Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf,” - Jon Kabat-Zinn from his book Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life.

Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a program based on intensive mindfulness training and has been used by mental healthcare professionals across the world for more than 40 years. It’s an intensive eight-week therapy program that centers meditation and it has been effective in treating symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as chronic pain, cancer, and diabetes. Today, professionals can receive training in order to get certified in MBSR.

MBSR, originally called the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program, was first created by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979. Kabat-Zinn gathered his deep knowledge and experience about mindfulness and developed this program while at the University of Massachusetts. The program is based on the principles of mindfulness, which he defines as “moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness” in his book Full Catastrophe Living: How to Cope with Stress, Pain, and Illness Using Mindfulness Meditation.

In fact, according to recent data shared by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts, over 25,000 individuals have benefited from the MBSR program since 1979.

Who is Jon Kabat-Zinn?

Jon Kabat-Zinn is a professor, scientist, Buddhist, author, peace activist, and mindfulness meditation teacher. He was born in 1944 and currently lives in the United States. He founded the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where MBSR was first practiced. He’s contributed significantly to scientific research focusing on the human mind and mindfulness while also touching the lives of people all around the world with his kindness and accepting approach. He has many academic and non-academic publications that you can go and read, with his most famous books including Full Catastrophe Living, Mindfulness for Beginners, and Healing Power of Mindfulness, appealing to many from every age and background.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Techniques (MBSR)

MBSR training uses several mindfulness practices such as body scanning, breathing, mindfulness meditation, and yoga, to help you to stay present in the moment.

The program consists of eight modules spread out over eight weeks. Each week, trainees focus on various different practices while gaining intensive theoretical knowledge about the human mind and the foundations of mindfulness. At the beginning, trainees get to know the structure of the mind and practice different mindfulness exercises that improve the mental capacity in several ways such as deeper focus and better coping skills. In the last weeks of the program trainees focus on applying what they’ve learned to their own lives. The reason why this program is so effective lies in the intense dedication and effort it requires, both theoretically and practically. If you’re interested, you can receive this training online or you can get inspired by some of these evidence-based techniques and implement them into your life on your own.

These are the practices that are mostly used during the 8-week training:

  • Body Scanning
  • Breathing Exercises
  • Loving and Kindness (Metta) Meditation
  • Raisin Exercise (Mindfully eating a raisin)
  • Lying Down Yoga
  • Standing Up Yoga
  • 9-Dots Exercise (connecting nine dots by making four straight lines without lifting your pencil and without retracing any lines)

Evidence-Based Benefits of MBSR

There is a broad expanse of literature that delves into the uses for and benefits of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Research repeatedly shows that MBSR has certain benefits in the treatment of several disorders when combined with conventional medical treatment. The relaxation and meditation techniques of MBSR were used as part of the program of treatment for disorders listed below with significant positive effects:

  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Hypertension
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Diabetes - Type I
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma/Respiratory Disorders
  • Psoriasis
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Health-Related Quality of Life

Research also shows that MBSR can also be associated with better coping skills when it comes to psychological and physiological problems among healthy and clinical populations. Further, a meta-analysis showed that MBSR training can reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, and that higher levels of mindfulness after receiving the training were connected to decreased negative affectivity and greater overall well-being.

What MBSR Can Offer You

We crave solutions in our lives. We’ve all got things to figure out and life can be hard as we try to find our way. If you’ve ever felt that way, know that everyone else in the world has felt the same at least once in their lives. We often look for a constant, something stable that can anchor us during difficult moments of uncertainty.

If you need a savior, let mindfulness be this constant, this buoy in the sea of life. Mindfulness exercises can create space for us to be more proactive, taking on a more positive and confident attitude. It allows us to free our present self from the bonds of past experience and create more room for change and growth.

MBSR is a program inspired by an ancient philosophy and developed with the most up-to-date science about the human mind. There are thousands of people who have benefited from it around the world. The popularity of MBSR and hard work behind it shows that change is possible, even in eight weeks, with regular practice. Give these science-backed practices a chance. Come back to your breath to feel at home in the present in times of stress.

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