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Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)


Jun 1, 2023

Reviewed by:

Ben Pearson, LCSW

"Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness" - Jon Kabat-Zinn


What is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

What is MBSR? MBSR, short for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, is a structured program that combines mindfulness meditation, gentle yoga, and mind-body awareness to cultivate mindfulness skills. Developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in the late 1970s, MBSR was initially designed to help patients with chronic pain. However, over the years, it has been adapted and widely used to address various mental health concerns, including stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma.

History of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is a technique developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979[4]. Although initially developed for stress management, it has evolved to encompass the treatment of a variety of health related disorders. These include anxiety, depression, skin diseases, pain, immune disorders, hypertension and diabetes. It employs mindfulness meditation to alleviate suffering associated with physical, psychosomatic and psychiatric disorders.

Purpose of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

One of the key components of MBSR is mindfulness, which involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. This non-judgmental awareness allows individuals to observe their thoughts, emotions, and sensations without getting caught up in them or reacting to them. By developing mindfulness skills, individuals can learn to respond to stress and other challenging situations with greater awareness, acceptance, and resilience.

MBSR incorporates mindfulness into different aspects of daily life, including work, relationships, and self-care. Participants are encouraged to practice mindfulness in their everyday activities, such as eating, walking, and communicating, to bring greater awareness to their experiences and reduce stress. MBSR also emphasizes self-care, as participants learn to prioritize their physical, emotional, and mental well-being through regular mindfulness practices.


How Does MBSR Work?

MBSR is typically an 8-week program that involves group sessions led by a trained facilitator. Participants learn and practice mindfulness techniques, such as body scan meditation, sitting meditation, and mindful movement, to cultivate moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness of their thoughts, emotions, and sensations.

Through regular practice, individuals learn to develop a different relationship with their thoughts and emotions, cultivating greater awareness, acceptance, and resilience.

What Happens in an MBSR Session

During MBSR sessions, individuals strive to cultivate a greater awareness of the present moment. By increasing their mindfulness, participants aim to reduce their overall arousal and emotional reactivity and gain a deeper sense of calm.

MBSR is intended to be done in a group setting with a certified instructor. However, practicing mindfulness techniques on your own is also part of the program. During your sessions, you will learn;

  • Breathing Techniques: You may learn diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing. This and other types of conscious breathing may slow your heartbeat and lower your blood pressure, helping you feel more relaxed.

  • Gratitude journaling: An instructor may encourage you to keep a gratitude journal where you write down things in your life you are thankful for. This practice helps to reframe your perspective into a more positive and optimistic one.

  • Group dialogue: Members of the group share their experiences as they integrate MBSR techniques into their daily lives.

  • Meditation: You'll be taught mindfulness meditations. For example, a body scan meditation, helps you focus your attention on different areas of your body. The goal is to notice any tension and visualize the discomfort leaving your body.

  • Yoga: Your instructor will guide you in gentle yoga movements, which may help relax your body and your mind.



Reduced Stress

Stress is a common experience for many people and can have negative effects on mental and physical health. MBSR has been shown to be effective in reducing perceived stress levels, as well as physiological markers of stress, such as cortisol levels. MBSR helps individuals to develop a more mindful and accepting attitude towards their thoughts and emotions, which can lead to a reduction in stress levels over time.