Mindfulness-past-present-and-future

Mindfulness has been taught by Buddhists for more than two and a half thousand years. A small number of westerners who became Buddhist monks returned and taught a powerful but simple meditation practice, which enables people to master their mind.
Thousands of years of tradition found it’s way into Western medicine in 1979 when a hospital doctor, Jon Kabat-Zinn, put together an entirely secular programme, which he called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for people with chronic pain and stress related to chronic health conditions. With his MBSR programme, Jon Kabat-Zinn started a revolution in meditation teaching methods.

In 2002, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: A New Approach to Preventing Relapse, by Zindel V. Segal, J. Mark G. Williams, John D. Teasdale, was published and heralded the explosion of interest in mindfulness in psychological therapy. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) took MBSR and adapted it to a cognitive scientific rationale and then tested it in clinical trials. MBCT reduces the likelihood of relapse of depression from between 70-80% to between 30-40%. In 2004 MBCT was first approved for use by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and is now increasingly available across the NHS. MBCT is at least as good as using anti-depressants for preventing the relapse of depression, and many people who do relapse after attending the programme, say they recover more quickly and don’t become so deeply depressed.

Mindfulness programmes have now been adapted for schools and the workplace. The Mindfulness for Schools Project has trained hundreds of teachers to teach their programme and Google has developed their Seach Inside Yourself programme for it’s staff, which is now being taught to other companies in Silicon Valley and more widely. Programmes like these have been developed from personal experience and understanding of the benefits of mindfulness shaped into repeatable teaching/training programmes for a specific context in a similar way to the way John Kabat Zinn put together his first revolutionary MBSR programme for a clinical context.

We (The Mindfulness Exchange) base our training programmes on the book, “Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World”, by Professor Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman. In this book Danny Penman clearly explains the scientific work of Professor Mark Williams and other scientific findings in a self-help format with short mindfulness exercises anyone can fit into to working life in a “Frantic World”.

Using this book, TME “Frantic World” training differs from the clinical training because it stresses the importance of clearly explaining the psychology of mindfulness and it’s benefits alongside introducing participants to short mindfulness exercises. MBCT and MBSR rely heavily on experientially based exploratory learning in longer periods of mindfulness practice supported by the dynamic between therapist and client group. This approach is unsuited to the workplace and may not even be the best way of teaching mindfulness skills in clinical contexts. While considerable steps have been made to demonstrate the benefits of MBCT and MBSR, TME believe that research needs to be done to understand the best ways of teaching mindfulness in different contexts.

Small scale studies are finding that TME programmes, which involve around 1/3 the time commitment of MBCT and MBSR programmes, have comparable benefits to MBCT. TME programmes make sense in the workplace because they are developed from proven scientific approaches delivered in more efficient teaching formats suitable for the workplace.

As this evidence base grows, mindfulness teaching methods improve and more and more people experience its benefits it will increasingly become part of everyday life. As mindfulness becomes mainstream, it will be hard to predict how improved work satisfaction, greater emotional intelligence and more effective collaboration that comes with mindfulness, will change the way we go about our day to day business.


To find out more about how mindfulness can help in your workplace please get in touch with us here