We're Doing Mindfulness Wrong, Psychologists Say

What does mindfulness really mean? What does mindfulness mean to you? Is it being present and aware of all that comes your way, without getting distracted? Is it about being open to life's challenges and not judging, and responding accordingly?
A meta-analysis of nearly 150 studies revealed that mindfulness is both about being present and engaging with what comes our way. We are much less adept at actually putting this "engaging" part into practice.

Igor Grossmann, University of Waterloo psychologist, says that mindfulness requires more than just stress relief. It also requires an open mind to deal with stressors.

"It is actually the engagement with stressors which ultimately leads to stress relief. Mindfulness includes two major dimensions, awareness and acceptance.

Mindfulness is a Buddhist practice that has been used in Western settings for psychiatry, psychology and other purposes. Mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as drug addiction. It is often recommended for therapy as a coping strategy.

According to the research, mindfulness is a skill that most people can understand. It involves taking stock of the world around you and identifying any possible problems.

The team discovered that mindfulness is used passively to endorse the experience. It's the mindfulness equivalent to a shrug emoji.

To reap the full benefits mindfulness, we need to engage with our lives, find solutions, and respond to our environment. This is something the researchers discovered that although we are aware of it, we don't do.

Recent criticisms have been harshly levelled at modern mindfulness applications. The team suggests that the popular definitions of mindfulness are a quick fix for suffering, rather than a long-term practice of reorienting, reframing and engaging with daily experiences.

"Some critics go so far as to call aspects of mindfulness in popular culture McMindfulness - a wellness-promoting brand that emphasizes short-term relief from personal suffering at the expense engaging exploration of the causes of distress that could lead to organizational and societal change."

The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire was completed by 41,966 people. These five facets include observing, describing and acting with awareness.

The team discovered that participants in non-clinical settings showed little convergence across these aspects. We don't embrace the whole package.

Ellen Choi, Ryerson University organizational psychologist and lead author, says that while people conceptually understand mindfulness is engagement, the public doesn't live up to the words.

"Our findings suggest that while laypeople may be able to understand awareness, the next step of acceptance might not be as well understood. This limits our ability to engage with problems.

The team stresses that not all criticisms of mindfulness as a product for wellness are correct. We are actually learning more than we think and just haven't taken the next step.

This is not likely to be the end of the matter. For the moment, don't lose mindfulness from your list of coping strategies. You might try to be a little less passive in your mindfulness and engage more, if possible.

Clinical Psychology Review published the research.