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Together alone at mindfulness

If you take the course in evidence-based mindfulness at Aarhus University, group dialogues play an important role. This is a principle that Lone Fjorback, head of the Danish Center for Mindfulness, has attempted to transfer to an online course developed in close collaboration with film documentarian Mette Bahnsen.

Lone Overby Fjorback does not promise course participants the world, but argues for the necessity of quality in the ever-growing marketplace selling physical and mental health. Photo: Mew Brondbjerg.
Mette Bahnsen focuses on creating a ‘sense of sitting together alone' on film and has, among other things, discovered that film clips with 'two and two conversations’ create good identification for online course participants. Photo: Christian Suhr.

A class of course participants sit together in a brightly-lit room in the Nobel Park and discuss where in the body the feeling of discomfort is located. How it is physically felt. Whether it is a lump in your throat, a knot in the stomach, or something else entirely.

In another location at another time, perhaps in a basement in Trøjborg at two in the morning, an online student is sitting and 'taking part' in the scheduled video-documented class. Or at least, that is how the course participant experiences it. Add to this that the night owl behind the computer is in all probability either male or young – as opposed to the average participant on the university's many mindfulness courses – which are mostly populated by women aged 45 or above.

"There are many indications that the video courses have particular appeal to some of the people, which is to say men and young people, who do not normally participate in an evidence-based course in mindfulness, either because the group sessions feel too claustrophobic or because they can’t afford it," says centre director and mindfulness researcher Lone Overby Fjorback from the Danish Center for Mindfulness at Aarhus University.

The time of the eyeless contacts

Working together with film documentarian and MA in Film and TV, Mette Bahnsen, she has created the online courses in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in two variants (so far): One for adults and one for young people. The courses are available on the Mind Online (in Danish) platform which Mette Bahnsen has developed in continuation of the film production company Persona Films which she has run since 2003.

The MBSR programmes can be used by anyone wishing to train mental health, and MBSR has a documented effect on stress, anxiety, depression and pain.

Although it is obviously not possible to recreate a group digitally, both Lone Overby Fjorback and Mette Bahnsen point to the many 'eyeless' contacts that characterise our life and time with mobile phones, text messages, chat and email. These are times where we have lots of meaningful contacts without looking the person we are talking in the eyes, and as Mette Bahnsen puts it, you can also work to create a ‘sense of sitting together alone’ on film.

"This is one of the exciting aspects of working with mindfulness in this way. By trying things out and asking the target group along the way, we’ve for example discovered that the film clip with the 'two and two conversations’ work well in the online format, because there is a better identification possibility for the online course participant. We have therefore included more of these types of clip in the online course which is targeted at the 15-25 year-olds," says Mette Bahnsen by way of example.

Nine sessions with qualified guidance

In the same way as the traditional courses, a course in online mindfulness consists of nine sessions. In the online version, you follow a group of video-filmed participants that you can mirror yourself in. As a course participant, you are guided from start to finish by Lone Overby Fjorback, who explains the theory and the practical exercises step by step, among other things based on the fact that she has herself been practising yoga and meditation for more than thirty years.

In addition, each of the nine lessons contains clips with Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn who puts mindfulness into perspective. Jon Kabat-Zinn is renowned as the founder of MBSR, which is now available in large parts of the world, as MBSR has proven to be effective across cultures, diagnoses and ages. It is a way to achieve greater freedom in own life, whatever situation you find yourself and regardless of whether you are healthy or not.

There is also an interview clip with Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of MBSR, in the online course. Here he is photographed together with Lone Overby Fjorback. Photo: Mew Brondbjerg.

We do not promise the world

Lone Overby Fjorback and Mette Bahnsen argue for the necessity of quality in the ever-growing marketplace selling physical and mental health.

"At the moment, there is some very aggressive marketing of health solutions, ranging from 'you lose 10 kg’ to ‘you save lives with this or that', and we have, of course, done our best not to come to resemble any of this, either in form or content," says Mette Bahnsen, while Lone Overby Fjorback adds that the courses have so far been almost a 'secret':

"We do not promise the world, but we maintain that as a MBSR practitioner, you attain some effective tools for a healthier everyday life. This requires that you do the exercises every day and this applies regardless of whether you use our MBSR online course or go to mindfulness in the Nobel Park on Tuesday afternoon with one of the university's certified trainers,” says Lone Overby Fjorback. 

Invested her own money in the project

She explains that Mind Online has grown from Mette Bahnsen and herself each putting DKK 100,000 of their private savings into the company approximately three years ago – and since then a great deal of their free time.

"It was necessary, because there is neither the time nor the money for these types of projects at the university," explains Lone Overby Fjorback. She has collaborated with Mette Bahnsen on the communication of mindfulness on film over the past six years.

In all, this has resulted in three films about mindfulness for children, adults and young people. All the films can be found and viewed free of charge at http://www.personafilm.dk/en/mindfulness/.

More about products and finances

  • An online mindfulness course from Mind Online costs DKK 957 incl. Danish VAT. Once you have paid, you have free admission to the programme in perpetuity. In other words, you do not lose your access after completing the course.
  • You can also buy the app 'Mindfulness Training MBSR’ containing all the exercises for DKK 89.
  • Purchasers of the company's online mindfulness courses are informed that they should reserve between ninety minutes and two hours for a scheduled weekly session, as well as time to train for three quarters of an hour daily. This is where participants use guided meditation and yoga programmes to develop their own mindfulness in practice.
  • Earnings from the online MBSR courses are shared between Mette Bahnsen and Lone Overby Fjorback, with the majority thus far being reinvested in further development.
  • The goal is to continue creating mindfulness teaching in an online format that is specialised for different target groups. This is an area with great development potential.


Centre Director, Consultant, Associate Professor, PhD Lone Overby Fjorback
Danish Center for Mindfulness,
Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University
Email: lone.overby.fjorback@clin.au.dk
Mobile: (+45) 2238 5426

Film Documentarian, MA in Film and TV Mette Bahnsen
Mind Online and Persona Film with Mette Bahnsen
Filmbyen 21, 4. sal, DK-8000 Aarhus C
Email: info@personafilm.dk
Mobile: (+45) 3125 3123