This past year, many have felt a heaviness that weighs on them night and day. That heaviness can have many names: work, trauma, school, family, illness, finances, Covid-19. Stress puts our bodies in a state of alert. Prolonged stress can have serious repercussions on our mental and physical health as well: it can lead to a lack of sleep, anxiety, weight fluctuations, depression, addiction and migraines.
What is MBSR
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, is an 8 week program that uses meditation to create a healthy outlet to cope with pain, stress, and chronic illness. It was first created by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979, and the research surrounding this therapy has continued to grow and develop since. Approved MBSR instructor Claire Mauer offers the 8-Week program virtually through Zoom and says that some of the positive effects of MBSR include increasing emotional regulation, attention regulation, communication skills and coping techniques. MBSR encourages a connection with and balance between mind and body that allows us to more fully experience the richness of our lives.
Responding Instead of Reacting
MBSR practitioners can learn to be present in the moment with less judgement and reactivity. According to Mauer, the program creates a “space between the trigger and a reaction” where “we have more choice in how we respond instead of just reacting.” This space creates a break in our thought processes and doesn’t allow our minds and bodies to run away with us. Instead, it encourages us to be present with ourselves, and understand our bodies and minds. This self-awareness allows us to recognize our limitations but also allows us to recognize what we can control. This realization brings power. We have a power to let go of the things we cannot control––we have a power to change the things we can control.
MBSR has the potential to greatly improve the lives of many who suffer from a variety of physical and mental health conditions. MBSR techniques are supported by numerous case studies and research. In a study done by Phillipe Goldin and James Gross, experimenters observed the effects of MBSR in individuals diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. The experimenters found that individuals who have completed MBSR training exhibited fewer depression symptoms and increases in self-esteem, as well as increased ability to control emotions (Goldin). In a more recent study by Taylor Hatchard, experimenters looked at the effects of MBSR on breast cancer survivors with chronic pain. The study found positive benefits, both physical and neurological, for patients who partook in the 8 week MBSR course. The research saw decreased activity in parts of the brain that are associated with chronic pain; reduced activation of these regions is associated with “mindfulness and reduced pain perception” (Hatchard).
There are many other studies like the ones detailed above that indicate the effectiveness of MBSR, and the research is continuing to flow in. MBSR is a potentially great non-pharmacological intervention for people who suffer from PTSD, depression, social anxiety, chronic pain, addictions and a plethora of other conditions. This field has truly exciting possibilities that could lead to the betterment of so many people’s lives. Care providers should consider MBSR as an effective part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
by Lara Boerth-Dryden
Lara Boerth-Dryden is a Psychology major at Florida Atlantic University
Goldin, P. R., & Gross, J. J. (2010). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion, 10(1), 83–91.
Hatchard, T., Mioduszewski, O., Khoo, EL. et al. Reduced Emotional Reactivity in BreastCancer Survivors with Chronic Neuropathic Pain FollowingMindfulness-BasedStress Reduction (MBSR): an fMRI Pilot Investigation. Mindfulness 12, 751–762 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01546-9