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What types of mindfulness programmes are there?
Mindfulness can be learnt in the following ways:
- in a group setting on a structured course
- drop in classes or taster sessions
- one to one
- online course or app
- self help books
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.
If you attend a course, you might encounter a specific mindfulness-based programme:
|Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
- a structured programme tailored to help you manage depression
- run over eight weeks in two-hour sessions
- delivered by a qualified practitioner
- aims to help you manage unhelpful thoughts and feelings that are part of your depression
See the MBCT website for more information about the programme.
|Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
- a structured programme tailored to help you manage general stress
- usually run over eight weeks in two-hour sessions
- delivered by a qualified practitioner
- can also help you manage the impact of long-term health conditions
- includes traditional Buddhist practices of mindfulness meditation and other mindful techniques
- taught at Buddhist centres
- usually taught in the context of Buddhist teachings
- not tailored for specific health problems
|Other mindfulness-based approaches
These include courses that:
- focus more on movement
- emphasise mindfulness in daily life
- are tailored for other specific health conditions or chronic pain
Breathworks offers mindfulness courses to manage pain, stress and illness.
What happens in a mindfulness course?
Different courses will each have their own structure but you're likely to find that your course:
- lasts a fixed number of sessions, or across a specific time frame such as an afternoon or weekend
- involves a mixture of meditation practices and daily mindfulness exercises – sometimes exercises may involve discussing things in pairs or small groups
- involves you sharing your experiences of practising mindfulness – you can usually contribute as much as you feel comfortable with
- asks you to practise mindfulness meditations or apply mindfulness techniques in your daily activities between sessions
What should I do before learning mindfulness?
Before starting a mindfulness course or seeing a practitioner for a one-to-one session, you might want to think about the following things:
- Your instructor's qualifications. If you want to try a structured course, like MBCT or MBSR, it should be delivered by a qualified practitioner. Check that your instructor has attended training and has a relevant qualification.
- Your mental health. It could be a good idea to let the instructor know about any mental health problems you experience, so they can be aware of how you're feeling during the sessions.
Sometimes it 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.
- Things you might find difficult, like breathing exercises. Some people may find sitting for long periods of time and focusing on your breath uncomfortable. If this is the case for you, you could try shorter breathing meditations or explore different mindfulness practices.
- Any costs involved. Check with the instructor if there is a cost for the course, and if there are any materials you are expected to buy, like audio recordings, books or comfortable clothing for meditation sessions.
- Any homework you might have to do between sessions. Check with the instructor before you start, so you can allow enough time to do this.
See Is mindfulness right for me? for more information.
How can I find a course or practitioner?
You can find a mindfulness course or practitioner through:
- NHS services. Speak to your GP about services in your area or search through NHS service finder.
- Local Minds. Get in touch to find out which courses your local Mind offers.
- Private practitioners. Be Mindful has a list of qualified teachers who offer courses and one-to-one sessions.
- A local Buddhist centre. If you have a Buddhist centre near you they may run mindfulness meditation sessions or courses. See Buddhanet's world Buddhist directory for more information.
- Online courses or apps may help you learn mindfulness wherever suits you (there are many freely available).
- Taster sessions or drop-in classes. You might find these are offered through your workplace or local community centre.
This information was published in April 2016. We will revise it in 2019.