New Research Finds Most People Applying Concept of Mindfulness Incorrectly

The research team found that many people confuse the practice of passive acceptance of problems in their use of mindfulness concepts, which is a misconception the study authors said ignores the important work of engaging with them.

New studies have shown that although mindfulness is centered on both accepting and engaging with life’s challenges, many popular concepts of the practice tend to miss this mark, according to a University of Waterloo press release.

The research team found that many people confuse the practice of passive acceptance of problems in their use of mindfulness concepts, which is a misconception the study authors said ignores the important work of engaging with them.

“Scientific understanding of mindfulness goes beyond mere stress-relief and requires a willingness to engage with stressors,” said corresponding project author Igor Grossmann in the press release. “It is, in fact, the engagement with stressors that ultimately results in stress relief. More specifically, mindfulness includes two main dimensions: awareness and acceptance.”

Grossman and colleagues worked to compare critics’ claims about popular interpretations of mindfulness to evaluate how people understand and apply the concept in their daily lives, finding that most people blend acceptance with passivity or avoidance in their practice.

The research team organized an extensive empirical project that examined the meaning of mindfulness in 3 parts: analyses of the semantic meaning of the term mindfulness in the English language; meta-analysis of the results from a widely used mindfulness measure; and empirical tests of association with markers of wisdom and effective emotion regulation.

“While we found that people seem to conceptually understand that mindfulness involves engagement, the general public is not walking the talk,” said lead study author Ellen Choi in the press release. “Our results suggest that laypeople may understand what awareness is, but the next step of acceptance may not be well understood- limiting potential for engaging with problems.”

Grossman added that with algorithms curating increasingly hateful content using social media, the idea of being mindful of others’ perspectives has never been more critical.

“Mindfulness might not provide an easy answer to the divisiveness that surrounds us, but an accurate understanding that includes the practice of acceptance may herald the re-emergence of sincere discussion and authentic connection,” Grossman said in the press release.

REFERENCE

Despite understanding the concept of mindfulness, people are applying it incorrectly, research finds. University of Waterloo. November 8, 2021. Accessed November 10, 2021. https://uwaterloo.ca/news/media/despite-understanding-concept-mindfulness-people-are

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