When Is Mindfulness Right For You—And How Can You Know?
Despite the risks mentioned above, there are still many documented benefits of mindfulness. But, as the adage goes: if you only have a hammer, everything can look like a nail. The reality is that we need many tools in the “mental health toolbox” for a variety of stressful situations life will throw our way: what about the saw, screwdriver, or pliers?
A contributing factor is that we live in a consumerist, capitalist country. It has been overly commodified, its origins partially distorted. Not enough people, especially health professionals are researchers, are talking about the risks, contraindications, or downsides of practice, or who specifically it’s best suited for and when.
So, it’s not always the right moment to practice mindfulness. Every experienced mindfulness practitioner has had the experience of feeling worse after having practiced. Mindfulness tends to evoke or reinforce what is already going on in your mind and body. If you’re worried about something that will happen in the future, or can’t stop thinking about an event from the past, mindfulness may amplify your worrying, confusion, or suffering around this.
When this is the case, there are other ways to self-soothe besides mindfulness; it’s one of many tools in the shed. The saying “everything in moderation” couldn’t be more applicable; too much of a good thing can always harm. We all can imagine the downsides of drinking too much water or recommending someone only consume veggies when they’re struggling with nutrition.
Want to know more about the dangers of mindfulness? Check this video out below!
The odds are high that people have told you to learn mindfulness through an app or meditate more when you’re feeling down, stressed, nervous, or anxious. It’s also ostensibly becoming part of many psychotherapies. That said, mindfulness meditation is one of many tools, practices, and strategies to promote wellness, awareness, and calm. It’s vital to have a few others in your toolbox and learn when and when not to learn or practice the others.
It’s important we understand the risks and don’t overstate the potential benefits until they’re robustly substantiated. Practicing mindfulness when you’re not mentally ready, or when you actually need a nap, to eat, a massage, to work, or an important conversation with a loved one can clearly create more difficulties than it’s meant to mitigate.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.) Washington, DC. Kuyken, W., Crane, W., & Williams, J. M. (2012). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) implementation resources. Oxford, England: Oxford University. National Institutes of Health. (2016). Adverse event and serious adverse event guidelines OHRP guidance on reviewing and reporting unanticipated problems involving risks to subjects or others and adverse events, OHRP guidance. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, Office for Human Research Protections, U.S. Department of health and Human Services. Davidson, R. J., & Kaszniak, A. W. (2015). Conceptual and methodological issues in research on mindfulness and meditation. American Psychologist, 70, 581–592. doi:10.1037/a0039512
Written By Jason N. Linder Originally Appeared On PsychologyToday