What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a deep knowing and experiencing of what is taking place, as it is actually taking place. This knowing arises out of intentionally attending to one’s moment-by-moment experience in an open and non-judgmental way. In essence, mindfulness is about paying attention to this moment as it is happening, reducing focus on the past or future, but focusing on the present moment.

  • It is simply paying attention on purpose in the present moment without clinging to judgment.
  • This enables us to be more aware of what is going on inside our bodies, feelings, thoughts, sensations, outside of us, and the world.
  • This clears, calms, and prepares the mind to respond in more effective ways to the challenges we face, and allows us to participate in life more directly and fully.
  • When we are mindful, our actions more likely reflect our values and wisdom than a reflex emotional reaction.
  • Mindfulness fosters concentration, understanding, learning, and peace.

3 Foundations of Mindfulness

Through mindfulness practice, intentionally paying attention with acceptance and openness (attitude), we experience a shift in perspective.

  1. Intention (Doing it for a reason, doing it on purpose)
    • Intention, refers to one’s own vision or reason for practicing mindfulness.
    • Personal intention to practice mindfulness is important; one’s intention may be dynamic and evolving
    • Intention to engage in a specific practice (e.g., 30 minute sitting practice)
    • Intentional attention within the practice
  2. Attention
    • Awareness of contents of consciousness in the present moment, NOT the past or future.
    • Unlike the typical use of attention, which is tightly intertwine with cognition, mindful attention does not compare, categorize, or ruminate upon events or experiences based on memory. Instead, mindfulness practice is a simple experiencing of what is taking place moment to moment.
    • The opposite of mindfulness is unconscious awareness or the state of being on automatic pilot. In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the implications of this are the “you may never be where you actually are.” This can be perceived as mindlessness.
  3. Attitude
    • Attitude involves the non-judgmental and open quality one brings to the moment by moment attention.
    • Some mindfulness qualities are: Acceptance, Non-judging, Openness, Curiosity, Trust, Kindness, Non-striving, Patience, Letting Go, Gentleness.

More information on the foundations of mindfulness can be found in Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman (2006).


  • MBSR-T is meant to be a program to use with adolescents vs. the traditional MBSR program for adults.
  • The MBSR-T groups is 1.5 hours in length and do not have a daylong retreat component.
  • This program can be adapted from the group format to accommodate other settings (e.g., schools, individual/family therapy) and for a variety of populations (e.g., clinical and non-clinical).
  • The formal practices are shorter in duration to accommodate the attention span of adolescents.
  • MBSR-T seeks to meet teens where they are developmentally and use language, references and stories that are relevant to them.
  • Weekly check-in’s are a necessary component of the groups to foster group connection and cohesion. These moments provide opportunities to inquire and suggest how mindfulness can be integrated into their daily lives.
  • Emphasis is also given to mindful qualities of living, informal practice and developing an awareness of one’s thoughts. It appears, through experience in this program, that teens often benefit from activities that focus on noticing and awareness of self-other judgments, worries, things out of one’s control, and pain and suffering. Many mental health difficulties arise from these aforementioned thoughts.

Stressed Teens Program Details

  • The program was initially developed for High School Aged Adolescents (13-18 years of age) in:
    • Outpatient Psychiatric Clinics
    • Middle and High Schools in and after school
  • The MBSR-T program is outlined in a book by Gina Biegel:
    • Biegel, G.M., (2009). The Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness Skills to Help You Deal With Stress. Oakland, CA New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
    • Exercises include: Body Scan; Walking Meditation; Sitting Meditation; Sitting Meditation with Heartfullness; Yoga; Mindful Stopping; Mindful Homework/Test Taking
  • An audio CD was also published to be used in conjunction with this program:
    • Biegel, G.M., (2009) Stressed Teens. Mindfulness for Teens: Meditation Practices to Reduce Stress and Promote Well-Being [CD]. California: Gina Biegel
  • The focus of the program is: MBSR-T; Methods: Group-based; Length: It is an 8-week program for 1.5 hours per week, no day-long retreat component is utilized. The program is also adaptable for in and after school programs in shorter segments of time and/or for extended weeks.
  • The cost of this program varies and is dependent on a number of factors: duration of implementing the course (if it is in an 8-week group or something shorter), if there are 1 or 2 instructors, and if one includes the cost of an optional supplemental workbook and/or audio CD.

MBSR-T General Outcomes

Adolescence can be a difficult time for teens for a vast array of reasons; yet there is often a commonality in the challenges they face that may be viewed through the lens of mindfulness. Teens can have difficulties in some key areas: perceptions and appraisals of stress, emotion-regulation, meta-cognitions, feelings of being out of or lacking control, attachment or pushing away pain and suffering and attention and focus. The MBSR-T program has the potential to shift and improve these areas in a teen’s life and as a natural outcome improve one’s quality of living.

MBSR-T Health Outcomes

This is not an exhaustive list. As the popularity of MBSR increases, researchers are finding an increasing number of health and mental health benefits as a result of MBSR practice.

  • Psychological and Behavioral
    • Decreases in: Depression: MBCT; Anxiety and Panic Attacks; Substance Abuse; Eating Disorders: MB-EAT; Self-Destructive Behaviors; Anger/Hostility; Sleep Difficulties
    • Increases in: Self-efficacy; Happiness; Relationship Satisfaction; Effective Parenting; Sense of Control/Stress Hardiness; Spirituality; Self-Compassion; Empathy; Ability to Cope with Cancer and Fybromyalgia
  • Physical
    • Reductions in: Tension Headaches; Chronic Pain; Insomnia; Psoriasis Outbreaks; Fibromyalgia; Heart Disease; Hypertension
    • Increases in: Left sided anterior activation on EEG, a pattern associated with positive affect; Antibody titers to influenza vaccine shows enhanced immune function