Mindfulness can be traced back thousands of years, but today it is known as a modern, secular (non-religious) practice.
For most of the Western world, mindfulness is not used to practice any particular religion, but as a
method to improve mental health fitness.
Western mindfulness has gained popularity as a method that supports people from all walks of life in directing focus, drawing awareness to our experience, regulating emotion, and coping with stress, anxiety, and depression.
It has evolved over three distinct phases:
The first wave of modern secular applications began about 40 years ago through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is considered the founder of modern mindfulness.
Jon’s work led to Mindfulness-Based Interventions (or MBIs). His work proved very successful for patients in reducing pain, improving well-being, and decreasing stress.
And now, MBIs are used in schools all around the globe!
In the 1990s, mindfulness treatments helped patients with clinical depression. Researchers found evidence indicating that practicing mindfulness reduces rates of depression by 50% among patients who suffer from recurrent depression.
In the last 20 years, mindfulness research has focused more on the neurobiological impacts and the significant increase in the gray matter of the regions involved in learning, memory, and emotion regulation – also known as the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, and the amygdala.*
In the Classroom
Finally, classroom educators focused on teaching mindfulness to teachers and students to improve academic success, create more harmonious classrooms, and support wellbeing.
Today, it’s being offered in hospitals, clinics, schools, and universities worldwide! Many colleges and universities even have courses and departments dedicated to the teaching and practice of mindfulness, such as Denison University in Ohio and the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.
Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 191(1), 36–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006
“Rather than remove stress, mindfulness helps us learn to relate to stress differently. It may seem surprising that something as simple as listening to sounds or paying attention to our breath can help us learn to respond in a healthy way, but it’s what science is showing.”
The most important thing to realize is that this practice has demonstrated and proven health benefits.
Let’s explore them now 😊