What Is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)?


Mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR, is the practice of using meditation and yoga to cultivate awareness and reduce stress. It is centered around the ancient practice of mindfulness which teaches individuals how to focus on the present moment. Mindfulness involves an individual becoming aware of their moment-to-moment experiences while acknowledging moods and accepting feelings. This practice can help individuals better cope with stressors.

Who developed mindfulness-based stress reduction?

Jon Kabat-Zinn created mindfulness-based stress reduction in the early 1980s during his work at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He adapted Buddhist teachings on mindfulness and developed a relaxation and stress-reduction program. Over time, he removed the Buddhist framework and designed the program in a scientific context. MBSR gained traction when Kabat-Zinn published his first book about the practice in 1991.

What does mindfulness-based stress reduction involve?

Mindfulness-based stress reduction typically includes breathing, stretching and awareness exercises. MBSR courses teach specific skills and techniques, such as how to change a habitual stress reaction to a mindfulness-mediated stress response. MBSR teaches mindful movement and breathing techniques to anchor thoughts.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction often involves specific meditation practices, including body-scan meditation or walking meditation. During body-scan meditation, individuals become aware of their entire body, paying close attention to physical sensations and how those sensations may be tied to emotions. During walking meditation, individuals concentrate on the movement of each step to refocus the mind.

What are the benefits of mindfulness-based stress reduction?

Mindfulness-based stress reduction has both physical and mental benefits. The practice of MBSR may reduce stress and improve focus, memory and motivation. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that mindfulness meditation produces positive effects on both the brain and the immune system. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California found that MBSR reduces loneliness and the expression of inflammation-related genes in older adults. MBSR may also lower blood pressure and reduce pain levels.