Mindfulness – UPDATE II
We were introduced to Mindfulness just a few short years ago. Like all fads it has inevitably come under the scrutiny of the academic community… and they’re not convinced…
There has been a huge increase in the number of people practicing mindfulness in Britain. It’s the new happy meditation, aimed at those with time on their hands and cash to spare and who enjoy hugging trees. But like other ‘mind-therapies’ it has also attracted the attention of more sceptical academics and found to be wanting. Claims that mindfulness by itself can stop your smoking habit or your temper your gluttony have now been officially consigned to the rubbish bin of pseudo-psychological nonsense.
But mindfulness has never been touted as a ‘cure’ for anything. All mindfulness is supposed to do is create awareness of a problem and isolate it so that the client can put things in perspective. It’s a useful tool if it’s used in conjunction with other therapies, but on it’s own, it’s a weak force.
As a reminder, mindfulness includes some meditation, creative imagination and relaxation. These easy mental gymnastics help clients ‘ring-fence’ negative feelings and emotions and mentally send them away. It helps to create emotional distance and banish thoughts and ideas that are unpleasant or hurtful and it works particularly well when combined with hypnosis.
However, researchers are now claiming that mindfulness [by itself] is no better at reducing stress than watching TV. I would agree – mainly because I am also blessed with a thinking brain. The notion that simply understanding you are doing something wrong will stop you doing it, for example smoking cigarettes, is clearly ludicrous. In that respect, mindfulness would be no different than willpower.
Mindfulness courses are probably a waste of money, especially when you consider the fact that mindfulness techniques can be taught to clients in few minutes, and even that’s stretching it. But then again, mindfulness was never meant to be about massive change – mindfulness is really about awareness. [In fairness, part of the problem is that mindfulness has been hijacked by the tree-huggers.]
All that apart, researchers at the University of Edinburgh, led by Yonas Alem, put 139 students on a six-week online ‘mindfulness-based stress reduction course’ called Be Mindful. Hmmm… catchy.
All the students were at least 18 year old and did not have any medical conditions. At the same time, a second group were told to watch weekly episodes of the 2011 BBC documentary Ancient Worlds. Both groups were then tested regularly for stress, risk-taking and time preferences, as well as health-related behaviours, and the results were assessed at the end of a six-month period.
The study found no significant changes in sleeping, smoking, drinking or binge-eating habits between those who practiced concentration and calmness based mindfulness and those who simply relaxed in front of the TV. However, the study did find that mindfulness practice significantly reduced perceived stress and anxiety, even though the effect on decision-making and health-related behaviours was negligible.
This research not withstanding, many people claim mindfulness helps them to relax after a long day at work and some experts believe it can reduce depression, anxiety and stress. There’s a very good reason for this – it’s the relaxation process working its magic! Obvious when you think about it, or apply a little er… mindfulness!
Mindfulness aficionados are taught to concentrate on, and be aware of their breathing as well as be conscious of the feelings in their bodies. So just like meditation and the early stages of hypnosis and self-hypnosis!
Like hypnotherapy, mindfulness is supposed to help clients feel more calm and content and stop them dwelling so much on the past. Hypnotherapy does the same and it’s much more powerful. In comparison, mindfulness seems a bit wishy-washy.
The bottom line? It can’t make you eat more healthily, exercise, or stop smoking… but it can help with the way you FEEL…