What is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD.

Everyone experiences stress. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is an 8-week program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 to address the stress we all face by supporting the development of tools that provide a more effective response to stress– shifting our relationship to our stressors through mindfulness. The MBSR program was one of the first to usher the form of meditation known as mindfulness into the medical mainstream.

Originally used with patients experiencing chronic pain, MBSR has been of enormous benefit to people in addressing everything from routine daily stress to stress experienced as overwhelming. The majority of people who complete the 8-week program have reported a range of positive results from increased coping ability and decreased pain levels to greater energy and more joy.

There is now a solid body of research on the benefits of mindfulness, based primarily on studies of the evidence-based MBSR curriculum as taught at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness where I trained and received my qualification to teach the 8-week program. (My training has also been recognized at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center.)

The MBSR program is both experiential and educational and requires practice between classes. Participants in the program will have the opportunity to:
  • Create or deepen a personal mindfulness meditation practice.
  • Use mindfulness-based strategies to cope with stress and emotional reactivity.
  • Learn techniques to cultivate kindness, forgiveness, and compassion for ourselves and others.
The MBSR program consists of 8 weekly classes of two and a half hours each and an all day class on a weekend. Classes consist of formal mindfulness practices and inquiry as a way of training people to relate differently not only to stressors, but to each moment of their lives. There are ongoing assignments that include formal guided practice and informal applications for daily life.

More on MBSR:
Bill Moyer’s Healing and the Mind aired in 1993 and features MBSR classes at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

Anderson Cooper tried MBSR in a 2015 airing of CBS News “60 Minutes,” Anderson Cooper shares his story on learning to meditate, and the follow-up neuroscientific analysis conducted at the Center for Mindfulness.