What Is MBSR?

We all experience stress in our daily lives. But too much can lead to depression, anxiety, insomnia, and even the loss of sexual desire or ability.

But what can you do to reduce stress and take control of your life?

MBSR, or Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, is an effective mindfulness practice that helps you bring balance into your life by focusing on the present moment.

Let’s take a look at MBSR and some techniques and practices you can start incorporating today to regain control of your life.

What is MBSR?

MBSR, or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, is a group program created by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn during the 1970s. He incorporated modern scientific thinking with traditional Buddhist philosophies to develop a method to reduce his patients’ stress during hospital stays. 

Over 200 medical facilities worldwide now use MBSR to treat various conditions, including depression, immune disorders, and chronic pain.

Rather than following a set script, MBSR is flexible and can either be taught in a group setting or tailored to fit an individual. It incorporates two main elements – mindfulness meditation and yoga.

And there are virtually no restrictions to practicing MBSR. If you can think, you can practice mindfulness. And if you can move your body, you can practice yoga.

Three MBSR Mindfulness Meditation Techniques

Focused Mindfulness Meditation

When you practice focused mindfulness, you bring your attention inward by focusing on your breath.

 To begin, sit comfortably and take several deep breaths. Then, give yourself a moment to be in the present moment. How does your body feel? What is your state of mind? Observe how you feel without analyzing or judging.

Now shift your focus to your breath. Observe the sensations as you inhale and exhale. Try not to control your breathing; simply allow it to happen naturally. 

Thoughts will undoubtedly come into your mind. Try not to focus on any particular thought. Accept them without judgment and then let them go. With each unbidden thought, silently tell yourself that you’ll think about this later and return to your breath.

Conclude with several deep breaths and slowly open your eyes.

Awareness Mindfulness Meditation

Awareness mindfulness is a meditation technique in which you observe your thoughts from an outside perspective. 

To begin, sit comfortably and bring your focus to your breath. Feel the tension leave your body with each exhale.

Once you feel relaxed, imagine sitting next to a beautiful river. See your thoughts as objects floating past you in the current. Simply watch them come and go without any judgment. 

Next, take one of the objects from the stream. Focus on it and let the others fade into the background. What new thoughts or feelings come to mind while you focus on it? Just observe these new sensations without analyzing or judging them. 

After a few moments, let it drop back in the current and float away. Repeat the process for as long as you wish.

When you are ready to return, bring your focus back to your breathing as you take several deep breaths and slowly open your eyes.

Shifting Between Focused and Awareness Mindfulness

To practice shifting between focused and awareness mindfulness, start by focusing on your breath. Observe as each thought, emotion, or memory comes to your mind. Try not to judge or analyze them. Instead, let them come and go as you focus on your breath.

Then when you’re ready, select one particular thought, emotion, or memory. Deliberately focus on it as you let the others fade into the background. Notice any new thoughts or feelings. After focusing on it for a few moments, allow it to fall back into the stream and float away while you return to your breath. 

Repeat this for as long as you wish. Then, when you are ready to end the session, bring your focus to your breath as you deeply inhale and exhale several times and slowly open your eyes.

Three MBSR Meditation Practices

Object Meditation

Object meditation aims to bring all your senses to the present moment while focusing on one particular object. 

Take hold of any object that you find interesting or has a special meaning to you. Then, focus all your senses on this one object and let everything else fade away. 

How does it feel? Does it have any particular smell? What color is it? Does it make any sounds when you move it?

Walking Meditation

Walking meditation combines movement with mindfulness. While slowly walking, bring your attention to how you walk.

Notice each step as your feet meet the earth. Notice any tension in your body. How do your hips move? Your shoulders? Try matching your breathing to the rhythm of your steps.

To maintain focus, slowly count each step up to ten, then start over at zero.

Ride the Wave of Worry

In this meditation, you approach negative thoughts and emotions like surfing the waves on the ocean.

Whether it’s worry, anxiety, or anger, allow the negative emotion to approach you as you wait comfortably on your surfboard. Watch as it gets bigger and begins to crest. Then ride it until it falls and fades back into the sea.

Congratulate yourself for successfully riding this negative emotion.

And just like waves, acknowledge that more will come but that you can ride each one without fear. 

Though stress is inevitable in our daily lives, succumbing to its harmful effects doesn’t have to be. Through mindfulness practice, you can reduce the stress you experience and prevent future anxieties from becoming overwhelming.

And when you’re ready, an MBSR program may be the perfect method to bring a sense of structure to your daily mindfulness practice. Using MBSR techniques, you’ll have more focus, feel more at peace, and better manage whatever life throws you. After all, what do you have to lose except the stress?