Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a technique gaining ground as an adjunct or alternative treatment to various medical problems. The technique was developed in 1979 by Dr. Jon Kabatt-Zin, Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His studies of yoga and meditation, and relationships with various teachers in those respective fields led him to integrate those teachings with science and medicine. According to the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at U Mass, the programs “central focus” is intensively training “mindfulness meditation,” and ways to incorporate the practice into everyday living, especially as challenges arise.
Over the last 35 years, MBSR has been shown to help with anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic pain, sleep issues, eating disturbances and disorders, cancer, and heart disease (to name a few). MBSR programs typically last 8 weeks, and the changes can last for years after the initial program. There are special training programs available for healthcare practitioners to attend so that they can integrate MBSR into their practices. The training classes are not intended to create “clones” or “cookie cutter” replicas; instead they teach the basic underlying principles of the practice that you can customize to fit your needs and those of your clients.
The principles are as follows:
• Experience is a challenge not a chore: turns “observing life mindfully” into an adventure and not just another “healthy fad.”
• Stressing need for your own achievements and motives, in addition to daily practice, regardless of whether you want to or not
• Immediate lifestyle change with serious commitment, especially in the area of time
• “Making each moment count” and being aware of things in real time
• Education vs therapy mindset which allows for larger classes and provides a social and emotional support.
• Allows for wide range of people with various diagnoses to be in the same class without being separated by diagnosis. It focuses on the commonality rather than differences between people. However, it can be done in specialized groups when necessary as well.
Though the training was originally developed through Kabatt-Zin’s study of Buddhism, the principles are universal and can be adapted to any religious belief system. It is compatible with other therapeutic modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy.
Treatment programs consist of daily 1-2 hour sessions for 8 weeks, and a day long “retreat” between weeks 6 and 7. It also requires daily homework. Instruction is in 3 areas: mindfulness meditation, body scanning, and simple yoga. Kabatt-Zin says it is “moment to moment, nonjudgmental awareness.”
The program doesn’t cure the disease, but it does help deal with the repercussions of disease, increasing quality of life in participants. Outcomes of this therapy have been studied in multiple populations with randomized clinical trials showing its effectiveness, especially in such disease process as anxiety and depression.
For more information on this technique, visit http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/stress-reduction/.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN