Mindfulness: am I doing it "right"?

Mindfulness has grown in popularity in recent years, moving miles from its Eastern and spiritual routes to a secular, occasionally branded and marketed, often life transforming practice.

It is now being heavily researched by psychologists and neuroscientists, becoming mainstream and offered in a number of mental health organisations and the NHS as a treatment option for anxiety and depression.

Whilst information about mindfulness is widely available, and popular applications and websites offer easy access to guided practices, one thing that I hear my clients struggling with is the nagging sense that they are doing it "wrong".

Anything offered as a "treatment" carries the expectation to treat the particular issue at hand. And whilst mindfulness has a growing and increasingly more robust evidence base for effectiveness, it also has an inherent paradox: the practice of mindfulness seeks no other purpose but the connection to the present moment. 

Mindfulness is an invitation to connect to the present moment in a non-judgemental way. This means welcoming all experiences, from relaxation, to stress, to emotional turmoil, to boredom. Often people feel that mindfulness "should" be relaxing, or calming. It might be, and sometimes people find a sense of peace after a practice. However it might not be, it might put someone in touch with distressing thoughts, difficult emotions and uneasy bodily sensations.

If you are practising mindfulness, use your skills of paying attention, in the present moment, non-judgmentally to kindly check whether you beat yourself up for not having a particular kind of experience. And if this is the case, remember that whatever your present moment is, noticing it and being fully in it, is the practice of mindfulness.

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