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Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: What It Is and How It Works

Peace begins with us… Mindfulness is the basis for wise action. When we can see clearly what is happening in the moment, wisdom can direct our choices and actions, rather than the old habits simply playing out our patterns of conditioning. Joseph Goldstein, A Heart Full of Peace

In the last few weeks, I've been asked a lot about MBSR training, what it is and how it works in our daily lives. New breakthroughs in neuroscience show that by practicing mindfulness, the brain can be shaped for greater happiness, love, wisdom, and greater emotional balance in turbulent times. We can create healthier relationships, improve physical and mental health, and realize greater peace of mind.

In this fast-paced world, most of us will experience times of pain, disease, grief and loss at some point in our lives, while also trying to cope with the attendant anxiety and stress.

And most of us are not aware that there is much we can do for ourselves to relieve pain and speed healing, improve self-compassion and self-esteem, and feel in control of the healing process instead of taking ever more pain pills and other medications designed to decrease our awareness of body and self.

What is MBSR?

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was pioneered in 1979 by Drs. Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli (now Executive Director of the university's Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society) working with colleagues in the Medical Centre of the University of Massachusetts.

MBSR programs are typically 8-weeks in duration. Participants learn to integrate, and incorporate in their daily lives, mind-body techniques that are specifically designed to discover and strengthen their inner resources.

Thirty-five years later, all studies and follow-up programs have reported that the physical and psychological changes resulting from a program of MSBR training are significant and last for several years.

Research also confirms that 30 minutes a day of MBSR practice can result in dramatic changes in our emotional, mental, and physical health, noting reduction of symptoms in many hard-to-treat conditions, including:

  • Chronic pain
  • Job and family stress
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Headaches
  • GI distress
  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Attention disorders
  • Depression
  • PTSD

MBSR training programs have been established at hundreds of hospitals and health centres in North America and are now available online and offered in most countries around the world.

How does MBSR work?

Mindfulness practice literally changes the brain.

Over the past decade, the tools of brain research have become more numerous and more effective. Researchers now have magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, EEG readings, and mobile device enabled experience sampling (ESM) smart phone apps, which they use as laboratory tools to track the taming of the wandering "monkey mind" in study participants.

And because our minds have evolved over millennia to be wary and alert to danger in the environment, even when there is no threat we are programmed to look for any negative signs, real or imagined. The parts of the brain that scan for danger are also the parts that show significant changes after MBSR training.

In particular, the amygdala, known as our brain's "fight or flight" center and the locus of our fearful and anxious emotions, decreases in brain cell volume after mindfulness practice. At the same time, MBSR practice weakens the functional connections between the amygdala and the pre-frontal cortex, resulting in less reactivity and more connections between areas associated with higher-order brain functions such as attention and concentration.

Find out about our MBSR training, classes and workshops

Don't we all want greater calm, health, and wellbeing, and to improve and enhance the quality of our life and relationships?

If you are searching for MBSR and mindfulness classes in Vancouver and other Lower Mainland cities, look no further than mindful-changes.com.

Read about our mindfulness classes and contact us today.

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About Shahin Najak

Shahin Najak is a Vancouver-area Mindfulness Coach and speaker, teaching in the Vancouver, BC area. She is certified as a Yoga Instructor and Reiki practitioner, as well as a Jack Canfield (author of Chicken soup for the Soul) Success trainer.
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