While mindfulness is a concept that has been around for a long time, it has been clouded by lots of myths and misconceptions. Some people take it to be an evil practice while others perceive it to be an overly religious or spiritual practice that the average person can’t benefit from
Others think it is a practice that’s too easy to do and which can’t bring the benefits it is said to have while some think it’s way too difficult to work with it.
These myths are often contrasting and can easily mislead those who are interested and willing to give it a go. That’s why we aim, through this post, to clear the mist on this issue and address the most commonly believed myths about mindfulness.
Common Myths About Mindfulness
Myth #1. There’s no difference between mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness and meditation seem to be similar, but there are distinct differences between the two. By definition, meditation is the progressive silencing of the thought process, through training the mind in focus and relaxation, until we get to the source of thought which is the self of the individual, the source of the universe as well as the ground of being.
Ideally, we get to train our minds to reduce the number of thoughts that keep coming up and distracting us so that we ground ourselves well.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, is simply to be aware and present. Here we aim to have our attention on the present moment and its experiences.
These two are different, although, meditation can be used in training people for mindfulness through a meditation technique called mindfulness meditation. This practice helps us have an experience of mindfulness and train ourselves to take it outside of our meditation sessions and into our daily lives.
Myth #2. There’s no difference between mindfulness and mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation that helps us get started with mindfulness.
There are many ways to train in mindfulness and mindfulness meditation is among the most rewarding ones that have helped most people learn what it’s like to be mindful which they can then spill over into their lives and the activities they get into in their typical day.
Mindfulness meditation is a component of mindfulness.
Other than mindfulness meditation, we can also use mindful eating, mindful walking, mindful speaking, mindful listening, and others to remain mindful.
In essence, to be mindful, we don’t necessarily need to work with mindfulness meditation although it converts well for beginners who are just stepping foot into mindfulness practice.
Myth #3. Mindfulness is all about resting and relaxing
Mindfulness can bring about effects of relaxation and make our rest time worthwhile. However, this is not all that it does.
Most people tend to think that mindfulness is for stressed people, which is not true. It is for enriching almost all aspects of our life.
Being mindful allows us to have a better experience in many areas of our lives including work and school. When we are mindful in school, we can direct our attention more towards learning, and at work, we are able to remain productive for a long time.
When we are aware of our thoughts and feelings, and we use that awareness to direct our attention, energy, and effort towards more important things in our lives, we get to live a more fulfilled life.
Mindfulness allows us to be aware of each area of our lives, as it is. Whether good or bad. This way, we are better able to manage ourselves and improve upon those areas.
Myth #4. Mindfulness is a quick fix for life problems
Mindfulness is often perceived to be a practice that can help solve all our problems. It is also sold by most people who are money-oriented as a way to flush all our worries and discomfort down the toilet.
However, the truth is quite the contrary.
Mindfulness allows us to be aware of our lives in greater detail and how we react to various situations.
We get to learn how our thoughts and feelings work, how we express ourselves in various scenarios including good and bad moments.
With the self-knowledge or self-awareness we gain, we can then choose to work on ourselves in those areas we feel we fall short in and make a progressive change towards being stronger, peaceful, better, and more stable people.
Personal effort plays a big role in solving our problems and mindfulness acts as a tool, not a solution, to solve the problems.
Myth #5. Mindfulness is about eliminating all your thoughts
When it comes to using mindfulness to get rid of all our thoughts, this is a task that can never be achieved.
It is practically impossible to have a mind that’s empty of thoughts and mindfulness can’t help with that either.
Mindfulness simply allows us to discover the patterns of our thoughts, how they arise, and how they play out in our minds. And when this is happening, we are encouraged to simply observe and not getting involved or form opinions about anything.
If we are working on a task and we become aware our minds have started pursuing various thoughts, we are supposed to redirect our attention to the task and keep going. We shouldn’t label or indulge in those thoughts.
Our minds are constantly producing different thoughts and that is nature, and when we react less to these thoughts and keep our focus and attention on what we should be doing, we get better at managing ourselves and have an easier time working on our tasks.
Myth #6. Mindfulness is based on joy and happiness
Mindfulness doesn’t require a joyful person. Neither is it our main goal to be happy when we become mindful
Happiness may be a product of mindfulness but it’s not what we are seeking as the priority. Instead, we aim to be aware of the present moment with all its experiences, both good and bad.
It is about accepting and greeting the good and bad moments with gentleness, openness, patience, and kindness.
The truth is, the present moment is not always going to be the best as we would wish it to be. And by being aware of this, we get to cultivate the attitude of patience, acceptance, and gentleness towards ourselves and the situation by acknowledging that things are the way they are at that moment.
We even go a step forward and be keen on our tough moments so that we are better able to understand them and why they come about, and have the strength to solve the problems, which will make our lives more bearable and peaceful.
Myth #7. Mindfulness is pretty much being attentive to our breath
This myth often comes from people who have known about mindful breathing that involves being aware of our breathing process.
Mindful breathing is a form of mindfulness as are many other forms such as mindful walking, mindful listening, reflection, and visualization, to name a few.
Mindful breathing is used as an anchor to the present moment. Since breathing is always happening in the present moment, when we direct awareness to the process, we get into the present moment.
After we have anchored ourselves in the here and now, we can then become aware of other aspects of senses like sight, taste, hearing, and touch, and even go about our lives with the same level of mindfulness.
Unlike meditation and some of its forms like breath counting, deep breathing, and others that focus only on the breath, mindfulness is all-encompassing.
Myth #8. Mindfulness will make you a generally weak person
Some people see mindfulness as a practice that makes us less strong people. In the workplace, it is thought that it can lower our motivation to keep working and even make us passive in a bad way, to become pushovers.
Also, people think that because mindfulness does help us relax and be at ease, we change and become soft people.
This is far from the truth as mindfulness strengthens us in a big way. For instance, while it helps us relax and become calm, it allows us to be composed in stressful situations that would have us say and do things that we would otherwise regret later on.
It helps to create that mental space that makes it possible for us to respond much better to difficult situations
As for the workplace, mindfulness helps us be aware of the overwhelming feelings and anxiety-inducing thoughts that weigh us down and make us less productive, and we get to have the strength to handle them in a way that keeps us productive.
Myth #9. Mindfulness is disguised religion
Since mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism, most people take it as if it is a practice that is disguised as a mental health improvement practice that is meant to get more people to convert to Buddhism.
Others think that we have to be religious people to practice mindfulness, which is false.
Mindfulness may have originated from Buddhist teachings but it has evolved through the years to become a practice separate from Buddhism, which everyone can make use of.
It’s true, there is a form of mindfulness practice that incorporates Buddhist teachings and which is taught in Buddhist centers. However, there is another form of the practice that is based on self-development and which does not have any strings attached to any form of religious beliefs.
If we think about it, mindfulness is simply a way to get to know ourselves better and how our thoughts, feelings, and sensations move in the present moment. And we aim to use this knowledge to transform ourselves to become better people.
Myth #10. For mindfulness to work, our minds shouldn’t wander
The nature of our minds is such that it is always having a string of endless thoughts.
Left untouched, it can take us from thoughts about our work to other diverse thoughts such as a person we met and how we found them attractive or weirdly dressed to thinking about the events we are supposed to attend in the coming month and many others.
This is how our thoughts work and it is often hard for us to control this process entirely.
Mindfulness comes in as a way to help us reduce these thoughts and be more grounded in the present moment. It calms down the thought process and constantly attempts to eliminate thoughts of the future and the past that evoke different feelings within us and which also prevent us from enjoying the present.
Our minds will always wander and our goal with mindfulness is to be aware of the times when we drift off in thought and gently direct our attention back to what is happening in the “now”.
Myth #11. Mindfulness is concentrating
Most people think that to be mindful we need to have high levels of concentration, which is not the case.
Mindfulness is not about being able to concentrate because mindfulness meditation or other mindfulness practices do not focus on concentration but rather on awareness.
Our minds wander all the time and this is defined as loss of concentration, but if we can notice this wandering of the mind and slowly bring back our attention to what should be doing, be it working, listening, or other activities, we can confidently say we are mindful.
In essence, mindfulness is all about being aware of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations and while it improves our concentration levels due to the reduction of distracting and stressful thoughts, concentration is not the goal.
Myth #12. Mindfulness is confusing
Some people falsely believe that mindfulness makes a person separate from their emotions, thoughts, and sensations, which then lead to confusion and losing our human touch.
Mindfulness doesn’t distance us from our emotions or thoughts or even sensations. It encourages us more to interact with them but from a point of neutrality.
Without interfering with the natural flow of these aspects, we get to notice how they work and how they affect us and this leads to more self-awareness and a stronger connection with them as human beings.
Myth #13. Mindfulness brings about self-absorption
Mindfulness seemingly appears to be a practice that makes us think about ourselves alone because of the concept it encourages of turning inwards. However, an increasing number of studies show that it helps to improve relationships with others.
By being able to respond well to our thoughts and feelings and even get to control how we act and react, we can live at peace with other people.
On top of that, studies show that mindfulness allows us to be more sympathetic and empathetic with others, and understand their difficulties, and want to help more.
Myth #14. Mindfulness is quite demanding time-wise
Mindfulness is pretty much a practice that we can all engage in for as little or much time as we would want.
For beginners, sparing about 1 to 5 minutes per day is a good place to start and as we get more into it and have a feel of the benefits it brings, we naturally want to do it more.
We can spare a few minutes to eat mindfully once a day or a week, walk mindfully, speak mindfully, or get involved in any other form of mindfulness.
Being in the present moment and having a full experience of what is happening adds flavor to life and when we get to the point when we are more mindful during the day, each minute counts and it feels like we are more alive and living life.
Moreover, mindfulness allows us to reduce the amount of time we spend chewing ourselves up in negative thoughts that bring us down, which saves us time, suffering and makes us more positive.
Myth #15. Mindfulness is just another passing craze (to profit business people)
Mindfulness is not another wellness trend that is business-based, which will come and go. It has been around for decades and it keeps growing and spreading as time goes by. More people are considering it for personal development and sticking to it in the long term.
The fact that it takes money to make it known to people and business people are using the practice as a service to their clients, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s there to help make profits to the company owners only.
It is there to help more people live peaceful and happier lives and most business owners who run such companies are often people who have had a deep interaction with mindfulness and feel the inner push to help more people benefit from it and make money in the process.
Myth #16. Mindfulness has to be done in a quiet space
Mindfulness is not restricted to our meditation rooms or favorite chill-out spots. It can be done everywhere and anywhere.
It is always good to begin the practice in a quiet space to lay the foundation of the practice in our lives well, but as we get more comfortable with it, we are strongly encouraged to work with it in our lives.
We aim to be mindful when working, resting, having our meals, speaking with other people, commuting, and in almost all activities we do despite the noise that comes from the various areas we are in.
Myth #17. Mindfulness is easy
Mindfulness may be perceived as a practice so easy to do that it would barely bring about the benefits it’s said to have.
In reality, it is not easy to be mindful as most would think. As earlier mentioned, the nature of our mind is to process many different thoughts that often distract us and take us away from the present moment.
We may be deeply mindful in one moment and completely distracted the next minute, and that is why we are often asked to be aware when our minds wander and then bring back our attention to the object of focus.
Mindfulness is not as easy or as difficult to do. It depends on our understanding of it and our commitment to engage in it. With these two in mind together with consistent effort, it is possible to benefit from the practice.
Myth #18. Mindfulness is a solution to all mental health issues
Mindfulness may help handle several mental health issues such as stress and anxiety but it is definitely not the answer to all mental health conditions that exist.
According to American Psychological Association, it may also improve our processing speed, bring down psychological distress, improve cognitive flexibility, boost working memory and improve our focus.
All these benefits give a good boost to our brains which in turn improves our mental performance but they don’t solve all the problems we may be having that are related to our mental health.
Getting diagnosed and treated by professional medical experts combined with mindfulness can help to maintain optimum mental health.
Myth #19. Mindfulness is dangerous
Mindfulness as a practice is not life-threatening. It is a method to improve upon ourselves as human beings.
However, it is worth noting that some techniques and approaches used by various people to increase their level of mindfulness may not always bring the desired results and may even end up causing negative effects.
Just like meditation, mindfulness may impact us negatively if not handled the right way and there are various factors such as wrong expectations, how much you practice it, and others that cause the negative experiences.
To reduce the chances of such experiences, we are encouraged to work with qualified, licensed, and experienced mindfulness experts for any form of mindfulness practice we may want to work with to get the right understanding and approach to the practice that is well regulated and optimized to benefit us.
Myth #20. Mindfulness is for everyone
Mindfulness, just like different medications, is not for everyone. Some people hugely benefit from the practice and some don’t.
We all have different brain and body chemistry, which explains the different experiences. However, before throwing it out the window and saying it is not for us, as individuals, it is good that we give it a try for a good while, and then observe how it goes for us.
Through working with mindfulness experts and getting help where we need, for at least 6 months consecutively, we can know if the practice is a good fit for us and determine if we’ll keep at it and make it part of our lifestyle or look for another self-improvement practice.
In summary, most of what is spread out there about mindfulness are not the truth. As they say, lies spread faster than the truth.
Mindfulness is a practice that works for many of those who understand it well and who put effort into aiming to be mindful for long.
Mindfulness, defined in the simplest words possible, is being aware and present. It’s letting go of the thoughts of the past that bring about various negative feelings including regret as well thoughts about the future that cause anxiety.
We aim to be there in the moment and observe our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and our environment as we go about our day normally.
To make mindfulness work in our lives, we are required to be committed to practicing it constantly. It is not easy to do it but it is also not that difficult. It is very much achievable.
With the right understanding of it and approach, we can make it work as other people have done.