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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.

>> Related: the surprising thing that happened when I quit applying the Bible to my life

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.

>> Related: what living a Jesus-Centered life is all about, and how to get started

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.

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Showing 9 comments
  • E Stephenson

    This is perfect. Thank you.

  • Laura

    Thank you for the article. It hits the spot right-on. Jesus Christ is my Savior.

  • Kimberly Beasley

    GREAT article!! Wow, no wonder the world is no burdened!! You really got me, though, in the next to the last paragraph. Every single item you listed relates to me. The addiction, the hurt that won’t go away, the fight w/husband (daily! if we talk at all), yelled at my boss 2 days ago, was out of work 3 years and back now but sooo in debt now, and my best friend of 25 years died in February. Lord, I need some quiet time to pay some ridiulous attention to Jesus!!

  • Analyn

    This is a great article
    And I couldn’t agree more to pay attention to our relationship with Jesus.
    At the same time I enjoy Yoga it does what it’ suppose to do for me
    It Helps mental alertness and physical health which as Christian we are to take care of his temple ( our bodies)
    Sometimes praying during meditation during yoga is a great way to connect to him.
    I feel like this article is putting down a great way of taking care of oneself, it doesn’t mean if you do yoga or meditation that you are not able to connect with him.

  • Courtney

    being mindful and meditating can be used to focus on both, it’s been the only thing helping me…

  • Pilar

    Thank you for this perspective!
    The blog post resonated with something that’s been on my mind for the past months: how in our societies it seems like we’re pushing God out of the picture through subtile aparently unharmful self-centerdness.
    And I loved the podcast! I very much needed to be reminded to abide on Jesus -and how simple this is- The idea I got out of listening to it: is to focus on Jesus (through reading or worshiping) while I breastfeed my baby (instead of watching TV at that time).

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