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  • Writer's pictureAlexander James

Mindfulness: What It Does (And Doesn’t) Offer

A growing number of people have been championing mindfulness in recent years and, although there are some excellent benefits to developing a mindfulness practice, there are also certain elements of our lives that mindfulness can’t help us with.

Writing for Psychology Today, psychologist Jade Wu explained that, while she’s a proponent of the benefits of a mindfulness practice, she’s also keen to ensure that people don’t have unrealistic expectations about what it can do.

She stressed that mindfulness is not a “one-size-fits-all solution to life’s problems”, even though she believes that it offers many benefits.

“For mindfulness to truly help people, it needs to have a consistent place in our culture backed by an accurate understanding of what it is and what it isn’t,” she asserted. For instance, Dr Wu pointed out that mindfulness isn’t necessarily meditation, even though you can practice mindfulness while meditating.

She also noted that mindfulness is often most effective when it’s combined with other psychotherapies and that, in fact, most of the clinical trials that have indicated mindfulness reduces symptoms have seen patients practicing mindfulness alongside other activities and therapies.

Dr Wu also cautioned that, while mindfulness can help to reduce the symptoms you experience due to trauma, it is not a solution that will “sweep away trauma”.

“Trauma burrows deep into our brains, and it won’t simply fade away when you get in better touch with your body and emotions,” she added.

Therefore, speaking to an online therapist who can provide assistance with other forms of psychotherapy alongside helping you to develop a mindfulness practice is likely to be one of the most effective ways to incorporate it into your life.

It’s also important to understand that becoming more mindful takes time and practice - it isn’t something that you can just switch on when you want to. That means it can take effort, particularly in the beginning, and at times it might feel challenging.

Summarising, Dr Wu said that mindfulness is “powerful”. “It can serve as a solid foundation for self-awareness and well-being. But it won’t solve all your problems and it’s a philosophy to be cultivated,” she stated.

She was also keen to point out that mindfulness is not a substitute for a doctor’s advice or other medical treatments and that, while mindfulness has been found to be helpful for people suffering physical pain, it is not enough to heal injuries or serious health conditions.

An article for Men’s Health recently explored how to start a meditation and mindfulness practice, noting that many men in particular can find it challenging to get into.

Dan Harris, a US TV presenter and author of Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, revealed that he hated meditation the first time he tried it and that it took him time to build his mindfulness practice.

He also told the publication that this routine, along with getting enough sleep, regularly exercising and paying attention to his relationships, is what has helped him get through the challenges of 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic.

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