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What Is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?

Mindfulness-based stress reduction, commonly abbreviated as MBSR, is a practice that has been adopted in modern-day mental health techniques. Usually, MBSR is paired with other forms of therapy to help people cope with a wide range of physical and psychological distress. Ideally, the training program, created by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979, is eight weeks long.

Initially, Jon curated the program for chronically ill patients that were not responding well to conventional treatments. But that has since changed – with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide exploring MBSR.

Notably, there have been several studies to verify its effectiveness. The research shows that MBSR effectively reduces general stress reduction and chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. Therefore, although its roots come from spiritual teachings, it’s heavily backed up by science. That means it’s open to everyone, not just people of a particular religion.

A Typical MBSR Session

Typically, the program runs once a week for eight weeks. Although the period of each session may vary, it’s usually two to three hours. A certified instructor teaches members mindfulness techniques during that time, usually as a group. The goal is to cultivate a greater awareness of the present moment and gain a more profound sense of calm.

Besides mindfulness, the instructor also dives into other practices during MBSR sessions. These include:

1. Gratitude Journaling
Keeping a gratitude journal means documenting the things you are grateful for in your life. That shifts your perspective of life by becoming more optimistic.

2. Group Dialogue
Since MBSR therapy happens in a group, part of the practice is participants sharing their experiences with the group. This can help participants not feel alone in their experiences.

3. Yoga
The instructor guides participants through gentle yoga movements. That goes a long way in relaxing both the body and the mind.

4. Deep Breathing
MBSR teaches you to control and concentrate on your breathing. You can deactivate the sympathetic nervous system through slow breathing responsible for the fight-or-flight response. Instead, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, associated with calm relaxation.

5. Mindful Body Scans
Mindful body scans help you become more aware of stress, tension, and pain held in the body. Consequently, you can purposefully relax those areas and quiet the body’s stress reaction.

6. Seated and Walking Meditations
Meditation is almost like hitting a pause button – it helps you remain calm in the face of challenges instead of instantly reacting with strong emotions.

Benefits of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Therapy

It’s important to note that your benefits from MBSR therapy depend on your individual circumstances. Your unique circumstances notwithstanding, research shows that MBSR has had promising results for people coping with various health conditions. Here are some of them:

Anxiety and Depression
Generally, remaining present in the moment helps improve your psychological state. It’s never a walk in the park at first. That’s where MBSR comes in – since it enables you to strengthen your ability to focus your mindset in the present moment.

Tuning into your inner world helps you become more accepting of your thoughts and feelings. That helps in reducing the severity of anxiety and depression symptoms.

Cognitive Improvements
Some studies suggest that mindfulness-based practices have cognitive benefits. In that light, a study suggests that MBSR positively impacts long-term memory. It also helps improve attention in participants.

Stress Management
Unconscious thoughts can send you into a place of stress and overwhelming emotions. But through mindful practices, as embodied in MBSR, you can reprieve from the chaos within and instead process your thoughts and feelings first. Doing so helps lower stress levels and promote relaxation.

Risks of MBSR

Although there are no known risks specific to MBSR therapy, there are risks attributed to meditation and yoga, which are integral elements of the program. Yoga bears the risk of injury since it involves movement. Meditation, too, has some risks. Some people might experience heightened anxiety and other adverse emotional reactions. This results from memories of past trauma flashing before them as they practice awareness of feelings and thoughts.

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