Why Being Mindful Wasn't Making Me Happy
By Becky Herrington
I have a confession to make: I'm kind of a hippie. I have a Himalayan sea salt lamp in my living room, I make my own laundry detergent, and I ferment things. Also, I like to drink Kombucha, I don’t wear deodorant, and I dream of someday raising rabbits and chickens.
We can still be friends, right?
I started getting into "mindfulness"
I'm naturally inclined toward organic remedies, so when I learned about mindful practices, I was totally in! I mean--you're encouraged to get into yoga pants (which is my preferred attire anyway), turn on your Himalayan sea salt lamp, diffuse lavender, burn sage, and just relax. Mindfulness practitioners even encourage starting with light yoga moves to get into the right posture.
Frankly it all sounded delightful.
The practice of mindfulness is about awareness of yourself. It’s a time when you focus on your breathing, your body, and your emotions in a way that helps you understand what you're feeling and how to release or accept those emotions. Often this practice is combined with meditation where you choose a particular attribute like happiness or success and focus your mind on that concept and how it could move into your life. Here are some examples of mindfulness/meditation prompts:
- Focus on your breath
- Focus on your emotions
- Focus on your body
Mindfulness has a lot of benefits
It sounds great, right? And there are reputable studies that show it can help you. According to the American Psychological Association, practicing mindfulness has a lot of benefits, including:
- Decreasing the cycle of repetitive negative thoughts
- Stress reduction
- Boosting working memory
- Increasing focus
- Less emotional reactivity
- More cognitive flexibility
- Increasing relationship satisfaction
The same studies also claim that meditation helps us to understand our own mind. Through mindfulness, they say, we can learn how to transform our mind from negative to positive, from disturbed to peaceful, from unhappy to happy. People who practice mindfulness and meditation say that it helps them feel centered in their day and their lives. With my busy, hectic life, I craved this centeredness, too. But...
...there's something else about mindfulness that was bugging me. And it had to do with its focus on, well, me.
Was I mindfully focusing on the wrong thing?
Like mindfulness enthusiasts, Jesus taught about how to rest and release anxiety and find peace...but he said something very different, and the difference is crucial. He didn’t say pay more attention to yourself—the said pay more attention to HIM.
Here’s what the Bible says:
- Focus on Jesus and he'll give you rest (Matthew 11:28)
- Jesus is our strength (Psalm 28:7)
- Give your worries to Jesus (1 Peter 5:7)
Likewise, related to how mindfulness is supposed to help you transform your own mind, Romans 12:2 teaches us to let Jesus transform your mind. Again, the difference is crucial.
Mindfulness was making me feel heavier, not lighter
This misdirected focus on myself instead of on Jesus explained why every time I'd put on my yoga pants, turn on my diffuser, and do my mindful practice, I'd feel like I was carrying the burdens from my day. I felt responsible for my own inner peace and pressured to make my own strength. Unexpectedly, my mindful practice was spiraling me into a dark depression because I was never designed to find rest and peace all by myself.
I replaced mindfulness with paying ridiculous attention to Jesus
So I stopped. I still diffuse clary sage and sweet orange. I still wear my yoga pants. I love my Himalayan sea salt lamp, and I enjoy escaping in the morning or before bed to calm my soul. But now I do it by paying ridiculous attention to Jesus. I focus on his promises for me. I give him my burdens. I ask him to solve my anxiety. I declare that he has ruling over my life.
Friend, isn’t it time that you did the same? Are you ready to give up the addiction you’ve been hiding, or maybe a hurt you can’t seem to let go of? Are you ready to release that fight you just had with your husband, or the way you lost your temper with a co-worker this week, or the financial burden you can’t see an end to, or the pain of losing something or someone close to you?
If you'd like to find out more about how you can pay ridiculous attention to Jesus--how he can come into your heart and heal you, save you, replenish you, and direct you--check out this post about how I'm paying ridiculous attention to Jesus each day.
Check out this podcast where Rick Lawrence and I tackle using mindfulness to pay ridiculous attention to Jesus and share what we are doing in our everyday lives.