The majority of evidence for the benefits of mindfulness exists within the context of health – in particular, the treatment of recurrent depression. Thanks in no small part to the findings of the Mindful Nation UK report, the NHS recently increased access to mindfulness for people with repeated episodes of depression. But this is just the beginning: across many aspects of health, people are benefiting from mindfulness training – from the management of chronic pain and addiction to the impact of conditions such as cancer and dementia.

Mindfulness can be a critical missing piece in both physical and mental health and wellbeing, and more research is urgently needed to improve the quality of evidence and implement existing findings to best support those most in need. If you would like to be involved directly in advocating mindfulness in health, you can support the work of our Health Policy Lead here:

You can contact Jenny Edwards, Health Policy Lead at The Mindfulness Initiative using this contact form

Latest Publications

Resources on health policy from the Mindfulness Initiative 


Mindfulness approaches to addictive behaviours have proliferated with the rising tide of interest in this practice.  Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) as developed by the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington has received by far the most research attention. 

MBRP has been shown to significantly reduce drug and alcohol consumption when compared to either treatment as usual or standard cognitive-behavioural relapse prevention after 12 months. It seems that mindfulness not only reduces craving, but also helps protect against negative feelings becoming triggers for cravings, and the cravings themselves turning into addictive behaviour.

The charity Action on Addiction in the UK has worked with the authors of the model to offer a professional training in teaching mindfulness focusing on MBRP as well as audio and video resources for professionals and clients.  Further resources and stand-alone training weeks in MBRP are also offered in the US and elsewhere by the MBRP authors.

Courses and resources can be found on the following pages:

Action on Addiction

Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention


Chronic pain affects 31% of men and 37% of women (Health Survey of England, 2011) and it is estimated that 14 million people live with chronic pain in England alone. Four of the top 12 disabling conditions globally are persistent pain conditions (low-back and neck pain, migraine, arthritis, other musculoskeletal conditions). If we include the burden of other long-term health conditions then it is clear we have an epidemic on our hands, exacerbated by an aging population.

Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) have a promising role to play in alleviating this burden of suffering and are the source of much research. In fact, some of the first quantitative papers published on the medical benefits of mindfulness concerned chronic pain patients (Kabat-Zinn 1982).

Pain, Illness and Injury will present in unique ways for the patient, but mindfulness offers a similar paradigm across all these physical health conditions. Mindfulness helps to alleviate the layers of suffering that are the result of resistance and struggle with the pain or discomfort, regardless of the cause.

Various MBIs are applicable to pain, illness and injury with Breathworks offering specialist Mindfulness-Based Pain and Illness management programmes (MBPM) for patients as well as specialist teacher training for health professionals and others.

There are number of organisations operating in the UK:

Breathworks, a social enterprise and CIC was established in 2001 and is the leading mindfulness organisation delivering courses and teacher training in Mindfulness-based Pain and Illness Management (MBPM) for those living with Pain, Illness, Injury and Stress, as well as professionals caring for patients with these conditions.
It offers high quality courses including online courses, 8-week courses and workshops for health professionals and organisations. Breathworks has more than 200 teachers in more than 18 countries delivering its mission to help those living with pain, illness and stress to live happier and healthier lives regardless of their situation.
Breathworks also runs a charitable foundation whose aim is to raise funds to help subsidise and create bursary funds to further this mission.
For more information visit:

Web resources

Breathworks - for Mindfulness for Health MBPM courses and specialist teacher training

Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice (CMRP) 

Mindfulness for cancer 


Bartley, T., (2012) Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Cancer
Burch, V., (2008) Living Well with Pain and Illness
Burch, V., and Penman, D., (2013) Mindfulness for Health
Kabat-Zinn, J., Full Catastrophe Living


Cancer is becoming a chronic illness, as treatments improve and people live longer. This is good news, but brings with it a toll of on-going treatment and their side effects. Research tells us that people consider the psychological challenges of cancer to be harder to live with than the impact of treatment itself. Living with uncertainty is a given, whatever the prognosis. Mindfulness has much to offer this expanding population.

An 8-week mindfulness-based programme followed by radical treatment has the potential to lower levels of anxiety and improve wellbeing and sleep. Specifically adapted mindfulness interventions are now offered in some oncology departments and cancer support charities, including some Maggie’s centres and The Haven. MBSR was adapted by Linda Carlson in Canada and is called MBCR (Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery).

MBCT for Cancer (MBCT-Ca) developed from MBCT in the UK by Trish Bartley and colleagues, offers specialist teacher training in North Wales through CMRP (Centre for Mindfulness, Research and Practice), Bangor University. The overall spread of specialist courses is still patchy, but is growing steadily. Many people with cancer will access mindfulness programmes via Breathworks and general MBSR courses.

Web Resources


The Haven – support to people affected by breast cancer

Maggies – support for people affected by cancer

Paul's Cancer Support Centre:  - courses and support for people with cancer and their carers, using Trish Bartley's MBCT for Cancer specialist approach.

Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice (CMRP) – for details of specialist teacher training

For information on MBCT Ca programmes in Lancashire contact [email protected]

For information on MBCT Ca programmes in North Wales contact Trish Bartley


Carlson et al (2013) RCT comparing MBCR with supportive expressive group therapy (SET) for 271 distressed survivors of breast cancer. MBCR offered better outcomes than SET over a range of psychological measures.

Hoffman et al (2012) RCT into MBSR with 214 breast cancer patients – found improvement in mood, quality of life and well-being.

Shennan et al (2010). What is the evidence for the use of mindfulness-based interventions in cancer care? A review. Psycho-Oncology


Bartley, T., (2012). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Cancer

Bauer-Wu. S., (2011) Leaves Falling Gently

Burch, V and Penman, D., Mindfulness for Health

Burch, V., (2008) Living Well with Pain and Illness

Carlson, L.E. and Speca. M., (2010) Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery