Are You Skeptical About Starting Your Own Mindfulness Practice?

mindfulnessSome people begin a mindfulness practice with a long history of meditating, a knowledge of Buddhist practices and a belief that mindfulness will solve their problems. Others hear about mindfulness practice and are skeptical or doubtful that it can have any real impact on their physical and mental well-being.

Research studies conducted over the last 30 years have found that mindfulness practice can result in reductions in medical and psychological symptoms in a wide variety of conditions, such as anxiety and panic, chronic pain, psoriasis and immune functioning. But mindfulness is more than a set of techniques. In order to be effective it requires a certain attitude and outlook.

It might seem that the person that approaches mindfulness practice with a background in meditation and a belief that mindfulness is the answer would experience the greatest benefit from mindfulness. But mindfulness is not a quick or easy fix. As a result, when people approach it with a strong belief that it will provide answers and solutions they are often disappointed.

On the other hand, beginning the practice of mindfulness with the belief that it won’t work also may make it less effective. For example, if you are anxious and reluctantly agree to try mindfulness exercises in the hopes that it will improve your anxiety, you may experience anxiety and tell yourself that “this isn’t working” and shut yourself off from the experience.

A healthy skepticism combined with openness to seeing if it works, it seems, is helpful when starting a mindfulness practice. Much of mindfulness is the process of examining your internal and external experiences of the world. Skepticism can be helpful in that process. When you are skeptical, you don’t assume that each technique will lead to improvements in functioning. Instead, you ask yourself questions, such as “is my anxiety improving” or “where am I feeling most pain.” That skepticism, in combination to an openness to the possibility that mindfulness can help you to improve physical and emotional functioning can lead to long-term positive results.

Your skepticism may have kept you from beginning a mindfulness practice. Maybe you have thought that if you’re skeptical, it won’t be helpful to you. But if you’re skeptical, but open, you might want to give it a try.

Are you someone who was initially doubtful that mindfulness could be helpful? How did mindfulness impact your health?

Photo by Daria, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

2 Replies to “Are You Skeptical About Starting Your Own Mindfulness Practice?”

  1. I really didn’t know anything about mindfulness when I began a 9 week program that taught it. It is good to be open to all possibilities. I found it extremely helpful and one of the best things that I have ever done for myself.

  2. Was I sceptical? Dunno, would be nearest. I suffer from chronic pain, as a result of surgery that was meant to help me. The analgesic drugs were killing me (literally). I was a mental health professional and I refused to accept that I had depression and that I would never do all those physical things that had given me pleasure all my life. I still had access to professional journals and I think that’s how I picked up mindfulness a la Jon Kabat Zinn. Meditation? Hell, I go back to the Beatles, man. Maybe that’s why I didn’t dump the references to Zinn’s work. When I heard that one of my ex-colleagues was offering mindfulness as a service, my scepticism soared. But when you’re desperate ….My experience? It works.What I wasn’t prepared for? I wanted it to be a technique I could master and pull out of the toolbox when in trouble. Big lesson, it don’t work like that. If you want to be able to manage pain, anxiety and depression, then be prepared that you have to practice and then practice. Look at it like running. You don’t train to run a 10 second 100 metres and then pack in the training, and expect to still turn in the same speed when chased by a lion 5 years later. And the other thing? Don’t think it is an escape from any of those nasty things. It helps you face them and manage them. And, for me it was a real challenge in self-acceptance and learning self-compassion. But well, well worth it.

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