5 Reasons Why Mindfulness Is Not Working for Me

Have you tried mindfulness before? (Image via Pexels/Daniel Torobekov)
Have you tried mindfulness before? (Image via Pexels/Daniel Torobekov)

Mindfulness is the practice of acknowledging what you are feeling without judging the emotions or sensations as you are feeling them. Why do we practice mindfulness? It helps direct attention away from stress, anxiety, or other negative thoughts. It also supports and enhances mental health by giving us a simple way to manage our thoughts and emotions.

It's generally assumed that being mindful or engaging in mindfulness meditation is difficult. The most common myth is that only "monks" can do it. However, mindfulness and meditation are easier than you think. You can be mindful anywhere, anytime, and under any circumstances. The essence of meditation lies in awareness. It means you know what you are thinking, or feeling, or planning to act.


Why "Mindfulness" May Not Be Working

Even though it is simple, mindfulness seems a great challenge to many people. They find find themselves not being able to focus better or feel calmer. The following are some reasons why it may not be working for you.

1. Thinking it involves no thoughts

To be in a meditative state, we need not stop thinking or completely empty our minds. A popular analogy compares mindfulness to a pillow. If we remove the feather from a pillow, it basically loses its purpose. In the same way, if we remove all the thoughts from our mind, it won't serve us any good. What meditation and mindfulness do is stop the mind from running off and dragging you along with it.

2. Unicorns and rainbows

Popular representations of meditation portray it as an absolute tool for feeling "blissed out." Although research shows that mindfulness enhances happiness and well-being for many individuals, the pathway isn't linear or the same for everyone. As we work out, we build the muscles in our body. In the same way, as we put our mind to work every day, we build resilience.

As you train your brain to focus on the current moment and learn how to observe pleasant, negative, and neutral feelings without getting caught up in any of them, you gradually gain that mental strength. Humans find it challenging to do this because their powerful thoughts and emotions have the capacity to jerk them out of the present and launch them into a stream of consciousness that can be confusing, thrilling, exhilarating, or draining.

3. Specific techniques and postures

To experience a meditative state, you don't necessarily have to go into deep yoga positions, like the lotus pose. If you can do it, great! If you can't, you can still meditate. Sit on your favorite chair or lie on the bed: the central idea is to calm down, relax, and be comfortable. It is generally better to practice mindfulness with a group, but if you can't, it's important to take out a couple of minutes a day. Setting a fixed time and place enhances the meditative process.

Postures are helpful but not necessary for mindfulness. (Image via Pexels/Elina Fairytale)
Postures are helpful but not necessary for mindfulness. (Image via Pexels/Elina Fairytale)

4. Expectations

Focusing on outcomes or reacting to expectations instead of just accepting things as they are frustrates many when they begin their mindfulness journey. Stay tuned to the process and to remain consistent in it. Your mind will slowly find the comfort level. Although some studies have shown that 8 weeks of persistent mindfulness practice might yield a variety of benefits, this does not indicate that your issues will magically go away. Being mindful is not a miracle cure; it provides you with the emotional muscle to face challenges. Some people feel great calm when they meditate whereas others may battle with continual distractions or their minds spinning up stories.

Mindfulness may not always make you happy. According to Paul Gilbert and Choden, authors of Mindful Compassion, when we begin to practice mindfulness, it can release a lot of negative emotions because we're finally allowing ourselves to feel them. A metaphor to understand mindfulness is to enter a darkened room and gradually turn up a dimmer switch so that the light reveals more and more of what is in the room.

Yoga is one pathway to becoming more mindful. (Image via Pixabay/yogawithamit)
Yoga is one pathway to becoming more mindful. (Image via Pixabay/yogawithamit)

Tips for Becoming Mindful

Do you ever find that when you try to stop thinking about something, and those thoughts stick around stubbornly? Trying to block out certain thoughts can cause us more problems than becoming aware of them and then letting them pass naturally. The key is in choosing thoughts we will hold on to and ignoring those we will not give the spotlight to. A metaphor that can help you be more mindful is this:

Imagine for a moment that all your thoughts in your mind are like actors on a stage. Some of these actors are saying nice things about you and you want them to be on stage whereas others are saying things that are very painful, and you want them to leave the stage. But the thing is, they keep coming and you probably can't remove them from the stage. What you can control is the spotlight. Similarly, you can choose to focus on the thoughts that make you happy compared with those that don't.

Using this you don’t block out or deliberately hold onto any particular thought. You notice each one as it occurs and move on. With practice, you learn how to focus attention on empowering and enabling thoughts while not chasing down negative or harmful ones.

Imagine yourself in the audience and becoming mindful of the actors. (Image via Pexels/Monica Silvestre)
Imagine yourself in the audience and becoming mindful of the actors. (Image via Pexels/Monica Silvestre)


Although research has shown that mindfulness can enhance well-being, reduce stress, and increase happiness, it is not necessary that it will work for you. You cannot force yourself to derive all the benefits although the practice could give you a few minutes of calm every day.

Janvi is a counsellor with a master's degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology. She has worked with 100+ clients, whose stories inspire her in the range of topics she writes on–from anxiety and stress to grief and recovery.

Edited by Ramaa Kishore