The new centre brings together academics from across a range of disciplines, and friends from all walks of life, with the aim of increasing the evidence for mindfulness-based practices.

Published (Updated )

City, University of London officially launched its new Centre for Excellence in Mindfulness Research (CEMR) this month, with the launch event held in The Pavilion at the University.

People from all walks of life attended the event for both professional and personal reasons, but all with an interest in how the application of mindfulness based practices can become more evidence-based.

A range of eminent speakers shared their insight at the event, including City’s President, Professor Sir Paul Curran, who welcomed everyone and said:

"It’s a special day for colleagues who are engaged in mindfulness research, apply mindfulness in their practice, or those who are just lucky enough to have learnt how to be present and enjoy the moment.

“The Centre for Excellence in Mindfulness Research brings together interdisciplinary expertise from scientists, expert practitioners and other stakeholders involved with the Centre from across the globe to generate world leading research and real world impact in mindfulness debate, policy and also practice."

“Mindfulness is defined as being and remaining mentally in the present... For many of us, information overload and an increasingly fast paced world can dampen our ability to experience and deal with the information in front of us and this in turn affects our ability to be well and to do well. Especially when we're working under pressure."

We also heard from Director of the Mindfulness Initiative, Jamie Bristow, who shared how Parliament is highly receptive to mindfulness-based practices. Although the challenge is to change policy, and to get people in deprived areas and frontline services the practices they need. He said:

“There’s a rising water table of interest in mindfulness, and of mindfulness itself in society, and that’s sprung up in some very unusual places, including a project in a Kenyan high security prison, boardrooms, and classrooms. One of those strange places, where conditions are right, was in [UK] Parliament where 240 MPs and members of the House of Lords and 400 more staff have already taken part in a mindfulness course.

“We think that about 15% of the [UK] population has tried mindfulness, and in the US where there are more reliable numbers, the figure has gone from 5% to 15% in the last five years. So it’s now getting to be a genuinely mainstream thing."

“However, how does it get to people who have never heard of the word yet and could perhaps really do with the self-regulation methods and well-being support, more than anyone in [say] a yoga centre?”

Michael Chaskalson, author and CEO of Mindfulness Works, talked about culture and context in mindfulness interventions, including team mindfulness and the importance of psychological safety at work.

Dr Paul Flaxman, is Reader in Psychology at City, and spoke about some of his work in developing and evaluating acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) as a worksite training intervention, part of his wider work adapting mindfulness-based interventions to help improve employees' psychological health.

Dr Tapper is Reader in Psychology at City and shared her insight into health inequalities that exist between socioeconomic groups in the UK, and building the evidence base underpinning brief mindfulness based interventions which may help address the inequality. This includes the current evidence around mindful eating and whether it is beneficial or not. Dr Tapper also worked on the development of the CEMR website.

The founders of CEMR

City’s Dr Jutta Tobias Mortlock and Dr Trudi Edginton are the founding co-directors of CEMR, planning and putting into place its infrastructure, including building its network of stakeholders. They talked about the pressing need for the new centre and their respective research areas.

Dr Tobias Mortlock is Senior Lecturer in Organisational Psychology at City and spoke about her work with the British Armed Forces, including her research investigating the utility of both person-centred and team-wide mindfulness exercises to help armed forces personnel build trust between one another and become more effective.

Dr Jutta Tobias Mortlock, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at City and Co-director of CEMR

Dr Tobias Mortlock Co-director of CEMR said:

"Mindfulness training, if you practise by yourself, helps you develop self-awareness, but you need self-awareness that you need mindfulness in the first place. So, our only solution was to turn mindfulness into a team sport. To say, when I get under pressure you help me to calm down, and when you get under pressure I help you calm down, and this is what we did."

Dr Edginton Senior Lecturer, Clinical Psychologist and Mindfulness Teacher shared the current evidence on mindfulness and compassion based interventions, and why the compassion element is so important particularly in her work with patients and health professionals in the NHS. She also invited attendees to take part in a short mindfulness and compassion based intervention.

Dr Edginton Co-director of CEMR said:

"It has been wonderful to bring everyone together to showcase the excellent research here at City, to connect with our external research collaborators and colleagues across the university and to establish new partnerships as part of this new and exciting research centre in the heart of London. We are particularly grateful to Inhere for donating their mindfulness pod for a summer residency to provide a unique space for mindfulness research with our students and staff here at City, University of London."