According to MBSR founder Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is often defined as ‘giving conscious attention to the present moment, without judging it’. This is an ability that one develops through meditation or other exercises.

Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition refers to the ability to be mindful of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the physical environment in an accepting way, without judging whether something is right or wrong. With this, one learns to regard (negative) thoughts and feelings as transient events rather than facts, so that one can more easily distance themselves from them.

Mindfulness helps in recognizing automatic, sometimes unhelpful, patterns. More awareness of these patterns can lead to more freedom of choice, to break through automatic reactions, and to learn to react in a more helpful way in the contact with others. In addition, people become more cordial and compassionate.

mindfulness en boeddhisme

The origin of mindfulness

Mindfulness is no less than 2,500 years old, and has its roots in Buddhism. The term comes from the word sati, an important element in Buddhist traditions. 

The past few decades, scientific research has shown that mindfulness is effective in tackling psychological problems.

Since then, it is applied and studied in scientific institutions, universities, educational and health centers and therapy around the world. Consequently, the label ‘religious and spiritual’ for mindfulness has almost disappeared.

Scientific research has shown that mindfulness can have the following benefits:

What is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or MBSR?

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was developed in the late 1970s by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Health Center. This became the Umass Memorial Health Center for Mindfulness, which today still sets the tone for MBSR worldwide.

Originally he developed trainings for out-treated hospital patients with chronic pain, but later he also developed courses for a broader target group, such as employees, coaches, students…, with or without psychological or physical problems. Today, MBSR is used by therapists and coaches all over the world!

The main difference between mindfulness and MBSR is that in the latter there is more focus on physical exercise, such as walking and yoga, in addition to meditation. The main goal of MBSR is contained in the term itself: to reduce stress.

Important to know is that MBSR is a scientifically proven method. For example, research at the VUB, conducted during the second lockdown, showed a significant improvement in participants’ symptoms just after the mindfulness training and also up to one month after the course.

In my research with CFS patients during my psychology studies at Ghent University, we were also able to establish a decrease in depression, rumination and anxiety, as well as an improvement in quality of life and coping.

Hoe does MBSR work?

MBSR training courses last 8 weeks and consist of group sessions, guided by an approved instructor. In addition, there are always homework exercises, which trainees must do individually.

MBSR is a scientifically based method. You can find the most recent studies on the website of the AMRA and ScienceDirect.

MBSR training courses last 8 weeks and consist of group sessions, guided by an approved instructor. In addition, there are always homework exercises, which trainees must do individually. MBSR is a scientifically based method. You can find the most recent studies on the website of the AMRA and ScienceDirect.

Frequently asked questions

Some experts used to say that people with severe depression, psychosis, borderline or other acute psychological conditions cannot benefit from MBSR. In the meantime, however, there are adapted trajectories for different target groups and pathologies. If you choose to work with me, I will first examine what type of training is appropriate for your target group, and tailor the workshops accordingly. Contact me at marisa.mindfulleven@gmail.com for more information or questions.

What is important to note, however, is that participants must be sufficiently motivated. It is important to be willing to invest time and energy in mindfulness. If participants are not fully on board from the start, it will be difficult to achieve results. Keep in mind that during the 8-week MBSR training, participants should liberate about an hour per day to practice at home.

Yes and no. Although mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism, you don't have to be a spiritual or religious person to practice mindfulness. I myself am very fascinated by everything related to religion. For example, I live by certain Christian values, such as sobriety and kindness. Yet the MBSR training I offer with the Centrum voor Mindful Leven are distinct from that. After all, MBSR is a scientifically based training. However, if you do practice a certain religion, you can of course find links with mindfulness and integrate habits and ideas.

Several institutions and research groups have conducted research on the effectiveness and mechanisms of mindfulness.

On the websites of the AMRA and ScienceDirect, you'll find an overview of the most recent scientific literature. For example, the Mindfulness Center at Brown, where experts from the medical field, health care and the humanities work, has played a leading role in research around mindfulness for more than 5 years. An overview of this research can be found on this page.

Some examples:

-This recent study shows that students at the University of Oxford have lowered anxiety levels after following an 8-week online mindfulness program.

-This study suggests that mindfulness may play an important role in coping with social media, which has been linked to depression, specifically in adolescents.

-According to this research, three-day mindfulness retreats have a clear effect on biological markers for stress and anxiety, such as cortisol levels. This positive effect would have both physical and mental benefits.

-This study conducted at the VUB during the second lockdown revealed a significant improvement in participants' symptoms just after attending a mindfulness training and up to one month after the course.

-Read my master's dissertation (2007) on the impact of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on anxiety, depression, life quality and coping in CFS patients.

Would you like to read books about mindfulness, written for a broad audience? Below are some book tips.

-Handboek meditatief ontspannen - effectief programma voor het bestrijden van pijn en stress (2000), Jon Kabat-Zinn

-Mindfulness - een praktische gids om rust te vinden in een hectische wereld (2011), Mark Williams

-The Mindful Workplace - Developing Resilient Individuals and Resonant Organizations with MBSR (2011),  Michael Chaskalson

-Mindfulness voor beginners - het hier en nu en je leven herwinnen (2013), Jon Kabat-Zinn

-Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction - The Mbsr Program for Enhancing Health and Vitality (2017), Linda Myoki Lehrhaupt

-Mindful omgaan met stress - Werkboek mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) (2020), Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein

-Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook for Anxiety (2014), Bob Stahl, Florence Meleo-Meyer-Meyer and Lynn Koerbel

-Het wonder van genezing (2000), Saki Santorelli

The MBSR group courses are 8 weeks long. Each week there is a group course (online for now) of about 2.5 hours. In addition, each participant is given (home) exercises, for which they should take 45 to 60 minutes a day, to get the best results.

MBSR is suitable for all age categories: from children and adolescents to young adults, adults and the elderly. In addition, it is also possible to adjust the training to the target group. For example, in a course for young people there can be more movement than in a course for the elderly.

An MBSR course costs €340. However, for a customized program, the prices are different. Please contact me for further information.

Certainly. People who go through life 'happy' and 'calm' can also benefit from mindfulness exercises. For example, mindfulness can improve your productivity, ability to concentrate and communication with colleagues or your partner. It can also have a positive impact on your sleep pattern and social interactions.