You may have heard about mindfulness before, but not be sure what it is. Meditation and mindfulness are used a lot in spiritual contexts but have been adapted to be used in a secular, therapeutic context. Probably the most strongly established form is MBSR (Mindfulness-based stress reduction) as well as MBCT (Mindfulness-based cognitive training) developed by Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn was a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and is the founding father of mindfulness-based stress reduction, which he developed in the 70s. In this article, I am going to introduce what MBSR is, what it can be helpful for, and then introduce some resources to let you try out mindfulness on your own.
What is MBSR/MBCT and how useful is it?
Forms may vary, but the form that I am going to introduce here is the 8-week, group-based, in-person program, which originated at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The course focuses on new aspects every week and introduces new forms of practice as well as a space to reflect personal behavioral patterns as well as thought patterns. The practice takes place in a group and in private and consists of exercises like mindful yoga, body scans, mindful eating (raisin exercise), and sitting meditation. According to Kabat Zinn, 7 attitudes are important to cultivate, including non-striving, acceptance and trust. (For more information on the attitudes see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2n7FOBFMvXg). While mindfulness can be beneficial for all, the MBSR and MBCT programs are starting to be applied in clinical settings more and more. They are used for patients suffering from depression, chronic pain, cancer substance abuse, and much more. Nevertheless, when it comes to studies concerning the effectiveness of these therapies, there is a need for more research. Hempel et al. (2014) created an overview of the results found in research so far. Their overview shows, that there seems to be evidence of potential positive effects when using MBSR/MBCT to treat depression, pain and anxiety. However, when it comes to stress, cancer in general and substance use, the results are mixed. In conclusion, while MBSR/MBCT seems to help treat depression and pain patients, more research is required, as there is unclear evidence when it comes to other illnesses like cancer or substance abuse.
There are many ways to give mindfulness a shot. You can stroll into your bookstore, where there are many books including theoretical backgrounds as well as guided practices or search the internet. Here are a few digital resources for you to try:
- MBSR-based exercises
- Full 8-week MBSR program
- The center where MBSR was founded: https://www.umassmemorialhealthcare.org/umass-memorial-medical-center/services-treatments/center-for-mindfulness/mindfulness-classes
- MBSR in Switzerland: https://www.mindfulness.swiss/
- Simple Habit
Hopefully, these resources help get you started. Enjoy!
Hempel, S., Taylor, S. L., Marshall, N. J., Miake-Lye, I. M., Beroes, J. M., Shanman, R., … & Shekelle, P. G. (2014). Evidence map of mindfulness. Washington DC: Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Services Research & Development Service.
Author: Sabrina Sovilla