Provides information on mindfulness, how to practise it and how it can help with mental health problems.
How and where to learn mindfulness
There are many ways you can learn mindfulness, which come in different formats. This page covers:
Sometimes mindfulness makes you turn towards things you would normally avoid. That can be challenging. But if you have an experienced mindfulness teacher they can help you to pace yourself.
If you choose to learn mindfulness with an introductory course, this type of option:
- can range from a one-day course to an eight-week course
- is typically very structured and will go through basic concepts and exercises
- may be tailored to particular groups, such as students, people serving in the military or people with a particular mental health diagnosis.
Brief taster sessions and informal mindfulness groups are also common.
How to find introductory courses, taster sessions and groups
You might find that these are organised through your place of work or education, or a local library or community centre.
I went on a mindfulness course once a week for about eight weeks. It covered body mindfulness, mindful eating, mindful walking, mindful environmental awareness and more.
Some structured mindfulness therapy programmes have been developed to treat specific problems. The most well-established courses are:
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for depression and anxiety.
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for general stress. It can also help you manage long-term health conditions.
In some cases the NHS recommends these treatments, as studies show that they can work well. But availability on the NHS varies across the country and waiting lists can be long.
Different courses may have slightly different structures, but in general they:
- are delivered by qualified practitioners
- last for a fixed number of sessions, across a specific time frame – typically a two-hour session, every week for eight weeks, although some courses may offer shorter introductory sessions
- involve group work and group discussion, but you can usually contribute as much as you feel comfortable with
- include a mixture of meditation and daily mindfulness exercises, which you're asked to practise between sessions.
Some other types of talking therapies use mindfulness techniques, such as dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT).
How to find formal mindfulness courses
To find a formal mindfulness course near you, you can:
- arrange to talk to your GP
- search via the online NHS service finder
- look in the private sector, but this will cost money.
As the course starts, it isn't always clear exactly how it will help. The encouragement to just do something, to put one foot in front of the other without thinking about it and questioning it too much can be really helpful.
For a fee, some mindfulness teachers offer one-to-one sessions through the private sector. Some therapists and counsellors also have mindfulness training and can integrate these techniques into their approach.
One-to-one sessions may be expensive. But they are more likely to be tailored to your particular situation and won't include group work.
How to find private sessions
You can look for a qualified mindfulness teacher or therapist in your local area through:
- the online search tool of the British Association of Mindfulness-Based Approaches (BAMBA), which only lists qualified teachers
- one of the professional bodies listed in our information on how to find a private therapist.
For more information on things to consider when starting any kind of therapy, see our page getting the most from therapy.
How to find Buddhist mindfulness courses
These courses are usually taught at Buddhist centres. See Buddhanet's World Buddhist Directory to find a Buddhist centre near you. Contact them directly to see what they offer.
There are many self-guided resources to help you through different mindfulness exercises. Apps, books and audio – such as CDs and podcasts – are typically less structured than online courses.
Self-help resources have no formal regulation, and vary greatly in quality and cost. This can make it hard to judge what might work for you. But in general, it's a good idea to look for a course or resource that:
- is designed by qualified mindfulness teachers
- gives you clear information about its potential benefits and risks
- provides information about research studies that have explored how effective it is
- is supported by the NHS or a mental health organisation
- has been recommended to you by someone you trust.
Many people practise mindfulness online or use a smartphone app to help. Online resources might be useful when you're feeling less able to engage in face-to-face support.
How to find self-guided resources
- Take a look at the reading lists for mindfulness books on Reading Well and Overcoming.
- Try visiting your local library or bookshop to find appropriate titles.
- Search for mindfulness podcasts on streaming platforms or online.
- Search for mobile apps offering mindfulness courses and exercises. Some apps may charge you to download them or use their service.
- Breathworks offers mindfulness courses to manage pain, stress and illness. These courses tend to cost money.
For more tips on doing mindfulness by yourself, see our page on mindfulness exercises.
This information was published in November 2021. We will revise it in 2024.
References and bibliography available on request.
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