These days meditation is all the rage and everybody seems to be doing it and talking about how it saved their life etc etc. However, it turns out that it might actually have a bunch of negative effects that nobody is mentioning.
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At least that’s what this new study from Jared Lindahl at Brown University is saying. He’s arguing that although it is undoubtedly therapeutic for some people, that for other people it can be incredibly stressful and actually make things worse.
In order to test out this theory, the researchers interviewed 100 meditators and meditation from the three main disciplines – Theravāda, Zen and Tibetan – and painstakingly developed a taxonomy of 59 experiences organised into seven types. These were cognitive, perceptual, emotions and moods, somatic (relating to the body), motivation, sense of self and social.
Here’s what Lindahl had to say about the negative effects of meditation that can occur:
Many effects of meditation are well known, like increased awareness of thoughts and emotions, or improved calm and well-being.
But there is a much broader range of possible experiences. Exactly what those experiences are, how they affect individuals and which ones show up as difficult is going to be based on a range of personal, interpersonal and contextual factors.
While the positive effects have made the transition from Buddhist texts and traditions to contemporary clinical applications, the use of meditation for health and well-being has obscured the wider range of experiences and purposes traditionally associated with Buddhist meditation.
Negative aspects of meditation that have been reported include hypersensitivity to light or sound, insomnia, involuntary body movements as well as fear, anxiety, panic or a loss of emotions altogether.
That doesn’t sound so good now does it? It should probably be stressed that these negative aspects occur in far fewer people than the positive ones, but nevertheless it’s interesting and important to get that out there. If everyone’s trying to get you to meditate but it just isn’t working for example, you can throw some of these truth bombs at them and they might get off your back.
Chances are it’s gonna work for most people though and if you want to know why, check out why practicing mindfulness can change your life. It’s true.