F*ck Mindfulness, Get Some Sleep

Mindfulness and meditation have well-established benefits. However, the implementation of these practices without consideration for more basic wellness efforts is like building your home on an unstable foundation.

Sleep, nutrition, safety, and physical health provide stability for a mindfulness practice and the lack of these makes efforts to be mindful much harder. Wellness recommendations often emphasize skills that are just outside of many people’s grasp when accessible (and perhaps more beneficial) practices are more attainable.

Workplace programs that emphasize wellness often end up penalizing employees for whom regular gym visits or healthier BMIs are beyond reach. People most in need of support - those working multiple jobs, experiencing instability, or self-medicating trauma - are disenfranchised by programs that emphasize meditation and other higher-level wellness practices.

For a person whose body and mind are dysregulated, recommending a meditation practice is like throwing them in the deep end of the wellness pool. Evidence-based programs like Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teach a valuable skill, but it is a higher-level skill. People who cannot access essential health needs including preventative medical care, regular sleep, supportive relationships, or access to clean water are not as likely to realize the benefits of meditation as people who have a stronger foundation for their health. It is simply much harder to learn to meditate when you have chronic health problems, high student loan debt, lack of access to childcare, or ongoing sleep deprivation.

So, while mindfulness has benefits for many people, introductory-level health practices like going to sleep an hour earlier can have a more significant impact. And if workplace programs were focused on helping employees access health care, resolve financial stressors, manage addictions, and build skills, they would find greater benefits than the packaged pseudo-wellness programs that can end up demoralizing and penalizing people who most need support.

When a home is built on an unstable foundation it falters. Recommending mindfulness to people who do not have the ability yet to sustain and benefit from this practice makes them feel like they are failing at health when it is actually their neurobiology, physiology, or environment that most need a wellness intervention.

Culture Strategist improving how institutions and systems interact with people.