Mindfulness won’t ‘boost’​ your wellbeing

    By Terry Rubenstein

    “School-based mindfulness training does not appear to boost wellbeing or improve the mental health of teenagers, according to research that found many pupils were bored by the course and did not practise it at home.”

    (The Guardian, 12 July 2022)

    I would like to challenge the picture portrayed in this recent article in The Guardian . For a start, it’s actually not possible to ‘boost’ one’s wellbeing. This is terminology that is better suited to the gaming industry. The survival mode of gaming is based on the need to collect things and avoid things in order to achieve the goal – survival. . This might be fun for gaming, but it’s not so fun when applied to wellbeing in real life. The ‘survival mode’ format makes us feel vulnerable because we have to work very hard doing all the stuff we believe we need to do to boost our wellbeing, and avoid the stuff we believe can take it away. It’s mentally exhausting. And inevitably, it leads to mental overload and burnout.

    Mindfulness, a helpful meditation for many people, is being marketed in schools as another tool that young people should practice to boost their wellbeing. Using this approach as the key tool for helping young people’s mental health in schools is not just not working, as the research demonstrates, it is worrying. So, could society be approaching this all wrong?

    Yes, mindfulness does help many people. But it will always be limited when it is set up and put forward as a necessary technique to build young people’s wellbeing. The Guardian article states that the students actually found it boring and did not continue the practice at home, which is not a surprise if you happen to live or be familiar with teenagers in this modern era. Moreover, by reinforcing the idea that wellbeing is something that is given to you by outside practices or products – mindfulness in this instance – we are drumming into our children that they are lacking and therefore unprepared for life’s challenges without these ‘wellbeing practices’.

    Young people are listening and we are letting them down. We are influencing the way that they view their wellbeing and are encouraging more and more attachments to outside practices, products or people that will ‘boost their wellbeing’. This is not the way to help our youth. Students need practical, essential knowledge which provides a thorough education of how their minds work, and where the source of wellbeing lies. This knowledge will empower them to naturally navigate the landscape of their own psychological landscape, day to day.

    iheart’s role is to educate young people that they are NOT lacking; that they do NOT have a wellbeing deficit. The ‘resilient deficit’ paradigm is untrue and has serious implications for the poor mental health that we are currently feeling the full brunt of. At iheart, we provide an education that empowers youth to confidently know that the qualities of wellbeing we are all searching for – self-worth, connection, a settled mind, wise thinking, motivation, resilience, kindness – are closer and more available than we think. In fact, they are built-in to our minds. What we call innate. The essence of our work is to explain why these qualities get covered up such that we don’t feel them, and to provide a roadmap to uncovering them again. (Note: ‘covered up’ means they are still there – always)

    With this education embedded in our schools and homes, we will start to see our youth beginning to believe in themselves again as they realise that they are always ok, even when they don’t feel ok. They will have the knowledge to overcome their challenges and realise their extraordinary potential.

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