MBSR is a program that helps you learn to calm your mind and body to help you cope with illness, pain, and stress.
MBSR teaches "mindfulness," which is a focus only on things happening in the present moment. Mindfulness is not a time to "zone out" or "space out" but is rather a time to purposefully pay attention and be aware of your surroundings, your emotions, your thoughts, and how your body feels. For example, you may sit quietly and notice your emotions. You might focus only on the sounds around you or how your food tastes and smells. When you are mindful, you do just one thing and you pay close attention to that one thing.
Another important part of mindfulness is to not judge the present moment. This is because judgments may lead you to dwell on (or "get stuck" thinking about) bad situations, feelings, or thoughts. And dwelling on the past does not help you accept or solve problems. It just brings you down.
By training your mind to focus only on the present, you learn not to get lost in regrets from the past or worries about the future. Letting go of such thoughts may help you worry less and accept things as they are. Mindfulness teaches you to be in control of your mind so that your mind doesn't control you.
To help you focus your mind on the present, a class in MBSR usually teaches you to:
Studies show that MBSR can reduce stress and help people relax. Studies of people who have type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, chronic pain, and other problems show that MBSR helped some people cope better with symptoms and improved their quality of life.
Research also shows that MBSR helped people sleep better and feel less anxious, and it helped ease depression symptoms. In some people, MBSR also helped improve blood sugar and blood pressure. 1, 2, 3
Taking part in MBSR has been linked to positive changes in the areas of the brain that affect how you pay attention, how you feel, and how you think.4
Merkes M (2010). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for people with chronic diseases. Australian Journal of Primary Health, 16(3): 200–210.
Ledesma D, Kumano H (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and cancer: A meta-analysis. Psycho-Oncology, 18(6): 571–579.
Chiesa A, Serretti A (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(5): 593–600.
Keng SL, et al. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(6): 1041–1056.
May 21, 2013
Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
& Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
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