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MBSR: How mindfulness training works

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 144 views

Stress management through mindfulness: In the eight-week program “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction”, MBSR for short , participants find peace through various mediation practices. The positive effects are scientifically confirmed. Read here how MBSR works and for whom it is suitable.

What is MBSR?

MBSR is the abbreviation for “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” and stands for “stress management through mindfulness”. It is an eight-week program created by medical professor Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979.

MBSR is based on meditation practices from Buddhism, but MBSR is detached from religion and esotericism. Rather, it is about gaining greater awareness of the present moment through the training program.

This mindfulness method helps people to get in touch with themselves and the available resources – with their own feelings, sensations and thoughts. This reduces general excitement and creates a feeling of calm. The effect of MBSR has been proven by numerous scientific studies.

Originally developed to manage stress, MBSR is now used to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain, cancer, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure , skin and immune disorders.

This is how MBSR works

As a rule, an MBSR course takes place in small groups and lasts eight weeks. Once a week, the participants meet for a session that lasts between 2.5 and 3 hours. In addition, there is a longer practice day, the so-called Day of Mindfulness.

A preliminary and follow-up discussion are also part of the course. In the preliminary discussion, the participants get an insight into what to expect and what to expect. The follow-up discussion is primarily about reflection.

Content of an MBSR course are so-called formal and informal mindfulness exercises.

Formal mindfulness practices

This includes mindfulness exercises in all body positions – i.e. sitting, walking, standing and lying down. These exercises are about paying attention to the experience in the current situation. The goal is to consciously perceive only what is there.

For example, in breathing meditation, participants sit on a seat cushion or chair and try to focus their attention on the sensations of breathing. If your thoughts wander, take note of this and gently bring your focus back to your breath.

Another typical formal mindfulness practice is the body scan. The individual parts of the body are carefully perceived one after the other and the focus is placed on all sensations or non-sensations. Mindful yoga is also a typical formal practice.

In the sessions, the participants learn exactly how the exercises work and can then practice them at home on a daily basis. In addition, the MBSR course has certain key topics. This includes, among other things, “Dealing with Emotions”. The participants also deal with this themselves at home – for example through journaling, the therapeutic diary writing.

Informal mindfulness practices

The basic idea of ​​the informal mindfulness exercises is to do everything consciously in everyday life. There is also talk of mindfulness meditation. The goal: The exercises integrate mindfulness into everyday life. Mindfulness becomes a way of life.

Typical informal mindfulness practices include mindfulness

In concrete terms, this means, for example, when washing dishes, to concentrate on doing the dishes and not to let your thoughts wander.

MBSR has this effect

Studies on the health effects of MSBR classes have been going on for more than 20 years. The following significant changes were found:

  • The ability to relax is improved
  • physical and psychological stress symptoms were reduced
  • Self-confidence and acceptance increased
  • Experience of self-efficacy and control
  • more joie de vivre and control
  • improved access to emotional experience
  • stronger differentiation

Who is MBSR suitable for?

MBSR is suitable for people who want to better deal with everyday stress. The mindfulness training helps to question the perspective on problems and to come up with new possible solutions. The prerequisite is that the participants are capable of self-reflection and also willing to do the exercises in everyday life.

People who already suffer from diseases find through MBSR a complementary way to alleviate symptoms or to find a different way of dealing with them. For example, in generalized anxiety and panic disorders, symptoms decreased significantly between the start and end of MBSR treatment.

However, it is not advisable to take a course in the case of addiction disorders and severe personality disorders as well as severe psychoses such as schizophrenia.

Mindfulness exercises for everyday life

There are various mindfulness exercises that can easily be incorporated into everyday life. It is best to put your mobile phone on silent mode during your mindfulness sessions. Studies show that avoiding the news for a certain period of time is good for your health.

Breathe consciously

Yogis show how it’s done: Observe how your breath flows effortlessly from your nose, through your chest into your stomach, lifting your abdominal wall slightly. As you exhale, the diaphragm returns to its original position. The abdominal wall lowers again and the breath leaves the body through the chest and mouth.

Tip: Do your thoughts turn somersaults during the mindfulness exercise? Then just think “rest” as you breathe in and “let go” as you exhale.

Learn more about breathing properly here .

Balance through the right focus

Even the Buddhists knew that living in the here and now counts. That’s why the mental to-do list has no place in the shower. Instead, you better focus on the warming water and feel the rain pouring down.

When eating breakfast, you pay attention to the taste of the food and do not think about the office. On the way to work, you listen to the sounds of the subway or consciously take deep breaths on your bike.

breaking routines

Mindfulness also means breaking with routine and adopting different perspectives. This out-of-the-box thinking can be easily integrated into everyday life. For example, by taking a different route home than usual or simply eating with your left hand instead of your right hand.

Also, try not to get annoyed about red lights. Instead, you stop and consciously look around – suddenly you notice small details in the car or on the road. When the light turns green, the stress is gone and you can drive on relaxed.

Stop when you are stressed

Anyone who has the feeling of being overwhelmed by stress pulls the mindfulness brake. To do this, sit comfortably and upright. Concentrate on the seat and imagine putting down roots.

Ponder how these continue to grow and spread further into the soil. The power and stability of the earth are transmitted to your feet via the roots. From there they rise and spread over the whole body – calm and serenity dominate.

The Art of Journaling

Happiness can be learned. Positive thoughts promote more moments of happiness. These thoughts become even more lasting if you write them down. Write down three positive experiences in keywords or short sentences in a diary every day. The whole thing is called journaling.


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