As early as 1979, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center’s Stress Reduction Clinic. Today, MBSR is offered in many hundreds of hospitals, clinics, health centers, educational, management and other settings around the world.
The 8-week stress reduction program is based on intensive training in mindfulness. It was initially targeted to people with chronic health problems, helping them to cope with the effects of pain, illness and the impact of these conditions on their lives. Today MBSR is taught to people throughout the world who are experiencing challenges in all areas of life.
The motivation for many to enroll in a course begins with a sense of wanting to live in a way that incorporates key aspects of mindfulness, presence, awareness and a sense of being in touch with oneself and the life around.
Through the regular training in mindfulness that an MBSR course offers people become familiar with their own behavior patterns, especially in relation to stressful situations. They also learn that though they cannot always change the circumstances in which they find themselves, they can choose how to respond to them. In MBSR this process is described as going from reacting to responding, with the latter involving a clearer perception of the circumstances through being in touch with the thoughts, sensations and emotions that are present.
The standard MBSR course consists of eight, weekly sessions of 2. 5 to 3 hours each, plus an all-day session after the sixth week that includes a full day of mindfulness practice in a modified retreat format.
Each session starts with a mindfulness exercise that the participants have learned during the weekly sessions. The main exercises of the MBSR program are the body scan, gentle yoga, and sitting meditation. Through the course of the program, participants will practice one of these exercises every day. In addition there are various exercises centered on incorporating mindfulness practice into daily life. Other exercises train mindful awareness in relation to thoughts, sensations and emotions.
Each session focuses on one particular topic that is explored with specific exercises, as well as presentations from the teacher and in dialogue among the group participants. Some topics in an MBSR course are: mindful communication, working with difficult emotions and how perception influences our relationship to stressful events.
There’s also time for participants to share what they experienced during the exercise as well as to talk about their daily mindfulness practice outside class.