Mindfulness myths

Mindfulness is definitely having a “moment”. There’s so much about the benefits of it in the press and the media but many people still aren’t exactly sure what it is, how to do or really even why to try it. I wanted to tackle some of those myths head on to try to break them down a bit to show just how accessible this practice is for everyone.

Myth #1: It’s too difficult to empty my mind.

Mindfulness meditation is not about emptying your mind. The aim of the practice is to focus on your breath and the present moment. But, minds wander - that’s just what they do and the key is to notice every time that happens and to gently, but firmly, escort your focus back to the breath. It doesn’t matter if you mind wanders 100 times, as long as you bring your attention back to the breath 101 times. Each time you realise your mind has wandered you should congratulate yourself as this means you at least noticed! I find it helpful sometimes to label what my thoughts were doing in an attempt to not get caught up in the story of them. For example if I find I am going over plans for the later in the day I’ll simply note that I was planning and bring my focus back to the breath. That stops me getting too caught up in the planning.

Myth #2: Mindfulness has to be done at sunrise, sitting in a certain way and with particular hand gestures.

I think this is one of the biggest barriers to mindfulness, we assume that it has to be done in a certain way and that feels complicated. The truth is that you can meditate anywhere, sitting in a chair, standing up, lying down or even on a train!

My preference is to sit on the floor with my legs crossed, but only because I find this most comfortable. It’s generally a good idea to have your spine be self supporting and not leaning against anything as this increases the chances of you staying awake! I like to have a small cushion underneath my sit bones too, just to raise my hips a little, but again that is personal preference.

Your hands can rest in your lap, or on your knees and can be face up or face down. I find having them face down works for me when I need to be grounded or want to have a particular inward focus. Palms facing up brings more of a feeling of being open - but it’s really whatever feels best for you. No mudras - special hand positions - are necessary.

Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere. Once you’ve got a practice it’s something that will become part of your day to day and you’ll find you can even do it at your desk, on the train or walking to the shops!

Myth #3: Mindfulness needs to take a lot of time.

Starting and maintaining any new habit is tricky and requires commitment. Mindfulness is no different in that regard but you don’t need an hour at a time to practice. As little as 5 minutes a day can be hugely beneficial and 10 minutes twice a day is pretty optimal.

One of my favourite meditations is called the Three Minute Breathing Space and literally need not take any longer than 3 minutes. That time and focus is enough to allow me to attend to what is worrying me, ground myself and move forward.

There is a saying that everyone should meditate for 20 minutes a day except those who don’t have the time; they should meditate for an hour a day!

Mindfulness meditation

The benefits of mindfulness

are well documented and include positive impact on stress, anxiety, sleep, relationships, chronic pain, general well being, feelings of contentment and just generally being and feeling like an all round more grounded person! This is such an accessible practice, one that anyone can learn and take with you wherever you go; it just doesn’t get better than that!

If you’re keen to try mindfulness there are many great apps out there for beginners or try my 5 minute beginner’s Breathing Space.

Kate McGoey