Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
What is MBSR?
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
MBSR began in the Stress Reduction Clinic of UMASS over 40 years ago, where Jon Kabat Zinn, Ph.D., Molecular Biologist from MIT, bridged science to ancient awareness practices, to apply to chronic pain patients which the healthcare system had given up hope in helping. Chronic pain currently impacts an estimated 116 million Americans, leading to excessive pharmaceutical use/abuse, poor work performance, strained relationships, depression, anxiety, and limitations in life functioning.
MBSR is about developing our capacity for Attention and Awareness to bring us back from our incessant ‘what ifs’, and ‘if onlys’. Stress is often related to our constant review of the past, or anticipation of the future, and fueled by our ruminations and resistance in the present. Learning how to direct the attention of mind toward an open curiosity, versus a judgmental resistance to our “pain”, of body, heart, or mind, is what MBSR is all about. The choice we have in any moment, regardless of condition of body or life circumstances, is our ability to Relate to our Experience differently, with curiosity, kindness, care, which then links us our Resilient Responsiveness toward Health & Well-being.
MBSR was the beginning template for scientific research on the benefits of Mindfulness. Jon Kabat Zinn’s earliest research study of Psoraisis demonstrated that the application of mindful meditative practice impacted patient’s symptoms by a 4x faster rate of healing than without.
Mindfulness has since been ushered into society on the wings of science, to make it relevant to all segments of societal health not relegated to a special few. With the advent of Neuro-imaging, we could see a direct measure of mindful awareness on the brain, which is continually changing according to our experience and attention. The science is still young, and much we don’t know, but so far, the potential to enhance our wellness by impacting our brain’s capacity for attention helps in, emotion regulation, empathy, creativity, innovation, and right down to our DNA, influencing biological cellular repair, enhancing our immune function, and not only extending our lives, but creating lives that are more meaningful and relational.
You can find Mindfulness Based Interventions throughout society, in schools, hospitals, mental health, the military, and even the congress, as a viable way to utilize our innate ability for awareness by training the attention of our mind to develop our best.
MBSR utilizes the practical applications of Mindful awareness through sitting, walking, yoga, body scan, inquiry, and heart practices. We learn to slow the speed of our lives enough to see the patterns which cause us pain, and then meet what hurts with curiosity and care.
MBSR increases Resilience: which is to grow in seemingly adverse conditions, but in reference to our brain, shows that when we get activated in a stressful or fearful way, with practice of attention to develop compassionate awareness, we return to baseline much more quickly, whereas previously we might have been held hostage in emotional reactivity.
Stress is a part of our being human, whether it breaks or stretches us is dependent upon how we relate to the circumstances of our life. Mindfulness is not some esoteric special state to achieve, but a natural simple ability within each of us to attend to our lives with a quality of Awareness which includes all of our experience with care. With this Awareness we can expand our capacity to bear and our ability to respond and to re-member our inherent health.
Mindfulness is simple but not so easy. It takes our courage — a full-hearted commitment to learn how to cultivate a new habit of our Mind’s direction, which may have gotten entrenched in our limited focus of attention on what is perceived as something wrong with us, or wrong with them, or just plain wrong in the life circumstance given to us, toward seeing what might be right.
Since the inception of the Center’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979, more than 23,000 people with a range of medical and psychological conditions have completed the 8-week MBSR program at UMass. Worldwide, with programs on six continents, tens of thousands of people have participated in MBSR programs. More than 16,000 health-care professionals from 80 countries have participated in the Center’s Oasis Institute professional education and training programs. Globally, there are more than 760 sites offering MBSR programs in clinics, hospitals, and academic medical centers based on the model developed at UMass.
In the past five years, there have been more than 2,200 papers about mindfulness and MBSR published in the scientific literature. Dating back to the inception of the 8-week MBSR program, research at UMass and at other academic medical centers has shown, among other benefits, consistent, reliable, and reproducible demonstrations of major and clinically relevant reductions in medical and psychological symptoms across a wide range of medical and psychological conditions. Maintenance of these changes is sustained, in some cases, for up to four years of follow up. Most MBSR participants at UMass experience long-lasting improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms, as well as major positive changes in health attitudes and behaviors and in perception of self. Studies have also shown changes, in the brain and the immune system, consistent with greater mental and physical health.
The science can support exploring Mindful Meditation, but it is the actual direct experience of practice that will corroborate the science.
MBSR 8-week class, is not a quick fix, but an opportunity to grow ourselves in a conducive environment, over time with practice, to create the lifestyle of Mind shifts for long-lasting changes that lead to our well-being.
It takes time, commitment, repeated action to learn anything and change the habits of mind. It takes support to engage this new attention, an environment which allows us to feel safe enough to try new ways of being, this is what MBSR provides.
Return to what is right in you - Reinform the patterns of dis-ease - and Re-member who you are beyond the immediate suffering you are experiencing.