Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present, on purpose, without judgement.
I run a lot of mindfulness sessions in the workplace in which I introduce people to what mindfulness is, why we might need it, and how it can be useful in helping us manage our mental health and well-being. In those sessions, as well as introducing people to what mindfulness is it is equally important to let people know what it isn’t.
So here I summarise and debunk some of the top mindfulness myths…
MINDFULNESS IS ABOUT CLEARING YOUR HEAD
Mindfulness isn’t about creating a state in which there is nothing happening between your ears. It is not about emptying your mind, shutting out thoughts or trying to concentrate to make them go away. It is about paying attention to the present non-judgmentally.
So, when you are practising mindfulness, if you notice when your mind has wandered (which happens to everyone), you gently guide it back to what you are bringing your attention to (your breath for example). That is a really important part of the practice.
MINDFULNESS IS JUST MEDITATION
Whilst practising meditation helps cultivate the skills that come with mindfulness (and people often find having the formal meditation practice useful in terms of underpinning the attitudes that mindfulness entails), mindfulness itself is broader than that.
You can be mindful with everyday activities – by bringing a conscious attention to the physical sensations of what you are doing, noticing when your mind goes wandering away from deliberately paying attention, and gently guiding it back. So, you can have a mindful shower, eat an apple mindfully, or go for a mindful walk. Cool eh?
MINDFULNESS IS A QUICK FIX
No – mindfulness takes patience, persistence, and regularity. If you compare it to physical exercise, think about the effect of doing one sit-up – not much. But if you did a regular amount of exercise each day, you would start to feel and see the results. The same applies to mindfulness.
If you are thinking about introducing mindfulness into your workplace for employees, recognising it is not a panacea is also important. It takes time and thought to implement mindfulness strategies, and it should ideally form part of an overall well-being strategy.
MINDFULNESS IS JUST RELAXATION
For many, mindfulness can help them relax or respond differently to stressful and difficult situations, but part of the approach in mindfulness is not to have an expectation that a practice will lead to a particular result for you.
However, because mindfulness involves bringing attention to present thought, emotions and body sensations, it can sometimes be a challenging practice. The aim is not to ‘be relaxed’ but to be with whatever you have going on right now. The good news is there is no ‘right or wrong’ way to feel when it comes to the practice – it is as it is!
MINDFULNESS IS JUST TRENDY RIGHT NOW
Although mindfulness is receiving increasing coverage right now, it is something that people have been practising for years. The scientific research on mindfulness is established and ongoing: some of that research has already shown that practising mindfulness on a regular basis can alter brain regions associated with empathy, memory, and stress.
Whilst not necessarily for everyone, if implemented with care, mindfulness has the potential to help us be in the present more often, live happier, healthier lives and manage our well-being more wisely and effectively.
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