What is Mindfulness?

It is the intention to pay attention to each and every moment of our life, non-judgmentally. While there are many possible definitions, the key aspects of any definition of mindfulness involve purposeful action, focused attention, grounded in the current experience, and held with a sense of curiosity. The Center for Mindfulness believes that we all have the capacity for mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)?

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a psychoeducational experiential learning program based on the core principle of mindfulness.

The program is offered in a group setting and guided by a skilled MBSR teacher as the curriculum unfolds over 8 weeks. The class meets once a week from 2 ½ to 3 hours and is a combination of mindfulness practices, group sharing of experience with practice, and exploration of topics such as mindfulness, stress, and communication.

In addition, there is an All Day of practice that occurs between the 6th and 7th week of the 8-week program. In addition to the 31 hours of practice in a supportive classroom environment guided by a professionally trained MBSR teacher, each participant engages in 45minutes of mindfulness practice daily between classes as homework to foster the development of the new habit of mindfulness.

How might mindfulness meditation benefit my life?

The direct benefit is living our lives in this moment with awareness instead of “on automatic pilot” or solely in the past or future.

Patients often report greater joy for the simple things in life, such as a shared moment with their child or partner or more aware of the change of seasons as flowers bloom and snow falls. We begin to realize that there is more “right” with us than “wrong” with us as we become more engaged in our lives. Many of the side effects of mindfulness meditation found in scientific research include decrease in psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression as well as greater stability in physical symptoms such as blood glucose levels and blood pressure.

Ultimately, it is an empirical question and everyone is encouraged to find out for themselves how mindfulness meditation might benefit their lives.

How long has MBSR been taught and used by other patients?

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction Program in 1979. Since its inception 35 years ago, more than 20,000 people have completed the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) out of UMass and by countless thousands of people all around the world.

Why do people take the MBSR course? What conditions or illnesses can it help treat?
  • Chronic Pain
  • Heart Disease
  • Stress Disorders
  • Cancer
  • Personal Well-Being
  • Anxiety
  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Hot Flashes
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Mood Disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders
  • Asthma
Is MBSR supported by scientific evidence?

MBSR over the past 35 years has shown consistent, reliable, and reproducible major and clinically relevant reductions in medical and psychological symptoms across a wide range of medical and psychological diagnoses. It has been recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as an evidenced based program through the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). Mindfulness is an active area of scientific research with new studies on MBSR being shared on a regular basis.

Do I need to have experience with meditation or yoga prior to the course?

No…While prior mindfulness practice may motivate individuals to take MBSR. The MBSR program and teacher have no expectation that participants have experience with meditation or yoga or any other mindfulness practice. Everyone will have the opportunity to explore and experience mindfulness while having a skilled teacher to guide and help answer questions about practice.

For those that have experience with meditation or yoga in the past, the course can be a good refresher to rebuild a strong daily practice.

Can MBSR help with anger and other strong emotions?

Yes… emotions are part of life and participants in the MBSR program will be encouraged to acknowledge and see the impact of strong emotions on their lives. Mindfulness is not about always being calm or numb to emotions events in our lives. However, through mindfulness practice we me begin to see options and choices on how to respond before emotions overwhelm us. For example, we will still become angry, but might notice its impact in the moment and choose to walk away before we hurt ourselves or others.

Will MBSR allow me to control my thoughts better?

Participants will become very familiar on how their mind works. While “control” is not the goal of MBSR, participants may begin to see they have more choices on where and how they give their attention. Participants report living in the present moment and find it easier to plan for the future without living in the future as well as knowing the past without dwelling in the past. The process of mindfulness is building on the skill of noticing where the thoughts go and what emotions and physical sensation may be associated with them.

What impact does mindfulness practice have on my brain?

Mindfulness is an active area of research with many studies focusing on the structural and functional changes in the brain due to completion of an MBSR program. Please explore the Therapeutic Neuroscience Lab at Umass’s Site for additional information about the research.

Can MBSR reduce my chronic pain?

Yes… Studies have shown that MBSR can reduce the perception of pain. While chronic pain does not go away, your relationship with pain may shift and change. Research have found that participants report less limitations due to pain, reduced severity of pain, and more joy in life even in the presence of pain.