The origin of mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist philosophy and practice tradition more than two and a half thousand years old. It is an effective practice without any religious context of Buddhism, and is often taught as a non-sectarian practice in the West. Some people like to also explore the religious underpinnings of Buddhism, which can deepen understanding, but it's not necessary to get benefits from Mindfulness practice. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone of any faith or religion and involves training the mind and doesn't enforce any religious belief system. Mindfulness skills can be practiced by anyone, whatever their background and deepen human capacity to live more meaningful, balanced and peaceful lives.
The two main approaches developed in recent years are Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), both of which are taught over a number of sessions and are completely secular in nature.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and colleagues in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in the United States, to help people with a wide range of physical and mental health problems.
Since then, thousands of people have completed their basic MBSR programmes, which are intensive experiential trainings in mindfulness that enable participants to access their own resources for responding more effectively to stress, pain and illness, and indeed the challenges of everyday life.
The teaching of MBSR has been extensively developed in hospitals and clinics for staff, medical students and patients, also in inner-city areas, prisons, companies, law firms, 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 amongst many other conditions, and it also provides a framework in supporting self-care.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
In the last 12 years Professor Mark Williams, Dr John Teasdale and Professor Zindel Segal in the UK have further developed Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for the treatment of depression, inspired out of the MBSR programme. The aim of MBCT is to help people who are liable to depression relapsing 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.