Mindfulness-based stress reduction
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a structured complementary medicine program devised by Jon Kabat-Zinn that uses mindfulness to help people cope better and be more at ease in their life. It is thought to be effective for treating a variety of ailments including alleviating pain and improving physical and emotional well being for individuals suffering from a variety of diseases and disorders. While mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist teachings, the program itself is not spiritually based. Those who practice MBSR range in age, health, and beliefs and it is made clear that the psychological principles of mindfulness can be practiced by anyone.
The basis of MBSR is mindfulness, which Jon Kabat-Zinn defines as, "a moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness," In an introductory speech he gave on the topic of MBSR. Through meditation individuals increase their self-awareness, which leads to a greater unity between the mind and body. Research into meditation and its health benefits has been widely accepted and the concept of mindfulness-based stress reduction was created out of the desire to understand these benefits more closely. A mindfulness-based program is beneficial to those suffering from chronic illness, anxiety, depression, as well as, a variety of other problems. The benefits of using a mindfulness-based program have been proven to be effect regardless of type of program or length.
MBSR is described in a 2003 meta-review of current scientific literature on Mindfulness-based stress reduction:
MBSR is a group program that focuses upon the progressive acquisition of mindful awareness, of mindfulness. The construct of mindful awareness originated in earliest Buddhist documents but is neither religious nor esoteric in nature. Several Buddhist treatises detail an elaborate psychological theory of mind, in which mindfulness consistently plays a central role. Mindfulness is characterized by nonevaluative and sustained moment-to-moment awareness of perceptible mental states and processes. This includes continuous, immediate awareness of physical sensations, perceptions, affective states, thoughts, and imagery. Mindfulness is nondeliberative: It merely implies sustained paying attention to ongoing mental content without thinking about, comparing or in other ways evaluating the ongoing mental phenomena that arise during periods of practice. Thus, mindfulness may be seen as a form of naturalistic observation, or participant-observation, in which the objects of observation are the perceptible mental phenomena that normally arise during waking consciousness.
In an article titled, Effective and Viable Mind-Body Stress Reduction in the Workplace : A Randomized Controlled Trial, researchers attempted to verify various aspects of MBSR's effectiveness. 239 individuals volunteered to participate in a randomized controlled trial program designed to reduce stress. The study had two major objectives: the effectiveness of MBSR as compared to other types of treatment and whether or not an online MBSR program was as useful as a class room or workshop type setting. The results of this study were consistent with other similar types of research: MBSR can be a very effective intervention for stress reduction. The following is a quote which effectively summarizes the most important results of the study:
This study demonstrates not only the effectiveness, but also the viability of integrating mind-body stress management programs into the workplace using interventions of relatively short duration (12–14 hr) . . . . By targeting highly stressed employees, and focusing on the overall accessibility and practicality of the program, we developed an intervention that can be deployed easily within corporate settings (rather than being a one-time offering) compared with mind-body programs that historically were developed for consumer, academic, or community-based application" (Wolever, Bobinet, McCabe, Mackenzie, Fekete, Kusnick, and Baime, 2012, p. 255).
An easy way to do it is focus on the body starting at one end and moving all the way through to the other while noting breathing and any areas of discomfort. Pay attention to what is going on at that moment what do you feel, hear, taste, see, smell. When a thought about the past or future does come to mind, acknowledge but don’t dwell on it, and just let it go.
In A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, authors Bob Stahl and Elish Goldstein provide step by step processes and exercises for someone interested in learning basic MBSR techniques. Meditation for Anxiety and Stress "is a chapter which focuses on how anxiety and stress affect the body. The following is quote from the introduction of this chapter:
While all of the explorations and practices in this book will help you develop mindfulness and better cope with stress, adding self-inquiry to the mix will make your practice more effective by focusing in on the issues and situations most relevant to your life and your stress" (Stahl and Goldstein, 2010, p. 115).
The authors provide an acronym so that the participant can easily remember the basics of self-inquiry: RAIN- R= recognize when a strong emotion is present, A= allow or acknowledge that it's there, I= Investigate the body, emotions, and thoughts, and N= non-identify with whatever is there. The focus of this particular type of meditation is for the individual to figure out the things that cause stress in their life. This includes thoughts that may be exaggerated or false and respond to them in such a way that he or she feels empowered, rather than overwhelmed by these stressors.
||This section needs more medical references for verification or relies too heavily on primary sources. (November 2012)|
Mindfulness-based stress reduction programs have been proven to provide a variety of very powerful benefits for those practicing the techniques and meditation offered and these benefits are effective regardless of type of program or length. Even low exposure to an MSBR program have been studied with the research highlighting the minimal effort needed to experience benefits. These benefits include: an increase in the body's immune system's ability to ward off disease, a shift from a disposition towards right prefrontal cortex, associated with anxiety, depression and aversion to the left prefrontal cortex, associated with happiness, flow, and enjoyment. Other benefits include a different and less invasive way of healing patients with chronic pain related illnesses, a reduction in debilitating stress and the hormones that come along with it,(such as cortisol,) and an improvement in one's overall happiness and well-being in life.
In the conclusion of "Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-review", the 2003 meta-review mentioned earlier, we read,
Our findings suggest the usefulness of MBSR as an intervention for a broad range of chronic disorders and problems. In fact, the consistent and relatively strong level of effect sizes across very different types of sample indicates that mindfulness training might enhance general features of coping with distress and disability in everyday life, as well as under more extraordinary conditions of serious disorder or stress. Another recently published study employing different inclusion criteria and a somewhat divergent strategy also provides additional support for the effectiveness of mindfulness interventions. In both investigations, improvements were consistently seen across a spectrum of standardized mental health measures including psychological dimensions of quality of life scales, depression, anxiety, coping style and other effective dimensions of disability. Likewise, similar benefits were also found for health parameters of physical well-being, such as medical symptoms, sensory pain, physical impairment, and functional quality-of-life estimates..."
In the past 30 years many studies have been done that show some positive effects of mindfulness practice. There is a wide range of benefits like increased brain function, less pain, help with eating disorders and depression. Thinking about breathing can be helpful but changing the breath isn’t necessary. Jon Kabat-Zinn said “We are driven by the urgent, miss the important and then wind up a lot of the time being unhappy.”  When the body is exposed to stress for prolonged periods of time it can become exhausted. It is important to find a way to deal with that stress before it gets to that point or to try and avoid it as much as possible. A study by Shapiro found those participating in MBSR had less anxiety, psychological distress, and depression they also showed an increase in empathy. In another study from the University of Massachusetts Medical School showed that after completing a MBSR class the participants showed increased grey matter in areas of their brains important in learning, memory and emotions. The University of Massachusetts Worcester Campus Center for Mindfulness, ed.  Most people who go through the program have lasting benefits like increase self-esteem, they are better able to cope in stressful situations, and better ability to cope with pain. In a January 2011 study in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, based on anatomical magnetic resonance images (MRI) of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) participants, suggested that "participation in MBSR is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking." 
- "Meditation". Cancer Research UK. Retrieved April 2013.
- in this video Jon Kabat-Zinn can be seen giving a speech at Google Headquarters about mindfulness, including the benefits shown by scientific study, the practice and principles of mindfulness, and how it relates to modern life in general http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSU8ftmmhmw Mindfulness-based stress
- Sedlmeier, Peter; Juliana Eberth, Marcus Schwarz, Doreen Zimmermann, Frederick Haarig, Sonia Jaeger, Sonja Kunze (21). "The Psychological Effects of Meditation: A Meta-Analysis". Psychological Bulletin 138 (6): 1139. doi:10.1037/a002816.
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis by Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt and Walach, available here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15256293 and full text available for download as a .pdf here: sites.google.com/site/pckar39022/MBSR_metanalysis.pdf
- "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction — Topic Overview." WebMD. Healthwise, 23 May 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.
- Klatt, Maryanna; Buckworth, Janet. Malarkey, William. (9). "Effects of Low-Dose Mindfulness Stress Reduction". Health and Behavior 36 (6): 601–614. doi:10.1177/1090198108317627.
- Ludwig, David S., and Jon Kabat-Zinn. "Mindfulness in Medicine." Journal of the American Medical Association 300.11 (2008): 1350-1352. PDF file.
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon. "Life is right now- Jon Kabat-Zinn on mindfulness." 4 May 2010. YouTube. Web. 14 Dec. 2011.
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- Shapiro, Shauna L., Gary E. Schwartz, and Ginny Bonner. "Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Medical and Premedical Students." Journal of Behavioral Medicine 21.6 (1998): 581-599. Academic Search Elite. Web. 14 Dec. 2011.
- "Mindfulness meditation practice change the brain." Harvard Women's Health Watch 18.8 (Apr. 2011): 6-7. PDF file.
- The University of Massachusetts Worcester Campus Center for Mindfulness, ed. "Stress Reduction Program." University of Massachusetts Medical School. University of Massachusetts, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.
- "Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density". Psychiatry Res. 2011-01-30.
Stahl, B., & Goldstein, E. (2010). A mindfulness-based stress reduction workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications. Wolever R, Bobinet K, Baime M, et al. Effective and viable mind-body stress reduction in the workplace: A randomized controlled trial. Journal Of Occupational Health Psychology [serial online]. April 2012;17(2):246-258. Available from: PsycINFO, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 9, 2012.