Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only. It does not intend to diagnose or treat any condition. Please reach out to a qualified healthcare provider or mental health professional if you are struggling.
Is mindfulness meditation unknowingly harming you?
Nearly everyone is talking about the great benefits of meditation and how it has become the supreme solution to all the problems. You would have heard how meditation can help you reduce stress, improve your memory and become physically healthier. Meditating for a few minutes daily can enhance your overall well-being. But, just like everything else around you, meditation too has its flaws that you might not be aware of.
A 2017 study conducted by researchers from Brown University and the University of California examined the experiences of 60 meditation practitioners and found some unexpected consequences of meditation.
Let’s explore the findings of this research!
1. Lose your motivation
Did you ever lose your enthusiasm and procrastinate on finishing your work after meditating for a while?
The 2017 study also found a severe lack of motivation in some individuals. Like depression, meditation could also lead you to lose interest in activities you might enjoy. Researchers believe this happens because of non-attachment, which is a quality many meditators aim to achieve. Meditation allows you to step back and observe your thoughts and emotions. As you acknowledge feelings and realise that everything is transient, you let your life take you where it wants to and start accepting your relationships, health, and the job just the way they are. Detachment here could help you get rid of your stress and maintain a calm and peaceful mind. But this might cost you your motivation and the urgency to do what is necessary for your well-being. It could drive you away from addressing the critical issues and getting your work done. So, shouldn’t you be more mindful of when you wish to meditate?
2. Re-live your traumatic past
Did you ever feel that certain emotions always rise up and remind you of your past whenever you meditate?
Participants of the 2017 study also expressed feeling panic, anxiety, fear, depression, grief, and paranoia after meditation. While only a few individuals reported re-living their past experiences in the form of flashbacks. This could be because meditation allows your thoughts to wander in your mind while you observe your feelings. Some of those thoughts could be disturbing and stir up the suppressed emotions of your past compelling you to re-live those painful experiences. And confronting your traumatic past could trigger waves of fear, anger, and frustration making you feel uneasy and anxious. If you had a similar experience while meditating, relax and know that you are not the only one suffering. Maybe consulting a professional could help you improve your condition.
3. Disturbs your relationship with yourself
Do you try to clear the insecurities and inabilities from your mind by meditating? But it doesn’t work?
As you draw your attention to yourself while meditating, you not only become aware of your strengths but also of your weaknesses. A 1992 study conducted by Daene H Shapiro, Jr., professor of psychiatry and human behaviour at the University of California, found people became more conscious of their flaws when they returned from their meditation retreat. Such a pessimistic perception of your abilities can go as far as negatively impacting your sense of self. Consequently, the 2017 study reported people with lower self-efficacy and self-esteem.
The relationship you share with yourself is vital. The way you view and treat yourself decides how you would treat others. If your self-esteem declines and you feel you have lost control over your life, your bond with others will also suffer. So, why not pay attention to your thoughts while meditating and keep a check on your negative self-talk.
4. Become anti-social
Do you know someone who has grown distant and is awkward during conversations after they went for their meditation retreat?
Meditation could help you get in touch with yourself but, as a consequence, cause you to lose touch with others. Half of the participants in the 2017 study had difficulty behaving normally around others. Practising meditation for long durations could detach you from the world and, in the long run, makes it difficult for you to integrate back into society again. Social impairment caused by non-attachment leads to avoiding or disregarding your relationships and responsibilities. But, that’s not how you can live and grow together in society. Instead, let detachment change the quality of your relationship with life and help you make conscious choices rather than growing distant from all you love and enjoy.
5. Alters your sensations
Have you seen flickering lights or random shapes once you open your eyes after meditation? Was it an illusion or something else?
Meditation is a mind-altering exercise. So, if not practised with proper guidance and knowledge, our beliefs and thoughts may not change in the way desired. In the 2017 study, many people saw visions, hallucinations or lights that didn’t exist. Some individuals even reported higher sensitivity to light and noise. Again, this happens because mindfulness meditation brings your attention to the present moment and makes you aware of both the internal and external sensations. This could change the way you see, hear and sense even when you are not meditating. Changes like these can sometimes be irreversible, so being aware of such changes could help you change in the best possible way.
6. Tones down your emotions
Have you felt disturbed rather than relaxed after meditating?
If yes, you are not the only one who felt worse after meditating. Nearly half the participants in the 2017 study experienced delusional, irrational or paranormal thoughts. A 2019 study by the University College London further proved that more than a quarter of people who regularly meditate experienced psychological disturbance.
People resort to meditation to calm the torment of emotions within them because mindfulness meditation can help blunt your feelings. You neither feel positive nor any negative emotions but remain in a neutral state of mind. Such a state of mind could help you make thoughtful decisions and solve the problems in your life. But, it could also strip off the emotional richness you can experience as you go through life. You feel lifeless when you can’t experience immense joy and happiness in your life. Right?
7. Makes you less generous
Did you know people could turn less generous after meditating?
According to a recent study conducted by the University of Washington, meditation could reduce the feeling of guilt, further decreasing feelings of generosity that are essential for human relationships. During the experiment, participants were supposed to write down a situation that made them guilty in the past. The participants, after an eight-minute guided meditation, reported feeling less guilty. In the long term, meditation could even reduce the activity in the amygdala, the centre for emotional responses. Because of this, you are less likely to experience any emotion in its extreme form.
Negative emotions may not be pleasant, but they are essential in guiding your behaviour in social situations and maintaining relationships. So, when you feel less guilty, you are also less likely to bring change in your behaviour. Guilt works like a moral compass. Because feeling guilty prompts you to learn from your mistakes and discover more suitable ways of handling that situation.
The effects of meditation depend upon your perception and reason for practising it. So, not everyone who meditates will experience those side effects. But if you do experience any of the mentioned effects, consulting a professional could help you out.
It’s important to keep in mind that there is limited knowledge about our minds. And even less research on how meditation could adversely affect our minds. The mentioned drawbacks are only the first step towards exploring the wide range of its positive and negative effects. Sharing this with you can help you make an informed choice for yourself because we care for you and want you to become better human beings.
Hope this article is helpful to you!
Truly appreciate you taking some time off your busy schedule to read this article. See you soon with more mental health content. Stay tuned until next time. Goodbye!