The practice of meditation is one that has been around for many, many years. Overtime, the practice has become incorporated into contemporary fitness regimes, with numerous meditation studios popping up all over the globe. But, although the practice itself is centred around bringing calm to the mind, when it comes to the treatment of mental health, is it as euphoric as it would make us believe?
Mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice aimed to calm the body and mind through the combination of meditation alongside mindfulness – being focused in the ‘now’ and what is currently happening in the present, instead of dwelling on either the past of future. The concept of the practice is enabling individuals to realign their thoughts and focus more on their breathing patterns alongside relaxation.
We have witnessed an ongoing popularity in recent years which has incorporated the practice into mainstream Western culture. This has generated an industry worth $1.21 billion in 2017 and a growth forecast of $2.08 billion by 2022, through promoting the benefits of such practice to enable for therapeutic growth and personal development in an everchanging modern world.
In recent years, within the contexts of psychotherapy, mindfulness in particular has seen a significant recognition of its use and thus has become incorporated into practice as a form of systematic clinical intervention. Increased popularity has resulted in numerous sources vocalising the arguably undeniable benefits of the practices on the human body, both psychologically and physically. Instead of the practice perhaps being perceived as an alternative method, it has become recognised by larger bodies within the treatment of certain mental health issues. This can explain the ongoing popularity of the practice in contemporary society, with some preferring it over more traditional methods due to its discussed capability of improving emotional regulation, reducing stress levels, and increasing present-moment awareness.
Although there is not a ‘one fits all’ tactic when it comes to treatment of mental health, it appears that mindfulness meditation continues to becoming increasingly popular. However, we’ve all heard the phrase ‘too much of a good thing’ and similar attitudes have recently been associated with mindfulness with certain sources claiming that for some, mindfulness meditation can actually do more harm than good. These discussions have focused on the lack of in-depth research into the practice of mindfulness meditation and the somewhat dismissal of its ability to cause some individuals to suffer moderate to serious adverse effects. Additionally, some studies have concluded that for specific individuals diagnosed with a mental health issue, such as those suffering from PTSD, mindfulness meditation could be considered too difficult as it may cause for re-experiencing traumatic memories.
These combined findings indicate that individuals need to take a more sceptical outlook when it comes to adapting the practice into their own mental health treatment due to the lack of in-depth research that has been completed. There are clearly many attractive components to mindful meditation and for some it may prove to be increasingly beneficial to improving their mindset.
As with any form of treatment for mental health, it is important individuals are aware of the strategies that work for them personally. But by all means give the practice a go and find hope you find your inner peace.
Ed McIntyre is an adviser for Natural England.