Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Class

What Is MBSR? A Definition

Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a group program that was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s to treat patients struggling with life’s difficulties and physical and/or mental illness (Kabat-Zinn, 2013).

Although it was initially created to aid hospital patients, it has since been used effectively by a wide range of people from all walks of life.

In fact, according to the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts, more than 24,000 people have taken advantage of the MBSR program the center debuted in 1979 (Center for Mindfulness, 2017).

MBSR is a flexible and customizable approach to stress reduction. It’s composed of two main components: mindfulness meditation and yoga. Instead of following a script or acting out meticulously described steps, mindfulness is practiced in the manner that best suits the individual (Center for Mindfulness, 2017).

While MBSR is often different for every person in practice, it is based on the same set of principles. The following descriptions are pulled straight from the Center for Mindfulness website:

  • Making the experience a challenge rather than a chore and thus turning the observing of one’s life mindfully into an adventure in living rather than one more thing one “has” to do for oneself to be healthy
  • An emphasis on the importance of individual effort and motivation and regular disciplined practice of the meditation in its various forms, whether one “feels” like practicing on a particular day or not;
  • The immediate lifestyle change that is required to undertake formal mindfulness practice, since it requires a significant time commitment (in the clinic 45 minutes a day, six days a week minimally);
    • The importance of making each moment count by consciously bringing it into awareness during practice, thus stepping out of clock time into the present moment:
    • An educational rather than a therapeutic orientation, which makes use of relatively large “classes” of participants in a time-limited course structure to provide a community of learning and practice, and a “critical mass” to help in cultivating ongoing motivation, support, and feelings of acceptance and belonging
    • A medically heterogeneous environment, in which people with a broad range of medical conditions participate in classes together without segregation by diagnosis or conditions and specializations of intervention.
      • This approach has the virtue of focusing on what people have in common rather than what is special about their particular disease (what is “right” with them rather than what is “wrong” with them), which is left to the attention of other dimensions of the health care team and to specialized support groups for specific classes of patients, where that is appropriate (Center for Mindfulness, 2017).

    For more information on these principles, visit the Center for Mindfulness website.

      The Benefits of MBSR

      When added to existing medical and/or psychological treatment, MBSR has shown to effectively enhance the results of treatment related to:

      • Anxiety
      • Panic Attacks
      • Asthma
      • Cancer
      • Chronic illness
      • Depression
      • Eating Disorders
      • Chronic Fatigue
      • Fibromyalgia
      • Gastrointestinal distress
      • Grief
      • Headaches
      • Heart disease
      • High blood pressure
      • Pain
      • Post-traumatic stress disorder
      • Skin disorders
      • Sleep problems
      • Work stress
      • Family dynamics
      • Financial stress

      (Center for Mindfulness, 2017).

      The Founding of MBSR

      Jon Kabat-Zinn is considered the founding father of mindfulness-based stress reduction, as he created the practice in the 1970s. He took a modern, scientific-based perspective to traditional Buddhist principles of mindfulness and meditation and developed a flexible approach to reducing stress.

      MBSR was first put into practice at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where Jon Kabat-Zinn was established as a professor of medicine. At the time, the program Kabat-Zinn founded was called the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program, which was later changed to mindfulness-based stress reduction (Center for Mindfulness, 2017).

      With the name change came a shift in perspective, from emphasizing the Buddhist foundations to making the program more secular and inviting to people from all systems of belief (Wilson, 2014). Kabat-Zinn viewed mindfulness as a practice that every human has the capacity to engage in, and MBSR promotes this perspective by allowing for individualization (Center for Mindfulness, 2017).

      Kabat-Zinn’s work with MBSR contributed to a movement of acceptance and awareness in an environment of seemingly unending stress, but his vision of mindfulness for all may be his enduring legacy. There are virtually no barriers to the practice of mindfulness or yoga. If you have a mind, you can practice mindfulness, and if you have a body that is capable of movement, you can practice yoga. This is one of the best things about MBSR: it’s accessible for just about everybody.