Mindfulness has become a bit of a hype term with lots of different and often contrasting information advertised. This can make it very confusing to distinguish the truths from the myths. So here are five common myths about mindfulness, shared from the perspective of a mindfulness researcher:
1. You need to spend lots of time practicing mindfulness before it is beneficial.
Absolutely not. There is a common misconception around mindfulness that you have to spend many decades practicing mindfulness for you to enjoy the benefits which discourages many from even starting a practice.
While long-term mindfulness practitioners have certainly found their continued practice to have positive impacts on their lives, the benefits of mindfulness can already be seen after a much briefer engagement with mindfulness. Many people have also reported improved wellbeing and concentration after only one mindfulness practice (though this may not necessarily last long).
2. Only long mindfulness practices are helpful.
Similar to above, long practices can be helpful, but research comparing different practice lengths found that shorter practices of just 5 to 10 minutes can have positive effects, especially for those new to mindfulness.
Because our lives can be so busy, sitting down to practice for a prolonged period of time is just not possible for many. Also, with shorter mindfulness practices, it might be something you look forward to more rather than thinking of it as another chore to be completed. Much like anything you learn or practice, it can be good to start small.
3. You need special equipment for mindfulness practice.
You may have seen a lot of supposedly specialised equipment advertised, such as a meditation cushion which allows you to sit in a meditation pose, or meditation bells that transfer you into a mindful state. None of this is needed.
All you need is your breath and perhaps a recording of a guided meditation practice on your phone. You don’t even need to sit, you can practice mindfulness while walking, washing dishes, or brushing your teeth. Because everyone is different, the best way to practice mindfulness for you might look different to somebody else. So, make mindfulness work for you!
4. Mindfulness only works when it is taught in a face-to-face group.
Although there are many benefits to learning and practicing mindfulness in a group format, you don’t need to wait until the pandemic is over to sign up to a face-to-face program.
Mindfulness can also be learned when practiced on your own or with an online community. In fact, research which compared many different mindfulness programs found that different types can be helpful for improving wellbeing. This also makes mindfulness more accessible because it grants people the opportunity to practice mindfulness in their own time, whenever best suits them.
5. Mindfulness is a panacea that heals all ills.
Sadly not (though wouldn’t that be great?). Even though research has found many benefits of mindfulness when it comes to wellbeing and productivity, if you are in a toxic environment, practicing mindfulness will not eradicate that. And ask discussed on our recent podcast episode about workplace wellbeing, mindfulness is no replacement for good job design. However, mindfulness practice can help you notice and respond better to difficult situations.
Want to make a start?
There are lots of mindfulness resources available online, such apps like Insight Timer, Headspace or Calm, and online courses, for instance those advertised through FutureLearn.
Want to learn more?
Check out our recent podcast episode all about mindfulness, featuring an interview with Sarah. If you’d like to join us for a live discussion with Sarah, sign up at www.worklifepsych.club and come to our community meetup on April 28th. The community and meetup are completely free and a great way to learn more about the topics covered in this blog and on our podcast.