How a week of trying to be mindful left me more stressed

Independent 8 November 2017
Family First Comment: The pushback continues – but apparently any opposition or critique will be ignored by Ministry of Education in NZ
“There is a widespread belief that mindfulness meditation can only bring about benefits, that it has no potential for any adverse effects – and that’s simply not the case. There is emerging scientific evidence that it can be associated with stress, low mood and anxiety.” And, she adds, if you have a trauma history, for example, it is possible that mindfulness meditation may trigger low mood, flashbacks and negative emotions. I don’t have a trauma history, but I did feel more stressed. And I’m not a stressy person.”  😊
But the article also points to another one by Dr Sarah McKay – neuroscientist, science communicator, founder of The Neuroscience Academy – and born in Christchurch!
“Despite being well-versed in the theory and health claims, I’ve recently started to ‘come out’ as a meditation drop-out and skeptic.”
Should mindfulness be used in schools as a one-size-fits-all run by people who aren’t professionally trained in it, especially when it may “trigger low mood, flashbacks and negative emotions”??
Mindfulness. It’s been a buzzword for a few years.
Studies have shown it can be as effective as antidepressants, make us more resilient and less stressed.
People say that by “practising mindfulness” – for it is something you practise, don’t you know – you’ll become more focused, happier, thinner, funnier, cleverer and your snot will sparkle like glitter. (Maybe.)
Everyone has been harping on about why we not only need to actively practice mindfulness every day, but we need to incorporate it into everything we do – adopting intuitive eating, for example, and always “being present.”
Ever on the quest for self-improvement, I decided I should probably jump on the bandwagon (five years late, I accept), and give mindfulness ago.
To do this, I downloaded a bunch of free mindfulness apps to my phone – there are tons out there, and it was a bit overwhelming from the start.
Most of these apps are designed to ease you into mindfulness with introductory courses which seem to entail plugging in for five minutes a day and listening to someone with a soothing voice talk to you.
It sounds pretty manageable, right?
It wasn’t.
Does meditation stress you out? Here’s what I do instead.
Your Brain Health 25 February 2016 
Others agree. Meditation isn’t a panacea.
In the process of writing thinking about this post, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that there are a few others popping their hands up admitting that it doesn’t work for them either, and that there might even be a dark side to the current craze.
Dawn Foster wrote a piece recently in the Guardian ‘Is mindfulness making us ill?’ describing her highly negative meditation experience:
“I feel a rising panic and worry that I might pass out, my mind racing. Then we’re told to open our eyes and the feeling dissipates. I look around. No one else appears to have felt they were facing imminent death. What just happened?
For days afterwards, I feel on edge. I have a permanent tension headache and I jump at the slightest unexpected noise. The fact that something seemingly benign, positive and hugely popular had such a profound effect has taken me by surprise.
Even a year later, recalling the sensations and feelings I experienced in that room summons a resurgent wave of panic and tightness in my chest. Out of curiosity, I try the Headspace app, but the breathing exercises leave me with pins and needles in my face and a burgeoning terror. “Let your thoughts move wherever they please,” the app urges. I just want it to stop. And, as I discovered, I’m not the only person who doesn’t find mindfulness comforting.
Foster is not alone. Authors Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm published a book last year called ‘The Buddha Pill‘ challenging (rightly so, in my personal experience) the claim meditation is a panacea. They present research on the often serious and negative outcomes of meditation — psychosis, breakdowns, and violent behaviours — that are seldom spoken of by meditation advocates and practitioners.
Listening into a podcast by yogi and meditation practitioner Jonathan Fields, I heard great analogy from him of how mindfulness can harm when it is presented as an isolated practice.
“Meditation cultivates awareness. It stills the water so you can see what’s underneath lying in the sand. But if you don’t like what you see, it doesn’t make it all better.
“And, Wikholm has summarised the final chapter in a great piece for The Guardian, ‘Seven common myths about meditation’. She writes,
Nevertheless, there is emerging scientific evidence from case studies, surveys of meditators’ experience and historical studies to show that meditation can be associated with stress, negative effects and mental health problems. For example, one study found that mindfulness meditation led to increased cortisol, a biological marker of stress, despite the fact that participants subjectively reported feeling less stressed.
It’s definitely not just me!
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