Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Meditation Bad For You?



Short answer

Meditation can bring immense benefits like stress reduction and improved focus, but it can also pose risks if practiced incorrectly. Potential issues include the rise of negative emotions, physical discomfort from improper posture, and the aggravation of pre-existing mental health conditions. Overdoing meditation might also lead to social withdrawal or a false sense of complacency. With proper guidance and awareness, these risks can be mitigated to ensure a beneficial meditation practice.



Long answer

Potential Risks of Incorrect Meditation Practices

Meditation is widely recognized for its potential benefits, including stress reduction, improved concentration, and enhanced overall well-being. However, like any wellness practice, it’s not entirely without risks, especially if performed incorrectly. Let's delve into the potential risks associated with improper meditation techniques and explore how they can be avoided.

Experiencing Negative Emotions
For some individuals, meditation can lead to an increased awareness of negative emotions. This occurs when meditation brings suppressed feelings to the surface. The practice of mindfulness, which is central to many meditation techniques, involves observing thoughts and feelings without judgment. But for those unprepared or without proper guidance, this can sometimes be overwhelming, leading to discomfort or even emotional distress.

Physical Strain
Sitting in one position for an extended period can cause physical strain, particularly if the posture is not ergonomically suitable. Incorrect meditation postures can lead to muscle strain, neck, shoulder, or back pain. It's important to adopt a comfortable position and make adjustments as needed to prevent such physical discomfort.

False Sense of Mastery and Complacency
There's a risk of developing a false sense of achievement and complacency for those who might not be following meditation practices correctly. This can lead to the stalling of personal development and a lack of beneficial outcomes commonly associated with correct meditation techniques. Continuous learning and sometimes even professional guidance are essential to keep evolving in your meditation practice.

Worsening Symptoms in Individuals with Mental Health Issues
For those with pre-existing mental health conditions, such as anxiety or PTSD, meditation can sometimes exacerbate symptoms. A study published in the journal "Plos One" highlighted cases where meditation worsened conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD in certain individuals. It's imperative for people with these conditions to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning a meditation practice.

Social Withdrawal
An excessive focus on meditation can sometimes lead to social withdrawal, as individuals might begin to prefer the solitude of meditation to the complexities of social interactions. Balance is key, and it’s important to ensure that meditation enhances social and personal life rather than detracting from it.

Depersonalization or Derealization
Some practitioners report experiences of depersonalization or derealization during or after meditation, which is a sense of detachment from one’s self or surroundings. While these sensations are typically temporary, they can be distressing. Professional guidance can help mitigate these effects or help individuals understand these experiences within the broader context of their meditation journey.

By being aware of these potential challenges and ensuring proper technique and guidance, the risks associated with meditation can be minimized. As in any personal growth endeavor, attentive practice, sometimes supported by expert advice, is the key to reaping the most benefit while avoiding potential drawbacks.

The Misconception of Meditation Inducing Negative Emotions

When we think about meditation, it is often wrapped in a cocoon of tranquility and positivity. However, some people shy away from or are even wary of meditation due to a common misconception that it can dredge up negative emotions. As a multifaceted practice, meditation certainly has a deep impact on the mind, and with any deep self-reflection or mind-training exercise, a range of emotions, including negative ones, can arise.

It is crucial to dismantle this misconception with a nuanced perspective. Emotional experiences during meditation are highly individual, and the manifestation of negative feelings does not signify that meditation is inherently bad. Rather, if and when such emotions surface, they provide a unique opportunity for personal growth, healing, and insight.

Studies suggest that meditation can indeed prompt the recollection of suppressed memories or unrecognized emotions. A 2017 study published in "Frontiers in Psychology" acknowledges that meditation can lead to non-ordinary states of consciousness, which may include the experience of unsettling emotions. These instances, however, can offer profound moments of self-realization and catharsis. It is essential to emphasize the importance of proper guidance, especially for beginners, to navigate through these complex experiences.

Here are some key points to remember when considering the emotional effects of meditation:

  • Meditation allows for a heightened awareness of one's internal state, which can make unrecognized emotions more perceptible.
  • The emergence of negative emotions is not a signal to stop meditating, but rather an indication to explore these emotions further, preferably with the assistance of a meditation instructor or therapist if needed.
  • Meditation practices should be tailored to an individual's emotional resilience and mental health status. Techniques vary in intensity and potential to surface subconscious thoughts.
  • Consistency in practice helps individuals better understand their emotional responses and can lead to improved emotional regulation over time.
  • In the case of individuals with a history of trauma or severe mental health issues, therapeutic guidance is recommended when embarking on meditation practice.

It is also helpful to look into the vast variety of meditation techniques available. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), for example, is a structured program that combines mindfulness meditation and yoga, aiming to address both physical and psychological health. Such guided programs can be beneficial in providing support and structure, minimizing the risks of encountering distressing emotional states without proper resources.

The idea that meditation can induce negative emotions isn't entirely off base, but context is key. If approached with care, an understanding of what meditation entails, and appropriate support, the practice is an overwhelmingly positive tool for improving mental health and emotional well-being.

Impact of Excessive Meditation on Personal and Social Life

While meditation is widely regarded as a beneficial practice for mental and emotional well-being, it is possible to have "too much of a good thing." Excessive meditation, although rare, can potentially have some negative impacts on one's personal and social life. To understand this better, let's delve into some of the possible consequences of overindulgence in mindfulness practices.

Isolation from Social Activities: One potential issue is the retreat from social engagement. An individual might become so absorbed in the practice that they start to prioritize meditation over spending time with friends and family, leading to a disruption in social connections and support networks.

Disturbances in Daily Functioning: A hyper-intensive meditation schedule could interfere with daily responsibilities. Whether it's work duties, household chores, or other routine tasks, an excessive focus on meditation can lead to neglect of practical aspects of life, creating an imbalance.

Relationship Strain: Relationships could suffer when one partner dedicates an inordinate amount of time to meditation at the expense of direct communication and shared experiences. This might lead to misunderstandings and feelings of alienation within partnerships.

Psychological Effects: There have been reports in the literature of intense meditation leading to unwanted psychological experiences. Overzealous practice might trigger or exacerbate certain mental health issues, such as anxiety or depersonalization. In a study published in PLOS ONE, researchers found that excessive meditation could sometimes increase negative emotions and decrease motivational drive.

Escapism: In some cases, meditation could be used as a form of escapism, avoiding confronting issues that need attention in one's life. Individuals might use the practice as a way to withdraw from challenges rather than facing and dealing with them directly.

Reintegration Challenges: Prolonged periods spent in deep meditation, such as on a retreat, can sometimes make it challenging for individuals to reintegrate back into the rhythm of modern life, leading to feelings of disconnection or disorientation.

It is important to note that these consequences are not the norm and often result from extreme practices rather than moderate, daily meditation. To reap the benefits of meditation while avoiding potential drawbacks, it's critical to maintain a balanced approach that fits within one's broader life context. Incorporating meditation as one part of a diverse routine that includes socializing, working, and leisure is key to harnessing its positives without detriment to personal or social life.

As always, if you're experiencing negative symptoms related to your practice, consulting with a licensed mental health professional can help guide you toward a healthier balance. They can provide personalized recommendations that align with your unique circumstances and well-being goals.

Meditation and the Escapism from Health Issues

In the quest to find solace and clarity within our bustling lives, meditation has been a beacon for many. It offers a moment of calm, a respite from the storm of daily stressors. However, it is essential to address a concern that often lurks in the back of many minds: could meditation serve as an unintentional form of escapism, particularly when it comes to dealing with health issues?

Using meditation to momentarily step away from life's challenges is not inherently harmful. In fact, it can provide the much-needed mental space to process and approach health concerns with a clearer mindset. But problems may arise when meditation becomes a substitution for direct action, especially regarding one’s health.

  • Over-reliance: Some individuals may use meditation as a primary method to cope with physical pain or chronic conditions, potentially ignoring medical advice or delaying necessary treatment.
  • Denial: It's possible for meditation practitioners to detach themselves too much from their physical reality, using the practice to ignore or deny health problems that require attention.
  • Misperception: There's a risk of conflating the tranquility reached during meditation with a cure or an improvement in health when it’s more often a temporary state of relaxation.

Professional insights offer a more balanced perspective. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine suggests that while mindfulness meditation can reduce the perception of pain and improve quality of life, it is not a substitute for medical treatment. Health professionals generally recommend complementary use of meditation alongside conventional medical care rather than using it as an alternative treatment pathway.

Mindfulness, a key component of many meditation practices, can indeed boost self-awareness, making individuals more attuned to their bodies and health. This could potentially lead to earlier detection of health issues. However, it's equally vital to actively seek professional healthcare guidance and not rely solely on self-assessment or meditation.

In conclusion, meditation is not inherently bad when considering one's approach to health, but it should not be an exclusive method of managing health issues. A responsible approach involves using meditation for initial stress alleviation and mental clarity, while not hesitating to engage with the healthcare system for diagnosis, treatment, and comprehensive care.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, meditation can improve your ability to cope with stress over time. Regular meditation practice has been shown to decrease the production of stress hormones, increase self-awareness, and develop mindfulness, which can help you respond to stress more calmly and effectively. However, it's important to practice consistently and be patient with the process, as the stress-reducing benefits often build up gradually.

A correct meditation posture is one that allows you to sit comfortably without pain, with a straight but not stiff spine. Your neck and shoulders should be relaxed, and your hands can rest on your lap or knees. If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable, consider using a cushion or chair. Remember to make adjustments as needed and listen to your body to avoid strain.

Feeling sleepy or falling asleep during meditation is quite common, especially for beginners or those meditating after a tiring day. This indicates that your body is in a state of relaxation. However, if your goal is to remain awake and alert, try meditating in a seated posture, choosing a time when you're less likely to be tired, or incorporating more focused meditation techniques.

Whether or not to meditate with music is a personal choice and depends on your preference and the type of meditation. Some people find that calming music enhances their meditation experience, while others prefer silence to minimize distractions. Experiment with both and observe how music (or its absence) influences your focus and relaxation during your practice.

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Possible short-term side effects

  • increased awareness of negative emotions
  • physical strain from poor posture
  • emotional distress
  • exacerbation of mental health symptoms
  • social withdrawal
  • depersonalization or derealization

Possible long-term side effects

  • false sense of mastery
  • stalled personal development
  • neglect of practical life responsibilities
  • relationship strain
  • psychological disturbances
  • challenges in reintegration into social and work life


  • stress reduction
  • improved concentration
  • enhanced well-being
  • personal growth
  • healing and insight
  • improved emotional regulation
  • pain perception reduction

Healthier alternatives

  • structured mindfulness programs like mbsr
  • balanced routine with socializing, work, and leisure
  • meditation with professional guidance
  • consulting mental health professionals, if needed

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 12-27-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 12-27-2023

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