Trendy 'mindfulness' programmes can make you more SELFISH, study finds

Trendy ‘mindfulness’ programmes can make you more SELFISH: Meditation increases egotistical behaviours for independent people, study finds

  • Researchers studied how independence altered the response to mindfulness  
  • Found in independent people it triggers more selfish behaviours 
  • But in people who are team players by nature it has the opposite effect and leads to more altruistic thoughts  

Mindfulness can make some people more selfish, a new study has found. 

The trendy practice has become a popular tool to help people enjoy their surroundings more in a bid to relieve stress and reduce anxiety. 

It has been proven effective, but scientists have now found it has previously unknown side-effects depending on the sort of person using it. 

For independent people, mindfulness leads to increased selfishness, researchers found. 

But for people who are naturally interdependent and view endeavours as a collective effort, mindfulness actually promotes altruistic behaviour. 

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Mindfulness can make some people more selfish, a new study has found. The trendy practice has become a popular tool to help people enjoy their surroundings in a bid to relieve stress and reduce anxiety (stock)

What is mindfulness?  

Paying more attention to the present moment – to one’s own thoughts and feelings, and to the surrounding world  – can improve mental wellbeing.

This activity is now being called mindfulness. 

Mindfulness can help people enjoy life more and gain a deeper understanding of themselves.  

You can take steps to develop it in your own life. 

It was initially developed in East Asia and has become a trendy tool in Western cultures in recent years. 

Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, writes on the NHS website that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.

‘It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour,’ he says.

‘An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience.’

Academics from the University of Buffalo in the US conducted two experiments with more than 300 volunteers each. 

Participants were quizzed to determine if they were more independent or interdependent and they then took part in a mindfulness activity. 

In the first experiment, the participants were afterwards told about a charity which needed volunteers to send out envelopes for a charitable organisation. 

This subtle task showed that independent people, after undergoing a bout of mindfulness, are less likely to help out.  

In the second experiment, participants were asked if they would sign up to chat online with potential donors to help raise money for a charitable organisation.

Results showed that mindfulness made those primed for independence 33 per cent less likely to volunteer, but it led to a 40 per cent increase in the likelihood of volunteering among those primed for interdependence.

‘Mindfulness can make you selfish,’ says Dr Michael Poulin, lead author of the study from the University of Buffalo. ‘It’s a qualified fact, but it’s also accurate.

‘Research suggests that mindfulness works, but this study shows that it’s a tool, not a prescription, which requires more than a plug-and-play approach if practitioners are to avoid its potential pitfalls.’ 

The researchers say the fault is not with mindfulness, but how it is deployed. 

It was developed in East Asia as a way for people to pay more attention to the moment and consciously stop and notice the world around them. 

This helps with mental health as it allows people to feel gratitude and enjoyment in things they otherwise take for granted. 

People in mindfulness’ native East Asia tend to be interdependent as a byproduct of their culture. 

As a result, the pro-altruism side-effect of mindfulness means it not only benefits individuals, but wider society as a whole. 

However, its recent adoption in Western cultures — where people are naturally more independent — removes the prosocial aspect of society and leads to more selfish behaviour. 

‘Despite these individual and cultural differences, there is also variability within each person, and any individual at different points in time can think of themselves either way, in singular or plural terms,’ says Dr Poulin.

The findings will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science. 

Meditation and mindfulness linked to narcissism and feelings of ‘spiritual superiority’, study finds 

Forms of spiritual enlightenment can ‘boost feelings of superiority’ by stoking the ego, a new study has found. 

Dutch experts studying questionnaires of nearly 4,000 people found a link between practising spiritual training, like meditation, and feelings of ‘spiritual superiority’. 

Thy found that those who were engaged in the more bizarre ‘energetic’ therapies, such as aura reading, were the most smug. 

Forms of spiritual training – including mindfulness, meditation, self healing and reading auras – are supposed to distance people from their ego and any feelings of self-worth.  

But spiritual training appears to actually have the opposite effect, by enhancing people’s need to feel ‘more successful, more respected or loved’, the experts say.  

‘Spiritual training is assumed to reduce self‐enhancement, but may have the paradoxical effect of boosting superiority feelings,’ say the authors, from Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

‘It can, thus, operate like other self‐enhancement tools and contribute to a contingent self‐worth that depends on one’s spiritual accomplishments.

‘Self‐enhancement motive is powerful and deeply ingrained so that it can hijack methods intended to transcend the ego and, instead, adopt them to its own service.’ 

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