3 Myths About Mindfulness Meditation That Keep People From Its True Benefits

Mindfulness meditation can be hugely beneficial in our personal and professional lives, but people often leave the practice because their expectations are set unreasonably high.

Rasmus Hougaard: There is a general, huge misconception around mindfulness. Many people think that mindfulness is a spiritual thing. Many think that it’s a private thing that we do at home. And most people think that mindfulness is about slowing down. That’s wrong. Mindfulness, in short terms, is really about speeding up our mental processes whereby we can be more effective with whatever we’re doing — that we have this attentional muscle that allows us really to be on task with what we’re doing. So while mindfulness could have a personal benefit, which it certainly has, we do become more happy. We do become more kind. But it also has a real strong business benefit in terms of our performance and productivity going up. Mindfulness, in short, is learning to manage our attention. And according to neuroscience, that is actually very possible. The brain is consisting of a huge neural network that can be rewired by the way that we’re using it. So basically what researchers can see is that the more we pay attention — whatever we pay attention to, but in this case in mindfulness the stronger our, let’s say attentional muscle becomes — it’s right here behind the forehead called the prefrontal cortex. The more we train, the better we become at it. So that’s the short definition of mindfulness. The bit longer definition of mindfulness is to develop the ability to stay focused with what we want to be focused on while still being aware of our bodily experience, being aware of what’s going on around us. So with more mindfulness we are not only becoming more effective in doing the task at hand, but we’re also becoming more effective in noticing what’s going on around us and which things we should be allowing ourselves to be distracted by. And which distractions to leave out of our mind.

So I think one of the big reasons why some people leave their mindfulness practice is because they have the wrong expectations to the practice. When we sit down and close our eyes in the very beginning, lots of thoughts will arise and that’s natural. And when you sit down and do mindfulness practice after practice for maybe 10 weeks or 10 months or 10 years, still many thoughts will arise. So the trick of mindfulness is not to get a total silent, clear, blissful mind. That doesn’t happen. Mindfulness is a practice where we learn to notice our thoughts, let go of the thoughts, and return to the object of choice, which is in practice is the breath.

Before trying mindfulness, know what you're getting into.


Rasmus Hougaard is co-author of the book One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work with Mindfulness, as well as a highly regarded mindfulness teacher. In this video, he shares how the practice can be harnessed to improve your business career by re-teaching your brain how to focus.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

The dos and don’ts of helping a drug-addicted person recover

How you talk to people with drug addiction might save their life.

Videos
  • Addiction is a learning disorder; it's not a sign that someone is a bad person.
  • Tough love doesn't help drug-addicted people. Research shows that the best way to get people help is through compassion, empathy and support. Approach them as an equal human being deserving of respect.
  • As a first step to recovery, Maia Szalavitz recommends the family or friends of people with addiction get them a complete psychiatric evaluation by somebody who is not affiliated with any treatment organization. Unfortunately, warns Szalavitz, some people will try to make a profit off of an addicted person without informing them of their full options.
Keep reading Show less

4 anti-scientific beliefs and their damaging consequences

The rise of anti-scientific thinking and conspiracy is a concerning trend.

Moon Landing Apollo
popular
  • Fifty years later after one of the greatest achievements of mankind, there's a growing number of moon landing deniers. They are part of a larger trend of anti-scientific thinking.
  • Climate change, anti-vaccination and other assorted conspiratorial mindsets are a detriment and show a tangible impediment to fostering real progress or societal change.
  • All of these separate anti-scientific beliefs share a troubling root of intellectual dishonesty and ignorance.
Keep reading Show less

In a first for humankind, China successfully sprouts a seed on the Moon

China's Chang'e 4 biosphere experiment marks a first for humankind.

Image source: CNSA
Surprising Science
  • China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3.
  • In addition to a lunar rover, the lander carried a biosphere experiment that contains five sets of plants and some insects.
  • The experiment is designed to test how astronauts might someday grow plants in space to sustain long-term settlements.
Keep reading Show less