the present moment. That’s almost half our time. And when you consider the amount of time we will also be sleeping. That leaves a scarce amount of time for living in the present.
So, if meditation is not for you. There are other routes into mindfulness. Whether that’s mindful colouring, a mindful walk in the park or indeed mindful eating. Any moment when you are actually in the moment counts. When I am attempting to be mindful, I try to achieve a state of flow. This idea from positive psychology encourages the complete immersion in an activity. To the extent that you are completely focused on your current situation. For myself, I know I’ve achieved a state of flow when a glance at the clock and what felt like 10 minutes can easily have been an hour or more.
For more thoughts on mindful practice and finding your flow read here.
What are your thoughts on mindfulness? Do you agree that we should be careful in portraying it as a ‘cure all’? Do you find it helpful or hurtful? Let us know below.