What are Mindfulness Myths?
Mindfulness involves being aware of our thoughts, feelings, bodily-sensations and environment on a moment-by-moment basis. This awareness does not seek to understand or judge what is happening but rather to accept it in a gentle and nurturing manner—without believing that there is a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel about ourselves, others or our environment at each moment.
Below we will debunk some common misconceptions about mindfulness.
Myth 1: Mindfulness is the same as relaxation
The word “mindfulness” tends to conjure up an image of someone meditating in solitude, in perfect silence, in a beautiful setting. However, mindfulness is in fact simply acknowledging whatever you are thinking, feeling, and sensing from your environment without judgement, in that very moment. That moment may happen to be painful or unpleasant even, whether that be physically or emotionally. Unpleasant sensations, thoughts and feelings are inevitable in life. Therefore, if one is learning to be mindful, they are likely to encounter discomfort at times, which is certainly not serving the purpose of being “relaxing.” It is about learning to not label that discomfort as “bad” or judge ourselves about the difficult thoughts or feelings we may experience. This can be very difficult, especially when we may have a had a consistent pattern of negative self-talk for many years.
Myth 2: There is a “right time” to be mindful
Going back to the previous point, when we now understand what it truly is to be mindful, although that initial image of the meditating woman/man may seem ideal, we realise how unrealistic these “perfect conditions” are likely to be. If we are constantly holding out for things to be “perfect” before we can use mindfulness strategies, we may only engage in mindfulness practice very seldomly due to the realities of life. Surprisingly, mindfulness activities can actually be well executed in crowded or noisy spaces, by noticing the unfamiliar sights and sounds and practicing doing this from a non-judgemental standpoint. For example, one may choose to focus on the sights, sounds and smell of walking through a bus station on the way to a job interview to remind their body that they are safe and present in that moment.
Myth 3: Mindfulness is easy
Our minds tend to run on “autopilot” for the majority of our daily activities. For instance, have you ever driven somewhere and thought, “Oh wow, I don’t even remember getting here? “
For the most part, our brains do this to be more efficient and make mundane tasks almost like “second-nature.” However, when we begin to feel perhaps that our entire life is simply “running on autopilot” and we are never truly in the moment to enjoy it when it happens, we may wish to become more mindful.
Switching into a mindful headspace is definitely not easy, especially when one is not used to simply acknowledging their feelings, without being swept up in their thoughts. Often people may be worried that they are “doing mindfulness wrong,” because they may have judged a feeling or thought or got side-tracked, and allowed themselves to fixate on a specific thought or feeling etc. It is important to remember, especially at the beginning of learning mindfulness strategies that this way of existing requires practice and a compassionate inner voice if the mind begins to wander which simply serves to remind yourself to return your focus to the present moment and not be concerned by mindfulness myths.
Author: Lauren Otto, MA Clinical Psychology
Lauren Otto is a Clinical Psychologist who primarily works with children, adolescents and adults. She has experience in many fields including emotion regulation and adjustment difficulties, as well as living with chronic pain. Her warm, non-judgemental yet practical approach to therapy fosters a positive relationship whilst allowing them to achieve their goals. Lauren also has a particular interest in Autism Spectrum Disorder.
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