A brief history of mindfulness
Mindfulness is said to have originated in Buddhist thinking and meditation practice over two and a half thousand years ago. Its original purpose was to address and relieve self-induced suffering caused by the dysfunctional ways people habitually tend to respond to their experience.
Over the last 30 years, mindfulness has become secularised and simplified to suit a Western context. In the 1970s anecdotal and research findings about the ability of meditation to reduce unhealthy psychological symptoms triggered interest in mindfulness as a healthcare intervention. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Medical Centre at the University of Massachusetts introduced the first eight week structured mindfulness skills training programme which gave considerable psychological, and some physical, relief, to patients experiencing intractable severe pain and distress from a wide range of chronic physical health conditions.
Since then mindfulness interventions and research have proliferated across the world, and the emerging evidence base suggests that mindfulness has a wide range of potential applications.