It often feels as if everything these days, from journalling to drinking, has to be done mindfully in order to be appreciated. However, the wellness trend that's swept our lives over the past several years could in fact have a negative impact, reports The Telegraph.
Dr Alison Gray, chair of a special interest group at the Royal College of Psychiatrists that aids psychiatrists when dealing with spiritual issues, warned that mindfulness and more "inward-focused" strands of spirituality can lead to people becoming "self-involved and self-centred".
While Dr Gray acknowledges that this negative side-effect doesn't occur in everyone – "in many cases [it] increases their passion for the whole world" – she cautions that it can cause selfishness among those who practise mindfulness on their own.
With phrases like 'conscious uncoupling' permeating the way we discuss relationships, and thousands of apps helping us to achieve peak meditative states, how can we prevent our mindful approach to life from becoming an egocentric one?
In the same way that group-practised religion has offered people stability and a sense of purpose throughout history, Dr Gray advises group mindfulness. "In as much as religion is about binding people together, spirituality can become inward looking and selfish. I would encourage people to be in with a community."
"When you look inside yourself, what you find can be quite negative and quite destabilising, and so you need a community around you to help process this stuff and keep you healthy," she told The Telegraph. With mindfulness opening up a Pandora's Box of "selfish drives and ambitions, bits of [our]selves that [we] previously projected onto other people – anger, hatred, all the negative emotions," it's vital that we have a support system around us to help navigate this new territory.
Mindfulness may be seen as a relatively new term, with more and more schools and workplaces hosting workshops to support mental wellbeing, but Dr Gray argues that it's a much older practice than we think: "I would suggest that it's a rediscovery of the old ways rather than anything completely new – the newness is the recombination of different traditions. We're still the same human beings that have been around for thousands of years. The neanderthals had basic religion and ways of burying the dead, it's always been there."
Whether it's group yoga classes or a week of mindful eating with a friend, try and focus your approach outwards, rather than inwards, and see how your outlook changes.
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