An article written by Oliver Moody for The Times recently, stated that mindfulness can be bad for you. It seems that two psychologists, Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm have written in their book The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change you? that mindfulness and meditation have hidden risks which can include “mania, depression, hallucinations and psychosis”.
Mindfulness is hugely popular at the moment. It is being taught in schools, is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a treatment for anxiety and depression, there are meditation retreats and courses all over the world, and experts making claims about its effectiveness. More recently, efforts are being made to reveal its “dark side”, including the profit-making abilities and how it can impact negatively on individuals.
There is growing evidence of the effectiveness of mindfulness, not solely on the mental health side of things, but physically and emotionally, too. There are numerous studies on the benefits of meditation, neatly and concisely summarised by Giovanni Dienstmann. I have practised mindfulness for many years, as well as carefully taught it to adults, gained a qualification in teaching children meditation and then used the techniques with my own children; in schools; and with patients as part of my tool kit in my role as a registered nurse. I have seen great things arise from those who have used it.
Like many things, mindfulness isn’t for everybody. I have occasionally worked with those who haven’t benefited from the techniques and asked them to self-refer for further help with a psychologist – but these are the clients that haven’t wanted to or haven’t been able to explore the deeper connections within – and any good therapist would know when to signpost these clients for therapy and counselling, without leaving them unsupported and lost, which can lead to mental health issues like mania, depression or deepening anxiety.
Mindfulness requires discipline, time, connection and honesty with ourselves. In situations where we are able to see the deeper truth, of course it has the potential to bring up all sorts of emotional or mental imbalances. But it is important that the individual is supported to do this in a positive way, and for the therapist to know when to refer on, being mindful of the benefits and consequences for all. In short, then, “mind your head”.