It’s the new year and the time when a lot of us are eager to set new goals for ourselves whether it is to lose weight, become fit again, or perhaps to get more enjoyment out of life. Many sign up for gym memberships or join a sports club to overcome that sluggish feeling that seems to develop as a result of the winter weather or maybe a bit of over-indulgence over the Christmas holidays. It can also be a time when people are willing to try out new approaches such as mindfulness to help with stress or chronic pain.
Mindfulness has been around for a very long time but has become increasingly well known in this part of the world only in the last 10 years. Originally taught as a spiritual practice for centuries in the East, it has been taught as a very effective way to reduce stress in the West since the late 1970s. Adapted from ancient practices and paired with modern scientific insights into the nature of stress and how we can best work with it by medical scientist Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness has flourished all over the world in recent years.
Kabat-Zinn developed a highly effective eight-week course which he called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or MBSR for short. From the outset, he conducted scientific research to test the effectiveness of the approach and to date thousands of studies have been published showing its effectiveness in reducing stress and helping people to cope with chronic pain conditions. But he also insisted on proper professional training for new teachers of mindfulness and this more than anything has ensured consistency of results.
Originally only taught in Dublin, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction has now been made available in a wide number of centres around Ireland, including Athlone, within the past year.