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 this book 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. 

This CD includes helpful guided exercises to get you started with your own meditation practice. I have used it 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.

Please note: Sofia Reddy (sofias-sanctuary.com) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

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Managing stress with mindful eating

Mindful Break @ Muffin House Cafe, Medway, MA
Photo: ~Sofia Reddy

Quote of the Day:

“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”

~ rashaski · Zen Proverb

Reflection:

One of our major struggles in modern day life is trying to do too much in a short amount of time. Often what is sacrificed is the purely enjoyable experience of a eating a meal slowly, intentionally – with our full attention and awareness. One area that eating becomes another chore on the to do list is at work. When I facilitate self-care workshops I often hear employees saying, “I don’t have time to eat lunch,” “I often run out the door in the morning with a cup of coffee but skip breakfast,” or “my lunch is interrupted by phone calls and colleagues stopping by to make requests.”

Sound familiar?

The problem with skipping meals or rushing through them is that we tend to either under or overeat. Ultimately we are not getting the nutrients we need to maintain our energy levels and our productivity is more drastically compromised. If we give ourselves permission to take 10-15 minutes to enjoy our meal, not only do we end up feeling more satisfied, we have the energy needed to stay focused and accomplish our goals for the day.

Today’s practice:

Today, try eating a mindful breakfast, lunch and dinner, alone or with family, a friend or colleague. For breakfast, get up 10 minutes earlier so you have time to eat something with your full attention and awareness. Savor each bite of your favorite fruit, cereal or other morning meal preference. I can’t leave the house without eggs for breakfast. They pack protein and keep me full throughout the morning. Often we boil eggs and keep them refrigerated, which is a quick meal that is healthy and tasty.

For lunch, turn off the computer and telephone ringer and set your timer for at least 10 minutes. Clear the desk. Or better yet if it’s a nice day out take lunch to a picnic table or bench. Smell the aroma of the food you are about to enjoy. Notice its texture, taste, smell and really savor it. Allow your senses to experience every aspect of this meal.

At dinner, turn off the tv or other electronics. If you live with family make it a rule to turn off electronics and the telephone during dinner. Spend at least 30 minutes together enjoying each other’s company and the meal. Look at each other. Talk to each other. Spend some time in silence too. If you feel moved perhaps say a prayer (or meditate) about feeling thankful to have this food to eat and reflect on how the food got to the table. Think of all the people and processes involved to bring this food here. Savor every minute.

How did your practice go? What did you notice? 

Were there any difficulties, and if so how did you manage them? Do you have any other ideas or questions about this practice? 

Would love to hear from you! Share with us by commenting below or through my Facebook page @Sofiasanctuary

Today’s Book Recommendations:

 

Please note: Sofia Reddy (sofias-sanctuary.com) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Thank you for your support!

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