Mindfulness has been practiced in Eastern cultures for centuries in religious, non-religious, and traditional ways. Like a tree with strong roots, mindfulness has become rooted in Western society. Mindfulness is quickly being integrated into our culture to help physicians care for their patients, in schools around the country, and by mental health professionals. Mental health providers use mindfulness as a tool to treat anxiety, depression, to reduce rumination, or for emotional and attention regulation.
There are numerous benefits of mindfulness. Some of them include stress reduction and increased awareness of emotions, thoughts, and the physical sensations in the body. Mindfulness is a jewel for anyone experiencing anxiety or depression because it brings your thoughts to the present moment, not the past or the future.
Most people have an idea of what mindfulness is but they may not be sure, which leads many of my clients to ask me.“But, what is mindfulness?” Mindfulness is defined by Merriam Webster as, “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”
But as the benefits of mindfulness continue to be discovered, the myths are also gaining traction. Dr. Ellen Hendriksen discusses what mindfulness is NOT in her article The Five Biggest Myths of Mindfulness. According to Dr. Hendriksen, the five myths are:
MYTH #1 Mindfulness And Meditation Are The Same
One of the easiest ways to distinguish mindfulness from meditation is that meditation requires “sustained attention,” preferably in a relaxed, seated
position. Mindfulness is simply bringing all of your focus or attention to any object in the present moment. It doesn’t matter where you are or what
position you are in. With mindfulness, you are not judging or trying to change anything; you acknowledge and observe your thoughts, feelings, and
emotions, and that is it.
MYTH #2: Mindfulness Means You Need To Rest
Sorry, but mindfulness is not a quick nap. Mindfulness can reduce the symptoms of stress so you may feel better after a quick moment of
MYTH #3: Mindfulness Is Having No Thoughts
No, mindfulness is being aware of your thoughts and emotions without judgement. We can’t stop thinking, but we can change our thoughts and that starts with being aware of our thoughts, which is one reason mindfulness is so powerful. Changing your thoughts gives you the ability to change your life.
MYTH #4: Being Mindful All The Time Is The Goal
This myth is impossible and is not the purpose of mindfulness. Mindfulness has its limits, just like everything else. There are events in life that require planning, just like there are events in life we will always remember. At times, you feel stressed or your thoughts are stuck in the past or you are trying to forecast the future. The practice of mindfulness helps bring your focus back to the present moment in time.
MYTH #5: Mindfulness Is Bliss
Mindfulness can provide a momentary break from distressful thoughts. But mindfulness is based on the awareness of a much broader spectrum of positive, neutral, and negative thoughts, emotions, feels and behaviors. The practice of mindfulness teaches you to acknowledge or notice you. How wonderful!
Remember, mindfulness is on a moment-to-moment basis, meaning it can be practiced anywhere. Some examples of mindfulness include mindful breathing, mindful meditation, mindful observation, and mindful awareness. Now you know the difference between mindfulness and meditation.
If you are having difficulty with anxiety, depression, rumination, or emotional and attention regulation, many of our skilled counselors at Symmetry incorporate mindfulness into treatment for clients. Give us a call at (312)578-9990.