Mindfulness

The 4 False Beliefs That Stop You From Beng Mindful

These four myths lead countless people to falsely believe they can't be mindful.

Posted Oct 13, 2020

Mindfulness is about being able to focus your attention on the present moment. The big problem with our mind is that it is filled with anxiety, especially in these currently turbulent times. Anxious feelings are fueled by those way-too-consuming "what ifs." When our minds are driven by these "what ifs" our angst leads us to a land of fiction—the perceived future. Just as a quick reality check: The future has not happened yet!

Understandably, when our minds are overwhelmed and in the thick of worries about the future, we believe we can't really allow ourselves to find serenity in the present moment. Can you see how your mind goes way into the future when you worry about things in your life? Do those disruptive forces of anxiety about personal relationships, health concerns, work matters, or other worries knock you for a loop? Again, the outcomes you worry about have not happened yet—and may never happen. And even if they occur, they often are not as bad as we think they will be for us!

Here's some great news: By practicing mindfulness, you can learn to appreciate the positive things about your life without wasting time being consumed about things that have not even happened. Mindfulness is easy to learn—but we make it feel ridiculously unattainable because talk ourselves out of being able to practice it.

We struggle with the following huge misunderstandings about mindfulness. I'm going to highlight them below and how to counter them. These four misunderstandings are described in further detail in my book, The Anxiety, Depression, & Anger Toolbox for Teens

Here are four common misunderstandings about mindfulness and how to get past them and get mindful:

1. You falsely believe that you have to make your mind a "blank slate" by stopping all of your intrusive thoughts. The reality is that common wisdom says we have about 50,000 thoughts that go through our minds every day. If you give up trying to make your mind a blank slate and just notice your thoughts without judging them, then you are being mindful.

2. You erroneously believe mindfulness is a mysterious technique that takes years to learn and can’t be used anywhere but on a mountaintop. Gently take a breath, letting it go in through your nose and down to your belly. Watch the breath reverse, feeling it come back up and out through your mouth. If you did this you were just mindful. No mountain top needed for that, right? 

3. You think real mindfulness can only be achieved only by meditating for hours at a time. As you just discovered above, mindfulness occurs the moment we focus our attention on what is going on in the present moment. Your breath is just one anchor to get there. Look at a tree through a window or step outside and gently fix your gaze on any object. Your eyes, as you can see, are another way to tune into the present moment. You are being mindful. Now close your eyes, and picture what your eyes just saw. Again, you are being mindful.

4. You fantasize that mindfulness is learning to never worry againMillions of people stick with buying lottery tickets each week driven by the notion that winning big bucks will take away their worries, forever. Yet many give up on mindfulness after just a few minutes because they forget one huge truth about it: "It's challenging to be mindfulespecially if you let misconceptions about it get in the way!" But once you put these misconceptions aside, you'll feel great with the peace that mindfulness can bring to youalmost feels like a couple million dollars worthon those stressful days!

In Closing

When people think of mindfulness, they often erroneously associate it with fully enlightened, blissfully happy Buddhist monks without a worry in the world, as portrayed in movies (unrealistic movies, that is). Maybe some people even think that mindfulness involves holding crystals containing special powers to escape the feelings of everyday stress.  

But the reality is that mindfulness is as close to you as tuning into your next breath. And, as for all those intrusive thoughts that seem to get in the way, just embrace them and let them pass through like clouds in the sky.

For more about Dr. Jeff, click here.