Mindfulness, a practice rooted in Eastern philosophy and Buddhism, has gained popularity worldwide as a means to be present and less reactive in the face of life’s challenges . However, a recent study from the University of Bath’s Center for Mindfulness and Community highlights a shift in the Western interpretation of mindfulness, often emphasizing self-improvement over its original holistic and interconnected purpose.
This analysis, conducted by a team of psychologists and therapists, points out that the broader essence of mindfulness is frequently overlooked, leading to missed opportunities for deep self-reflection and connection. The review, published in the Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, suggests that people tend to focus on themselves and their personal development, rather than considering their role concerning others .
Dr Liz Marks, a clinical psychologist and lead author of the study, has effectively employed mindfulness within the NHS for managing conditions like tinnitus . In addition to acknowledging its value in helping individuals pause and reflect on their busy lives, she proposes that it could be enhanced by contemplating other people and the environment.
The current portrayal of mindfulness often presents it as a tool for individual betterment. Dr Marks contends its potential goes beyond self-improvement, advocating for a broader perspective emphasizing interconnectedness with nature and the community. She also applies her expertise in environmental psychology to address eco-anxiety and suggests that mindfulness can help individuals navigate modern life’s challenges while fostering a sense of responsibility for the world’s well-being .
Dr Pamela Jacobsen, a co-author of the study specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness, sees mindfulness as a versatile tool applicable to various health conditions, such as chronic pain and depression. She notes in the University of Bath news release about the proliferation of mindfulness apps but underscores the importance of rigorously tested and evaluated programs to ensure their efficacy and benefits.
Ultimately, the study underscores that mindfulness should extend beyond personal growth and self-betterment. It calls for a shift toward using mindfulness to promote a sense of interconnectedness with the environment and the community, thereby inspiring individuals to contribute positively to the world around them.
The authors hope that this insight will encourage more comprehensive testing of mindfulness applications in clinical settings and promote its utilization in promoting overall well-being .