Mindfulness is a rapidly growing practice that is believed to have originated from the East and which has seen a lot of evolution over the decades to fit various needs of people in the West.
Some of the notable figures who were heavily involved in the introduction of the mindfulness practice in Western countries are Jon Kabat-Zinn and Thich Nhat Hanh and other notable mentions including Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield, and Joseph Goldstein who took up the responsibility of spreading the good word of its benefits.
Mindfulness is a practice that can be cultivated in many ways by targeting different aspects of our lives.
The most popular way of practicing mindfulness is through mindfulness meditation where we get trained to remain in the present moment with all its experiences while being aware of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
Other exercises that are known to improve our levels of mindfulness are body scan meditation, resting awareness, note-taking, visualization, reflection, walking meditation, and loving-kindness meditation.
You can learn more about mindfulness meditation and the other mentioned mindfulness exercises in our complete beginner’s guide to mindfulness meditation.
New health programs based on mindfulness have been created to help address various concerns we may have in our lives such as stress, anxiety, depression, mental health issues, building compassion, improving focus and so many others.
Here, we are going to have a deep look at the well-known mindfulness programs and practices, which areas they address in our lives, and how they help us live healthier, peaceful, and happier lives.
Different Types of Mindfulness Programs and Practices
1. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program – This is one of the most famous mindfulness programs in the world. It was created by the mindfulness expert, John Kabat-Zinn back in the 1980s. The program is an 8-week course fashioned in a way to use mindfulness training to help people with overcoming stress, depression, and anxiety. It has been widely studied and found to be an efficient way to deal with the three areas as well as imbalanced moods (1).
Paying attention to the sensations in our bodies with the help of meditative techniques like yoga, sitting meditation, gentle stretching, and body scans, and mastering how to apply them in our daily lives as we go about our daily activities is what the program is mainly focused on.
The program works with weekly group-based meditation classes guided by a trained, qualified and experienced teacher which last for around 2 hours to 2 and a half hours, daily practice at home for about 45 minutes per day using audio guidance, and a mindfulness retreat which goes for the whole day in the 6th week.
2. The Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) program – This is a mindfulness program that combines cognitive therapy with mindfulness to help deal with recurring depression. It works closely with many of the MBSR’s principles in that it uses the same duration of 8 weeks and also the activities which are done at home by the people who participate in the program (2).
MBCT was created by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, and Zinder Segal, and research on it has revealed that it goes a long way in treating major depression by reducing the relapse rate and lessening the symptoms.
3. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – This is another fairly popular program that is more of a modified version of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, commonly known as CBT. The original intention of the people who created the program was to use it for borderline personality disorder treatment, however, it has been further developed to deal with other mental health problems including substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, and emotion regulation. It is also used in treating PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) at times (3).
In the grand scheme of things, the DBT program uses mindfulness to help people get grounded in the present moment and be able to cultivate healthy habits which will help them manage stress, enhance their relationships, and generally have good control of their emotions. DBT is administered in different settings including phone coaching, group therapy, and individual therapy.
4. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) – This is a form of psychotherapy that is aimed at helping people accept their negative habits and patterns as an opening to managing them and eventually overcoming them through different positively uplifting habits. The idea with the program is that if we accept more of who we are (regardless of how bad we look) as opposed to constantly fighting the experiences happening in our lives, we pave way for self-improvement.
ACT is often used to treat eating disorders, substance abuse, anxiety, stress, psychosis, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and depression. The program uses different concepts including mindfulness, commitment to changing different behavioral patterns, acceptance, distancing ourselves from our inner experiences, understanding the self, and cultivating rewarding long-term values (4).
5. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) – This is a mindfulness-based prevention program that treats addiction to alcohol and substance abuse and which is mostly used immediately after the patient has received the basic treatment. The program helps to reduce the chances of a relapse which has high chances of occurring after the basic treatment. In essence, it builds upon the basic treatment to help the patient have successful permanent recovery from their addiction.
When practicing MBRP, the patients are encouraged to be aware of their desires, urges and cravings when they come up, name the experiences they have as urges, perceive the cravings as temporary waves, remain present in the moment, and be aware of the cravings appearing and disappearing, and to hold onto that ideology and use it whenever the urges come up.
6. Mindfulness Self Compassion – As the name suggests, this is a way of using mindfulness to build the virtue of self-compassion. It is effective for people who struggle with loving, accepting, and being easy with themselves. It helps people understand the barriers hindering them from being compassionate towards themselves, be aware of the things that cause the hindrances, be more mindful, look into complex thoughts and emotions, acknowledge and accept everything, and become friendly to themselves.
7. The Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) Program– This is a childbirth education program that aims to improve the mental health of parents, both father, and mother, encourage self-efficacy of childbirth, bring ease to the labor process, enhance the relationship between the parents and increase sensitivity to parenting, and also improve the wellbeing of the born child. It seeks to keep optimal mental and physical health levels of the parents and the child through the labor and childbirth period (5).
8. Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) – This is a mindfulness-based group intervention that targets the treatment of binge eating disorders and related issues. This approach works on the emotional, physiological, and behavioral relationships we have with food. It helps us regulate our food intake and improve our perception of food and ourselves as the people having the food. It uses mindfulness meditation and a series of mindfulness exercises to help us make better and more conscious food decisions, respond well to hunger and emotional urges related to food, and be more aware of the signs of hunger and satisfaction (6).
9. Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training – This is mindfulness training that is designed to enhance our performance and build resilience to high-stress situations. It trains the body as well as the mind toward making us brave and wise. It helps us to control our attention and become more tolerant to challenging experiences and is commonly used by people in the military (7).
10. Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery (MBCR) – This is a program that was adapted from the MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) program to treat cancer patients and help them reduce the disturbances by their moods, reduce symptoms of stress and improve the overall quality of their lives (8).
There are also other similar programs which include Mindfulness-Based Blood Pressure Reduction which helps to regulate our blood pressure and related problems and Mindfulness-Based Attention Training for increasing attention span.
Where to Get These Mindfulness Programs
To get started with any of the mindfulness programs and techniques mentioned above, you should consider checking websites of mindfulness centers or health care centers that offer the programs and sign up for an online course or visit the center and get physical training from there.
Also, there are many mental health apps that offer the programs. The mindfulness programs on the apps have been created by health experts from various corners of the world, most of whom you will meet in the centers you may choose to visit. Some of the best mental health apps you can work with include Headspace, Insight Timer, and Calm among others. Here is a detailed list of the best meditation apps where you can find those programs.