Evidence Basis for MBSR
and Other Mindfulness-Based Programs & Interventions

"An operational working definition of mindfulness is: the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment."

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Founder of MBSR and author of Full Catastrophe Living
from Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Context: Past, Present, and Future
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Mindfulness is the practice of being present—so simple, and so very difficult. It is powerful because it offers a way to interrupt our habitual thought patterns, allowing us the opportunity to be awake and aware in the moments of our life, instead shifting into autopilot, shutting down emotionally (or becoming overwhelmed), or settling for simply getting through the day.

Over 30 years of research by psychologists, neuroscientists and others has been conducted into the benefits of mindfulness, ranging from the relief of stress of all kinds, soothing emotional and physical pain, to simply living and loving more fully. Mindfulness continues to be an active area of research and inquiry, as evidenced by the large and growing number of academic journal articles involving mindfulness, a few of which are highlighted here.

While there are many programs through which one can learn about mindfulness and develop a mindfulness practice, among the most rigorous and time-tested is the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, which is an evidence-based, intensive exploration of the practice of mindfulness, and what it means to practice mindfulness in your own life. The MBSR program was developed in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School by Professor of Medicine Jon Kabat-Zinn, and is an 8-week evidence-based training that teaches participants mindfulness practices to apply in their daily life for cultivating attention skills, emotional regulation, resilience, and more. Since its inception, the MBSR program has grown exponentially and is now offered throughout the world, including being widely offered in medical arenas (in 2015, close to 80% of medical schools reported offering some element of mindfulness training1). East Coast Mindfulness regularly conducts the MBSR course and has worked with organizations small and large (such as the organizations and companies listed here) to develop and deliver mindfulness-based programs.

The journal articles in this section highlight a few of the studies performed on the effectiveness of mindfulness as a complement to the treatment of various conditions. Click on each of the topics to learn more.

For a more exhaustive listing, as well as the latest developments on what mindfulness has (and has not) been shown to help with, the American Mindfulness Research Association is a recommended resource.


Given the benefits of mindfulness for reducing stress and improving focus and well-being, it is understandable that workplaces are increasingly curious about ways to incorporate mindfulness-based offerings into their existing employee support programs. The question that always arises is, "have there been studies performed on these programs, to measure their efficacy, and their effects on employee stress levels?" A case study in the August 2022 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst Innovations in Care Delivery presented the results of one such program, developed and delivered at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas.

Mindfulness was one of three initiatives selected by Houston Methodist to address staff resiliency; East Coast Mindfulness was selected to develop and deliver online mindfulness programs tailored to the needs of hospital staff. Data was collected to assess the efficacy of the initiatives, and participants reported a reduction in stress levels of up to 50% (as measured by the Perceived Stress Scale).

"To evaluate the Mindfulness Initiative, we used the Perceived Stress Scale, the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory, and the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale to assess selected sessions. The leadership felt that the Perceived Stress Scale was very relevant to addressing the challenges of the pandemic response and a strong indicator of success. For example, participant stress levels were assessed before and after the 4-week Resilience Workshop held in May 2020. At the beginning of the workshop, 24 participants averaged 13.63 on the Perceived Stress Scale, indicating moderate stress. At the end of the 4-week workshop, the average participant score decreased significantly to 6.9, indicating low stress (P < .01). The Continuing Medical Education and Continuing Nursing Education offices conduct surveys for each mindfulness workshop/course that offers continuing education credits and have used these data to decide to continue working with the team on these initiatives. For the programs customized for different clinical roles (e.g., nursing and pharmacy), we have monitored success through evaluations and by the referrals we have received to bring the training to other teams."

Stephanie C. Jones Wood, MPH, CPHQ, and Robert A. Phillips, MD, PhD
from the NEJM Catalyst Case Study Building Workforce Resilience at the Individual and Organizational Levels

1 Buchholz, Laura. “Exploring the Promise of Mindfulness as Medicine.” JAMA 314, no. 13 (October 6, 2015): 1327. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2015.7023.

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