Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness can be defined as paying attention in a particular way on purpose in a present moment and non-judgmentally.1 Mindfulness is not a state of doing but a state of being in which you are fully aware of the present moment and do not evaluate your inner or outer environment. Mindfulness is a state of self-regulation of your attention and the ability to direct it towards breathing, eating, or something else. Curiosity, openness, and acceptance are all part of being mindful.

Mindfulness means paying attention to your current experience instead of focusing on the past or the future. Mindfulness involves purposely paying attention without judgment to whatever is happening at the moment.2

Acceptance literally means to “take what is offered.” Acceptance involves fully embracing your experience at the moment just as it is, without judging it. Acceptance is central to Buddhism. Acceptance involves only moment-to-moment experiencing of what is and does not imply that you cannot do something to change the situation in the future.

The concept of mindfulness, like acceptance, has been around a long time and is a core principle of Buddhism. The Sanskrit word buddha refers to awakening in the sense of being totally present in the moment and just experiencing what is there. Acceptance requires mindfulness, or being fully present without judgment or evaluation, and the gentle observing of mindfulness is acceptance.

Mindfulness is a psychological process, a method and a skill that can be learned. The psychological process in mindfulness involves being intentionally present to internal and external events that occur in the present moment in time. Mindfulness requires the ability to self-regulate your attention and be aware of your own experience (metacognition).3

Mindfulness training usually begins with learning how to focus conscious, nonjudgmental attention on your breath, sight, sound, or sensation in your body. If you notice that your attention has drifted, bring it back to what you initially focused on.

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Mindfulness practice

There are two types of mindfulness practice: formal and informal mindfulness practice. Formal practice includes structured mindfulness meditation such as sitting in meditation for 20 minutes several times a week and is associated with continual discipline and introspection. Informal practice is about practicing mindfulness in simple daily activities. For example, you can focus your attention to listen to ambient sounds at a bus stop, notice taste while drinking a glass of water or wine, or observe the warmth of the water while washing dishes.4 Common mindfulness methods include:

  • Body scanning - systematic attention to body parts
  • Approaching daily tasks mindfully
  • Eating mindfully
  • Mindfulness-based yoga
  • Single-object, narrowed-attention types of meditation
  • Choiceless awareness types of meditation
  • Mindful breathing or listening
  • Mindfulness of feelings and emotions
  • Walking meditation

Mindfulness as a skill

  • Practice mindfulness methods on a regular basis.
  • Understand how to integrate mindfulness methods and skills into everyday tasks and behaviors
  • Practice mindfulness methods regularly
  • Engage in metacognitive self-awareness through mindfulness practices
  • Practicing mindfulness for years is less important than persistent active practice on the daily basis
  • Seek continuing education opportunities on mindfulness and mindfulness-related topics.
  • Practice at least weekly at least once a day.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a method based on mindfulness meditation that can help with psychological, emotional, physical, and psychosomatic problems. The main goal of MBSR is to help a person develop enhanced awareness of moment-to-moment experience of thoughts, emotions, and sensations in the body.

The main idea behind MBSR is that greater awareness will provide better perception, reduce negative affect and improve vitality and coping. MBSR focuses on helping people acquire a skill of mindful awareness.Read more

Basic Presuppositions of MBSR

  1. Most people are unaware of their moment-to-moment experience and often operating in an ‘‘automatic pilot’’ mode.

  2. We are capable of developing the ability to sustain attention to our internal or external experiences.

  3. Development of this ability is gradual, progressive and requires regular practice.

  4. Moment-to-moment awareness of experience will provide a richer and more vital sense of life. Unconscious reactiveness can be replaced by mindful responsiveness.

  5. Practicing nonevaluative observation of our experiences can help us develop better perceptions of the world.

  6. If you can develop a more accurate perception of your own mental responses to external and internal experiences, you can become aware of information that you wouldn’t be able to previously notice and that can improve your daily experiences in life and lead to a greater sense of control.

Health-related benefits of MBSR

  • Enhanced emotional processing and coping with chronic illness and stress
  • Improved self-efficacy and control
  • Improved wellness
  • Improved quality of life
  • Better enjoyment of life as full and rich

MBSR used for treatment of broad range of chronic disorders and problems. Mindfulness training can enhance coping with distress, depression, anxiety, health problems, disability, social, and emotional problems. The main goal of MBSR is not only to improve physical well-being but also improve overall quality-of-life.

  1. Jon Kabat-Zinn - Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. 

  2. Spiegler, M. D., & Guevremont, D. C. (2010). Contemporary behavior therapy (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. 

  3. Stauffer, M. D., & Pehrsson, D. (2012). Mindfulness Competencies for Counselors and Psychotherapists. Journal Of Mental Health Counseling, 34(3), 227-239. 

  4. Germer, G. K., Siegel, R. D., & Fulton, P. R. (2005). Mindfulness and psychotherapy. New York, NY: Guilford Press.