Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an 8-week course on mindfulness practice and stress reduction developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Since then over 18,000 people have taken MBSR. Please scroll down for a full description of MBSR.
There are several other mindfulness-based classes and interventions but MBSR is the oldest and most studied for general improvements in health and well-being. Significant improvement has been shown for a wide variety of physical and mental illnesses.
What is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?
Since 1979, more than 18,000 people have completed the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. It is a course that helps participants draw on their own inner resources and actively engage in caring for themselves and finding greater balance, ease, and peace of mind.
The program was founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD at the Stress Reduction Clinic of UMass Medical School and described in his book Full Catastrophe Living. The technique was originally developed for use in hospitals with patients suffering from painful, chronic, or disabling conditions. It was found that following participation in an MBSR program, participants' levels of anxiety and depression decreased and their sense of well-being increased. Extensive research has shown that the Stress Reduction Program can be beneficial for anyone, regardless of state of health.
Research Evidence Suggests MBSR is helpful for:
- immune system function
- reducing anxiety
- preventing relapse of depression
- reducing negative emotions responding to stress
- managing chronic pain
- chronic health conditions including high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, heart disease, asthma, GI distress, and skin disorders.
- effective coping with short and long-term stressful situations.
- growth in the brain areas associated with learning, memory, focus, attention, emotional regulation, and empathy
- enhancing compassion and altruism
- reducing pregnancy-related anxiety (with relationships and communication)
- professionals: coping with stress, connecting with patients, and reducing burnout-inducing negative emotions and anxiety.
- Veterans and other sufferers of PTSD
- obesity - increasing “mindfulness of eating”
- general health and well-being through a focus on prevention and improved awareness of what's truly harmful and helpful. Research citations available on request.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in the Media
MBSR has been featured on PBS in Bill Moyers’ documentary Healing and the Mind, which was seen by more than 40 million people; on NBC’s Dateline; on ABC’s Evening News and Chronicle programs; on The Oprah Winfrey Show; and in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. In the Seattle area a wonderful new documentary on the power of mindfulness with veterans at the Seattle VA Hospital is available online through this link.
Healing and the Mind - Healing from Within
- the classic 1993 documentary with Bill Moyers on Jon Kabat-Zinn and MBSR. Well worth the 46 minutes
Our 8-Week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course
In a safe, supportive atmosphere participants meet in a closed group every week with their instructor to:
- Investigate the nature of stress- how habitual reactions increase it, and how it affects your life.
- Learn and practice mindfulness practices which are done in class and during home practice. This includes body awareness work, yoga, and sitting and walking meditation (among others).
- Learn mindfulness approaches to manage physical, emotional, or psychological pain, stress, and difficulty in an effective way.
- Connect with the wisdom of one's own body and learn to relax tension.
- Develop tools to work with and transform stressful situations and reactions.
- Discover how to address depression and anxiety more skillfully.
- Overcome old habits of reaction and forge new pathways of responding mindfully.
- Re-establish balance and a sense of well-being and ease in your life.
- Have more control over your own health and fitness, and feel empowered to live with more joy and equanimity.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a structured 8-week course on mindfulness that reduces stress, and promotes health and well being. This highly participatory, practical course includes:
- Guided instruction in mindfulness meditation practices
- Gentle stretching and mindful yoga
- Inquiry exercises to enhance awareness in everyday life
- Group discussions and dialogue aimed at enhancing awareness in everyday life
- Discussion with partners and small groups on personal responses to stress and well-being goals
- Daily home assignments
- Guided audio files for home practice
- a 50-page workbook with short readings, a guide to the course, and resources to support your ongoing investigation of mindfulness
The Commitment of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
MBSR is truly experiential education. By spending a significant amount of time in class and at home it’s truly possible to change patterns of reactivity and stress. New ways of relating to life that are less reactive and more healthy often result. The power of this investigation into moment-to-moment living offered by MBSR can change your relationship to your own experience and this carries forward into relationships and attitudes of all kinds.
For this “magic” to work participants must be committed to putting in the time in practice and study. This includes:
- Eight classes, each typically two-and-a-half hours long.
- One day long retreat (typically six or seven hours long).
- Daily practice at home of 30-45 minutes during the entire course which many participants choose to continue after the course ends.
Sometimes with tongue just a little bit in cheek MBSR instructions tell participants that learning about stress reduction can be quite stressful! Most of us have busy lives and it’s not easy to add the weekly class and daily home practice.
To receive benefit from MBSR you must be ready to make your best effort to attend all class sessions and do the home practice. And to bring forward a gentle but persistent effort with an open-minded spirit of curiosity. There is plenty of support from the instructor, the recorded and written materials, and from your fellow participants but the decision to commit to MBSR can come from you alone.
Thousands of people of all ages, from all walks of life and lifestyles have now benefited from the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program - and you can too! This program is suitable for anyone who is interested in living a less stressful and more rewarding life.