Mindfulness skills can be learned and practiced by anyone, whatever their background. They are practices which strengthen and deepen the human capacity to live more meaningful, balanced and peaceful lives. Mindfulness is rooted in a meditation tradition more than two and a half thousand years old.
The two main approaches that have been developed in recent years are Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), both of which are taught over eight sessions and are completely secular in nature.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and colleagues in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, to help people with a wide range of physical and mental health problems. Since then, thousands of people have completed the eight week MBSR programme. The central focus of the MBSR programme is an intensive experiential training in mindfulness to enable participants to access their own resources for responding more effectively to stress, pain and illness. The teaching of MBSR has since been extensively developed in hospitals and clinics for staff, medical students and patients alike, and also in inner-city areas, prisons, corporations, legal practices, universities, schools and government agencies. Evidence based research shows MBSR to be effective in helping chronic pain and fatigue, depression, anxiety, life stress, psoriasis, cancer and in supporting self-care.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
In the last 12 years Professor Mark Williams, Dr John Teasdale and Professor Zindel Segal have further developed Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for the treatment of depression, as an adaptation inspired by the MBSR programme. The central aim of the programme is to help people who are liable to depression to stay well. The pattern of mind which makes people vulnerable to depressive relapse is rumination, in which the mind repetitively re-runs negative thoughts. MBCT introduces mindfulness skills that offer a different way of relating to experience, and helps prevent the consolidation of negative patterns of thinking and feeling, that may escalate towards depressive relapse. MBCT is now recommended in the guidelines of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a treatment of choice for people who have suffered three or more episodes of depression.
The Mental Health Foundation has recently launched a campaign to increase awareness of, and access to, mindfulness-based courses www.bemindful.co.uk.