Mindfulness-based interventions

MBSR emerged in the late 1970s through the combination of popular stress management techniques such as relaxation and deep breathing, with more novel practices and concepts from Eastern meditation traditions (Kabat-Zinn 1990). Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of MBSR, himself studied Zen meditation and vipassana and distilled some of the key concepts around mindfulness and the idea of present-moment awareness into a secular program palatable to the Western medical system. The MBSR program is an eight-week group course that includes a six-hour silent retreat near the end of the program. Gentle hatha yoga is incorporated into each class, as are a range of key meditation practices including body scan, sitting meditation, walking meditation, loving kindness (metta) practice, and a smattering of other practices such as Mountain or Lake meditations meant to highlight “mountainlike” or “lakelike” qualities in people, which meditation enhances. These may include majesty, stillness, equanimity, rootedness, depth, reflection, etc.

Key also to the MBSR program is reflection on the practices, skilled inquiry by the facilitator, and dialogue around personal practice meant to enhance insight and personal growth. Didactic materials specific to topics such as the stress response, balance in the nervous system, mindful communication, mindful attitudes, and other topics are also often included. The groups are offered in sizes ranging from 8 to as many as 35 in some cases. The basic MBSR model has been adapted and modified to suit the needs of different clinical and non-clinical populations, and to reflect this, different names are often used (such as mindfulness-based cancer recovery (MBCR), our adaptation for people living with cancer). The most well known of these is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), originally developed to prevent depression relapse (Segal et al. 2002), since shown to be effective in many studies (Piet and Hougaard 2011), and now applied to a range of different mental and physical health conditions. As a collective, we refer to these as MBIs.

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