Mindfulness for health
One of the first applications of “mindfulness” practices as a clinical therapy in the West was made in the late seventies by Jon Kabat-Zinn and colleagues (University of Massachusetts, United States) who developed a stress reduction program in a group format based on "mindfulness" known as MBSR – Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.
MBSR, also mentioned in the literature as Stress Clinic, has been studied for at least 30 years. It is a form of structured intervention aimed at people and patients with clinical conditions associated with harmful levels of "stress".
Rooted in eastern philosophies and practices (Tibetan Buddhism, Zen, among others) MBSR is structured as a program that involves face-to-face activities (with an instructor) and distance learning, combining simple techniques of "mindfulness" and meditation. The efficacy and effectiveness of MBSR were studied in a variety of populations, including people with a diagnosis of cancer, anxiety, depression, heart diseases, among others, as well as healthy individuals, professionals, students and athletes.
MBSR is a highly structured eight-week program, in which participants meet weekly for approximately 2.5 hours for experiences of "mindfulness" techniques and meditation.
Participants are also given assignments to be performed at home or work environment, on a daily basis and with an average duration of 45 minutes. They are encouraged to incorporate "mindfulness" in their daily lives, allowing the routine activities to become, in a sense, also an opportunity to practice "mindfulness" (informal practice).
The main techniques used are mindful breathing, body-scan (a technique that bears some similarity with progressive muscle relaxation), walking meditation and mindful movements using body postures that can be performed by individuals with different levels of ability and physical condition.
After the conclusion of the 8 week program, participants are expected to become able to keep practicing the techniques by themselves or in groups and in their own environments (at home or at work), which can create a sustainability effect important to health promotion and practitioners empowerment.
Other types of Mindfulness programs
There are several other therapeutic interventions based on "mindfulness" (mindfulness-based interventions – MBIs), for instance, “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy” (MBCT), “Breathworks Mindfulness-Based approaches to Pain and Illness” (MBPI), and “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy” (ACT). In general, these interventions are carried out in groups and in sessions in which are taught, practiced and discussed mindfulness techniques for health and depending on the specific focus of the program, other topics are also addressed as depression, chronic pain, addiction, eating disorders, cognitive-behavioral techniques, among others.