Top 3 mindfulness myths: Fact vs. Fiction. Is mindfulness just a fad?

Over the years of teaching my clients mindfulness skills I’ve heard many of them express their reluctance about it. I’ve heard mindfulness described as “hokey” or “just a fad.” I’ve also heard many people say they don’t have time for this practice – there are just too many things to get done in a day!

Research, however, shows that a daily mindfulness practice can help you calm your nervous system down and improve the functioning in the part of your brain called the prefrontal cortex. This is the area of your brain responsible for executive functioning which includes memory, flexible thinking and self-control. Daily mindfulness practice can help you exercise this part of your brain by learning to focus your mind on the present moment – this is necessary when taking tests or completing another task that requires your undivided attention.

Let’s look at the top 3 myths vs. facts about mindfulness:

Myth 1: I have no time for mindfulness practice.

Fact:  Mindfulness can be practiced any time, any place and for as long as you want. The benefit of a daily mindfulness practice is improved focus and productivity. You can start with just a one-minute mindfulness practice each day and work your way up. Daily practice helps improve your productivity in the long run because you’re taking the mental breaks your brain needs. You’re also giving yourself a chance to refuel so you then have energy to do more!

Myth 2: Mindfulness is a new age fad that people will lose interest in eventually.

Fact: Mindfulness practice has a long history with roots going back to the era of Confucius. In western mental health treatment programs, mindfulness is quickly becoming what’s considered an important component in evidence based treatment approaches to help people overcome many ailments including anxiety, depression and addiction. Mindfulness is an overarching category. Meditation is one type of mindfulness practice but there are many others. There are many ways to practice this skill but it starts with giving yourself permission to stop distractions, focus and reflect. My workshops discuss this in more detail.

Myth 3: I can experience a “blank” mind with mindful meditation practice.

Fact: One purpose of mindful meditation is to recognize helpful and realistic thoughts versus unhelpful and unrealistic ones. The mind produces thoughts like eyes produce tears. The mind is always working and this practice teaches us to “tame” it so we can effectively manage difficult thoughts that arise. Our minds are still working even when we sleep! There is no such thing as a blank mind but you can learn to cultivate a calm mind.

Dr. Langer, a researcher on mindfulness states, “One reason mindfulness may seem effortful is because of the pain of negative thoughts. When thoughts are uncomfortable, people often struggle to erase them. The pain, however, does not come from mindful awareness of these thoughts, but from a single-minded understanding of the painful event. A mindful new perspective would erase the pain more effectively.
 -Ellen J. Langer, Ph.D. – Mindfulness

I was first introduced to the idea of mindfulness as a skill in my undergraduate program at Boston University. Mindfulness is one of the first books I read in my introduction to psychology class. Over the years, I’ve been using and teaching the skill of mindful thinking and problem-solving to manage past traumatic memories and current stressors. In her book, Dr. Langer explains how a shift in perspective can help you challenge limiting beliefs. Doing so can help you overcome the negative effects of trauma and experience post-traumatic growth instead.

Interested in trying your own meditation practice? Meditation is one form of mindfulness practice. Below are two resources I recommend for beginning students:

“Meditation is the ultimate mobile device; you can use it anywhere, anytime, unobtrusively.”

Sharon Salzberg is a beloved meditation teacher who co-founded Insight Meditation Society in 1974. She overcame her own childhood of loss and turmoil. In her book Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, she introduces her readers to a 28-day meditation practice. The book includes a CD with guided meditation exercises. 

One of my favorite meditations is the loving-kindness meditation. Research suggests that daily and long-term practice of this meditation can help improve your mental functioning. I highly recommend this book!

“Mindfulness isn’t about getting anywhere else. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn is an American Professor and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is credited with bringing the Eastern practice of meditation to Western  secular practices within the mental health field. 

His CD’s include helpful guided exercises to get you started with your own meditation practice. I have used them personally and in my clinical practice as an example of different ways to practice mindfulness. 

Are you interested in hosting a mindfulness workshop for your team or work setting? I have coached education, healthcare and other professionals on how to use mindfulness to manage stress and improve employees’ overall well being. Burnout and compassion fatigue are a major contributor to missed productivity, work days and team conflict.

Workshops include:

– Practical stress management tools you can start using right away
– Help with developing your own or team’s self-care action plan
– Access to my private Facebook discussion group for ongoing community 
support and resource sharing 

Workshops can be tailored to your organization’s needs. Contact me at sofias.sanctuary (at) gmail.com or by cell: 713-817-3523 for a free consultation. P

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