There are many misconceptions about what mindfulness is, and what it can do. Here are some common ones:
Mindfulness is a form of religion.
Although some Eastern religions (particularly Buddhism) advocate mindfulness as a meditation tool, mindfulness itself is not inherently religious in nature. Buddhist monks can wield mindfulness as a tool much in the same way that a surgeon can wield a scalpel. Picking up a scalpel doesn’t make you a surgeon, just like using mindfulness would not make you a Buddhist.
Mindfulness is a magic bullet that can cure everything that ails us.
Mindfulness has been shown to be beneficial for many things, but it is not a cure-all. It is better at some things than others, and research indicates that it is better at treating psychological problems than physical or medical ones (see meta-analysis by Khoury et al. for full details).
Mindfulness is a big commitment in terms of time.
In order to receive sustainable benefits from mindfulness you will need to practice. Unfortunately, it is not like a polio vaccination where you get one injection and you are protected for life. However, this does not mean that you need to practice for hours every day in order to experience the benefits. Opinions vary on what the minimum practice time should be, but there are some guidelines you can follow:
- Shorter practices spread throughout the week are more beneficial than one long practice once a week (particularly for beginners).
- More is more. The more you practice, the better the results.
- Mix up the practice routine with a combination of informal and formal practices. If doing the same thing day after day sounds boring, mixing it up keeps it interesting and provides the opportunity to practice mindfulness in a variety of situations.
Khoury, B., Lecomte, T., Fortin, G., Masse, M., Therien, P., Bouchard, V., … Hofmann, S.G. (2013). Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 33, 763 – 771.