Mindfulness is not a new concept. Rooted in the religious practices of Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism, the idea of mindfulness has been around thousands of years. Its popularity in western secular culture as a means of stress reduction is, however, a fairly new concept.
It wasn’t until 1979 that Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It was at his clinic that Dr. Kabat-Zinn developed his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, or MBSR. Health care facilities and universities throughout the U.S. have implemented this eight-week program that blends traditional Buddhist mindfulness techniques with Western science to create what many consider to be the first use of mindfulness as treatment.
While Dr. Kabat-Zinn was integrating mindfulness into medicine, the increase in popularity of yoga was the catalyst for bringing mindfulness to the masses. In a study measuring mindfulness in people who practice yoga, researchers found that people who are actively involved in a yoga practice had higher levels of mindfulness than people who were casually involved or not involved. Yoga as a whole has taken off in recent years, with over 36 million active yogis and an increase in regular practitioners by over 50 percent between 2012 and 2016, according to a study by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance. It is no surprise then that the idea of mindfulness as a stress reducer has gained popularity in the U.S. over the last 10 years.
Ideas of where this practice is most applicable and what effects it has are still being debated. For instance, a 2012 article in the Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy pointed to research that supported the efficacy of MBSR in alleviating psychological distress and symptoms. A 2013 manuscript on Neuropsychobiology found that “MBSR produced small but significant changes in executive function, mindfulness and sustained left frontal alpha asymmetry.” And another 2012 article published on ScienceDirect found a correlation between older adults using MBSR and a reduction in the feeling of loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression.
A majority of researchers agree that MBSR has positive effects. If you’ve seen the benefits firsthand, we would love to hear your stories. If this is your first time exploring MBSR, we encourage you to read some of the articles posted within.