A recent study published in the journal Nature Mental Health by researchers at the University of Cambridge revealed that attending in-person mindfulness courses has a lasting positive impact on mental health, even up to six months after completing the program. The study analyzed data from 13 randomized controlled trials, encompassing 2,371 participants.
The researchers discovered that individuals who participated in a mindfulness course had a lower likelihood of experiencing symptoms related to anxiety and depression compared to those who did not take part in any course. The size of the effect of mindfulness was small to medium (meaning that about a quarter to a third of people in the study had a significant improvement as the result of taking the class). Presumably those who took the class and continued the practice in their lives had a bigger effect. The impact was even more significant for participants who attended the courses in person, as opposed to those who opted for online courses.
The experts believe that the advantages of mindfulness programs stem from a combination of factors. These factors encompass a range of components, including:
- Mindfulness serves as an effective tool for reducing stress. It trains individuals to focus their attention on the present moment, letting go of any worries about the past or future.
- Mindfulness can positively affect one’s mood by increasing awareness of positive emotions and reducing the presence of negative thoughts. This enhanced cognitive awareness fosters an improved emotional state.
- By practicing mindfulness, individuals have the ability to nurture higher levels of self-compassion. This, in turn, fosters a greater sense of acceptance towards oneself and acknowledges the beauty found within imperfections.
How to find a mindfulness course
If you’re curious about exploring mindfulness, there are several options to choose from. Local community centers, yoga studios, and meditation centers often offer in-person courses. Alternatively, you can also find numerous online mindfulness courses available.
When selecting a mindfulness course, it’s crucial to ensure that you choose one led by a certified and experienced instructor. Additionally, take into account the duration and format of the course. While some courses span only a few weeks, others last several months. It’s also worth considering the intensity level of different courses.
If you’re new to mindfulness, it’s recommended that you start with a beginner course. This will help establish a strong foundation in the fundamental principles of mindfulness. After completing the beginner course, you can assess if you’d like to pursue more advanced training.
Gateway is very pleased to have a graduate of the two year Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program affiliated with the UC Berkeley Greater Good Center, Andrea Starn is a therapist practicing at Gateway, who also teaches classes that available for our patients. For more information about her practice see her Gateway page. For more about all of her teaching see her website.
Tips for practicing mindfulness
If you’re unable to attend a mindfulness course, there are various ways you can practice mindfulness in the comfort of your own home. Here are some simple tips:
- Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
- Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath.
- Pay attention to the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe in and out.
- If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath.
- Begin by allocating a few minutes each day to meditation, gradually extending the duration as you grow more at ease with the practice.
Developing mindfulness is a skill that takes time and practice. It’s normal to find it difficult in the beginning, but don’t feel discouraged. With consistent practice, you will begin to experience the benefits.
Galante, J., Friedrich, C., Collaboration of Mindfulness Trials (CoMinT). et al. Systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials assessing mindfulness-based programs for mental health promotion. Nat. Mental Health 1, 462–476 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s44220-023-00081-5
University of Cambridge. “In-person mindfulness courses help improve mental health for at least six months.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 July 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/07/230710113911.htm>.