Are Mindfulness & Self Help Useless?

What do you think: How useful are knowledge and mindfulness techniques once your life gets really difficult? It’s a question I’ve been pondering for a while now.

🤔 What I’ve been thinking of

I like to call out others on their bullshit – and I like to think that I call myself out on my own bullshit, too.

I think about ways to become more calm, patient and loving almost every day. I create theories in my mind and try to observe large-scale patterns (because that’s how my brain seems to work). And I try to apply whatever I can in my life, like gratitude journaling, meditation, daily walks in nature and more.

But a cynic would say (and this voice is in my head, too): How does your nice little mindfulness hold up when shit really hits the fan?

Well, honestly, I don’t know. Because I haven’t had REAL shit happen in my life, aside from the usual that we all have to deal with (health worries, relatives dying, friends getting sick and the like).

A very cynical person could even come to the conclusion that “self improvement” and mindfulness are hobbies of the rich and privileged First Worlders who are so self-absorbed and sheltered that they never had real existential problems. If you don’t know how to put food on the table, you won’t think that much about mindfulness and meditation, I guess.

But even within my comparably easy life, I might not be as resilient and stoic as I’d like to think I am. I’m actually very sensitive, still, and there’s little evidence that this will change, ever. I still get nervous before trivial things like travelling or meeting new people – don’t get me started on doctors appointments or confrontations.

And yes, I still get sad. And when I’m in those moments where I feel this all-consuming, painful black hole emerge in my chest area, my cynical self sometimes says: “Where’s your mindfulness now? Why don’t you try one of your techniques for finding peace?” recognizing instinctively that these techniques or ideas would be about as useful as bringing a knife to a fight with a fire-spewing dragon of despair.

And I admit it: I feel pretty helpless in these moments. What if shit really hits the fan, like getting a cancer diagnosis? Can I think & strategize my way out of those real-life nightmares?

However, I believe that being able to go into “observer-mode” (observing what I feel like and observing what stories my mind tries to come up with) instead of reacting right away and being fully engulfed in my emotions can at least somewhat reduce the pain and allow me to go back to normal quicker. And accepting that I’m not super though that I’m not above all the petty feelings like jealousy, frustration or desperation, is helpful and humbling, too.

So, are Mindfulness and Self Help useless, since they can’t shield us from all of life’s challenges and suffering? No, I’m pretty sure that’s not the case (they are not the cure-all, however, and only one building block of a fulfilling life).

So I’ll end this with a call to everyone (and to myself, above all): I think we shouldn’t be cynical towards people who try to improve themselves and find peace of mind. Chances are those people struggle with life more than the “neurotypical” folks and don’t really have a choice but making mindfulness and peace of mind a priority – the alternative would be going insane.

😴 What helped me find calm this week

Unintentional ASMR Picks:

For the German-speaking viewers 🇩🇪:

Intentional ASMR Picks:

  • A superb (home-made) facial treatment by Soy ASMR, another impressive South Korean ASMR channel. I’m not sure if all these lotions are that great for your skin, but the application, scrubbing and massaging sure are tingly!
  • 42 Min. Of Pure Gold ASMR” – good title! The deep excavating sounds plus the bassy unique voice of Dr. T make this a must-see
  • Gibi really killed it with her last two videos: one is her reading sensory Kids books (with special surfaces), the other is her painting with Gems (I didn’t know this existed)
  • I generally avoid channels like Ginger ASMR (the type where when you see the thumbnail you’re not sure if you’re on YouTube or an a porn site – but maybe you’re into that, I’m not judging:). But I have to admit her Color Blindness Test or Clinic Medical Appointment video are well made, she has a nice voice and puts effort into her stuff – kudos to her for that!

Also, these two are too good to not mention:

I’ve added these videos to my “ASMR Favorites” Playlist“, again.