WHERE DID MINDFULNESS COME FROM AND WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE FOR IT
Mindfulness is a very ancient practice steeped in the history of various secular and non secular contemplative practices traditions. It’s most comprehensive approach is associated with Buddhism and the East but in 1975 Kornfield, Salzburg and Goldstein bought the ideas and practices to the West and founded the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) Just 3 years later in 1978 Jon- Kabat-Zin offered the first Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme and today MBSR programmes run in more than 30 countries. Segal, Teasdale and Williams developed Mindful Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) specifically to help people who experience repeated bouts of depression. This programme is endorsed by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) and is now offered by the NHS.
The Mindfulness for Health course was developed by Vidyamala Burch, Sona Fricker and Gary Hennessey to help people with chronic pain. It is based on MBSR, MBCT and other therapies that use a compassion approach. Mindfulness for Stress was developed later to help people who are experiencing stress associated with work, relationships, loss or other factors.
Over the past 40 years the interest and research into Mindfulness and Meditation has increased and in 2015 The Mindfulness Initiative helped an All Party Parliamentary Group produce the Mindful Nation UK report then in 2016 they produced Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace Both reports use research evidence with the latter focusing on the Workplace and the former also making recommendations for use of Mindfulness in Health, Education and the Criminal Justice system, quote “Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) have been shown to improve health outcomes in a wide range of clinical and non-clinical populations. Mindfulness training is associated with reduced reactivity to emotional stimuli, as well as improvements in attention and cognitive capacities. These may be some of the mechanisms by which health and wellbeing gains are made – by relating to thoughts, emotions, body sensations and events in life more skilfully, practitioners may be less drawn into unhelpful habitual reactions and more able to make good choices about how to relate to their circumstances.
Neuroscientific studies into the effects of Mindfulness indicate that it is associated with brain changes that seem to reflect improvements in attention and emotion regulation skills. The benefits of mindfulness appear to extend to relationships so that practitioners are more likely to respond compassionately to someone in need, and enjoy more satisfying personal relationships. There is also some evidence that they take more environmentally responsible decisions. As with any new field of enquiry, there is much more research to be done to understand its effects.