Some 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.