The Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 as a program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and is the basis of his book, Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness (1990). It is an experiential learning program based on a curriculum and anchored in behavioral health and empirically validated through years of research. The MBSR program is secular, with no religious or spiritual element.
The program is eight (8) weekly meetings of 2-1/2 hours, plus one all day of practice. It teaches specific strategies for the development of a formal and informal mindfulness practice. As participants develop skills in noticing thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations, they begin to recognize and transition from old habits and patterns of reactivity to a more intentional and skillful response to internal and external stressors. Awareness of experience is the necessary first step in any kind of change, whether it’s about reducing the emotional and physical experience of stress, managing difficult emotions, staying clean and sober, losing weight, or simply wanting to feel more competent in a more intentional life.
Research on the outcomes for participants over the course of the last 30 years has created a large body of data on documented positive effects/symptom reduction within a wide range of chronic medical conditions, physical processes, and subjective experience. Among the range of documented improvements in functioning: back pain, hypertension, eating disorders, psoriasis, chronic pain, substance abuse; as well as improved immune function, accelerated rates of healing, improved sleep patterns and increased capacity to focus attention; and finally, a subjective experience of improved interpersonal relationships, decreased depression and anxiety, increased capacity to regulate emotions, improved patterns of thinking, and reduction of negative mindsets.
More recently, neuro-imaging that examines the brain of MBSR participants before and after the program has identified actual structural brain changes that document the capacity for plasticity in the adult nervous system in response to training.
The MBSR program continues to be based in the larger Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine at UMASS Department of Medicine.
Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an empirically-validated, curriculum-based program that teaches mindfulness skills through a gentle yet effective series of methods for becoming more aware of thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. With awareness comes the possibility of intentional response to challenges.