Exploring the Downsides of Mindfulness: 13 Disadvantages of Being in the Present

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

Once someone told me that nothing is ever 100% good or 100% bad, and I tend to agree with that concept. That said, mindfulness is such an essential part of my life that it is hard for me to admit that there are some disadvantages and risks attached to it. In fact, there are 13 that I can think of right now.

These are 13 disadvantages and risks of mindfulness. Mindfulness may cause you to:

  1. Over-exert yourself (time, effort, practice),
  2. Disregard your gut instincts,
  3. Become passive and complacent,
  4. Lose the ability to multitask,
  5. Become less creative,
  6. Experience depersonalization,
  7. Experience a change in personal social relationships,
  8. Feel frustrated,
  9. Avoid difficult or overwhelming conversations and situations,
  10. Appear detached to other people,
  11. Put yourself last and others first consistently,
  12. Suffer internal conflicts,
  13. Feel anxious.

While considering these 13 possible disadvantages of mindfulness, keep in mind that mindfulness also comes with a plethora of advantages attached. Not everyone that practices mindfulness will experience the abovementioned adverse effects. If you would like to learn more about the disadvantages and risks of practicing mindfulness, read on.

13 Cons of Mindfulness

To understand the various potential risks of mindfulness, check out the points below:

1. Mindfulness practice may cause you to over-exert yourself (time, effort, and practice).

If you know anything about mindfulness, you know that it does not always come easily. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of several mindfulness therapies, mindfulness is a human’s natural ability to “non-reactively sustain attention to the present moment”. 

A multivariate twin study suggested that all humans have at least some natural level of mindfulness, which is affected by genetic and environmental factors. That means that some people are naturally more mindful than others. And guess what? That also means that adopting mindfulness can be more challenging to some than others.

It can take quite a bit of time, effort, and practice to achieve mindfulness. Mindfulness requires you to be fully present at the moment, without your mind wandering. That, especially in the beginning phases of practice, can be a tall order. You may feel as if you are over-exerting yourself to be mindful, especially if you are not particularly naturally mindful in the first place.

2. Mindfulness may cause you to disregard your gut instincts.

When practicing mindfulness, you learn to observe feelings and thoughts without judgment and without a reaction. Instead, you learn to “realize” that what you feel is not necessarily truth, but rather based on personal preferences (not on fact). While this can have immense value in terms of acceptance, it can also be a bit risky. 

The human body and mind are designed to pay attention to situations, scenarios, and ideas that are “red flag” material. When your gut tells you that something isn’t in line with your personal belief system or morals, you will feel judgmental or have a ‘gut feel’ about it. Ever heard someone say “trust your gut”? That is what they are talking about! Mindfulness may be the start of disregarding your gut instincts, which are in place to keep you safe. 

3. Mindfulness may cause you to become passive and complacent.

Mindfulness requires you to be non-reactive in potentially volatile or confrontational situations. A more passive approach is encouraged, where personal preferences or misconceptions do not determine the response that you have. When you get into a habit of doing this, you may become passive to all situations or simply be complacent. Having feelings and opinions and expressing them could add more value to your life than complacency will. 

4. Mindfulness may cause you to lose the ability to multitask.

Because mindfulness requires you to focus only on the current moment and task at hand, you are automatically discouraged from the process of multitasking. Modern-day living promotes multitasking, even though we all wish we could slow down and take one thing at a time. Multitasking requires the ability to think of and manage several complex tasks at a time, which goes against everything that mindfulness stands for.

5. Mindfulness may cause you to become less creative.

As it turns out, creativity is sparked by a wandering mind. If your mind can’t wander, how can it be creative? To practice mindfulness you have to keep your mind focused on the current moment – with no wandering. If your mind does wander while practicing mindfulness, you are supposed to bring it back to the here and now – and then refocus. Unfortunately, because the mind can’t wander, mindfulness can dry up the creative juices for some people.

6. Mindfulness may cause you to experience depersonalization.

By observing feelings and eliminating judgments, mindfulness can cause people to experience what is referred to as depersonalization. The Oxford Dictionary has 2 definitions of the word “depersonalization” as follows:

  1. The action of divesting someone or something of human characteristics of individuality”.
  2. (in Psychiatry) “A state in which one’s thoughts and feelings seem unreal or not to belong to oneself”.

Neither of these definitions seems to bode well for the individual experiencing it. In rare cases where mindfulness causes a person to experience depersonalization, the individual loses their sense of self, and that can be quite a bleak feeling.

7. Mindfulness may cause a change in personal social relationships.

When building your social relationships (with friends) and your personal relationships (with family members and partners), you connect on various levels because of common ground and similarities in beliefs, goals, and values. When you choose to practice mindfulness, you will change – that is an undeniable fact. 

Your mindset will change, your behavior will change, and your outlook will change. And as a result, you may find that you no longer connect with the same people on the same level, or others might notice the change in you and be uncomfortable with it. This can lead to a change in personal and social relationships that you were neither expecting nor particularly happy about. 

8. Mindfulness may cause you to feel frustrated.

Mindfulness requires you to be non-judgmental, non-reactive, and fully present in the here-and-now at all times. This can cause people to notice far more about other people than someone normally would. It also means that you should not lash out, get angry, or have a spur-of-the-moment negative reaction. In some cases, this can lead to pent-up inner frustration. While the idea is to master the art of being genuinely non-judgmental, that can prove particularly hard and, in some cases, can result in unhealthy bottling up of emotions.

9. Mindfulness may cause you to avoid difficult or overwhelming conversations and situations.

When you get into the habit of not reacting and trying to be non-judgmental at all times, you may start to lose access to your built-in tools/skills for dealing with difficult situations. 

Sometimes conversations are hard and situations are tough, but the recommended course of action would be to face these problems head-on, have the conversation, and work through the difficult situation, so that there can be some resolution and subsequent growth. Mindfulness may provide you with the perfect excuse to rather avoid these scenarios and never have to truly deal with them. 

10. Mindfulness may cause you to appear detached to other people.

While mindfulness can create a stable and balanced lifestyle, it can also cause other people to think you are detached. When a person never expresses frustration and always carefully avoids difficult situations, it can appear as if there is no personal or emotional attachment/depth. 

11. Mindfulness may cause you to put yourself last and others first consistently.

There are times in life where you have to put yourself first, even if it means causing discomfort or unhappiness to someone else. Mindfulness does not insist that you put others first, but it does create heightened empathy and compassion, which may often lead to putting your needs behind the needs of others. Being mindful naturally makes you put other’s people’s needs ahead of your own.

12. Mindfulness may cause you to suffer internal conflicts.

Again, not everyone experiences internal conflicts when practicing mindfulness, but it is possible. When practicing mindfulness, you are prone to observing feelings and proceeding to respond to the situation in a neutral or non-judgmental way. If you do feel quite strongly about something and you try to apply a mindfulness approach, this can cause an internal conflict. Sometimes just getting the feelings/opinions out there (even in an angry or upset way) can provide immense relief – but that is not really the mindfulness way.

13. Mindfulness may cause you to feel anxious.

Mindfulness forms part of mindfulness meditation. While the majority of people who practice mindfulness report that it eases their stress and anxiety, this is not the case for everyone. There are cases where people have reported mindfulness triggering anxiety. For some people, the sense of calm and relaxation that mindfulness allows can be cause for anxious feelings.

Is Mindfulness a Risk for You? You Decide!

When deciding whether mindfulness is a risk for you or not, take into consideration both the advantages and disadvantages. Decide for yourself if the negatives outweigh the positives or vice versa. 

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He covers topics like spirituality, philosophy, finance, sports, games, and food. JC earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business with a Marketing Concentration at Mercyhurst University. He is a certified USPTA professional who teaches tennis in the New York City Metropolitan area. He has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.