Mindfulness won't relax you but will make life pleasant
One misconception that people have is that mindfulness is a form of relaxation. People sometimes say to me, “I practice mindfulness whenever I’m feeling stressed and I just need to chill out.” I think that’s great.
As a clinical practitioner I get really excited about tools and techniques that offer coping strategies for my clients. If sitting still for 20 minutes or so and just slowing your breathing down works for you, by all means, do exactly that.
In addition to doing that, it’s also good to remember that mindfulness works best as a preventative rather than a remedy. That is to say, meditation is most effective when thought of as a way of being instead of as a technique. As such, often it’s not even relaxing. When you practice mindfulness as a way of being, sometimes unpleasant sensations and thoughts can even increase. For example, it is extremely helpful to practice mindfulness when one is in physical pain. This doesn’t necessarily reduce the pain in the same way a distraction method would. Watching an extremely engrossing movie in fact may allow a person to be completely unaware of their discomfort for the duration of the film.
In contrast, bringing awareness to one’s physical symptoms can make them seem worse. What it does do however, is strengthen your relationship with your internal observer self. The observer self can be unattached to your ongoing ordeals and just notice things impartially.
In the same way, being mindfully aware of one’s negative emotions can feel at first as though it’s making the situation worse. The key to not becoming overwhelmed by strong emotions is to remind yourself to practice acceptance of your ongoing experience. For example, if you tune into your centre and find that you’re depressed it’s nice to know that it’s okay to have feelings.
So rather than thinking of mindfulness as a relaxation technique, I like to point out that relaxation can occur as a result of being mindful, and is not part of the mindfulness itself. As a way of being, mindfulness tends to make one’s life more pleasant.
- Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and conducts workshops in hypnosis with PowerTrance. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at https://www.facebook.com/Belfast Hypnosis/ ?ref=hl/?ref=hl