Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training. Mindfulness is derived from sati, a significant element of Buddhist traditions, and based on Zen, Vipassanā, and Tibetan meditation techniques.2 Individuals who have contributed to the popularity of mindfulness in the modern Western context include Thích Nhất Hạnh (1926– ), Herbert Benson (1935– ), Jon Kabat-Zinn (1944– ), and Richard J. Davidson (1951– ).
Clinical psychology and psychiatry since the 1970s have developed a number of therapeutic applications based on mindfulness for helping people experiencing a variety of psychological conditions. Mindfulness practice has been employed to reduce symptoms of depression, to reduce stress, anxiety, and in the treatment of drug addiction. Programs based on Kabat-Zinn’s and similar models have been adopted in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans’ centers, and other environments, and mindfulness programs have been applied for additional outcomes such as for healthy aging, weight management, athletic performance, helping children with special needs, and as an intervention during the perinatal period.
Clinical studies have documented both physical- and mental-health benefits of mindfulness in different patient categories as well as in healthy adults and children. Research studies have consistently shown a positive relationship between trait mindfulness and psychological health. The practice of mindfulness appears to provide therapeutic benefits to people with psychiatric disorders, including to those with psychosis. Studies also indicate that rumination and worry contribute to the onset of a variety of mental disorders, and that mindfulness-based interventions significantly reduce both rumination and worry. Further, the practice of mindfulness may be a preventive strategy to halt the development of mental-health problems.
The necessity for more high-quality research in this field has also been identified – such as the need for more randomized controlled studies, for providing more methodological details in reported studies and for the use of larger sample sizes.