Science has begun to recognize what mediators and yogis have known for thousands of years: meditation can be an effective tool in helping people cope with the challenges presented by chronic and acute pain and illness.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) first originated at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society (UMass CFM) almost 30 years ago. The Center’s Stress Reduction Program teaches people living with pain, anxiety, and other stresses how to use mindfulness to more effectively cope with the stress of pain and illness. MBSR is a form of complementary medicine offered in over 250 U.S. hospitals and is currently the focus of a number of research studies funded by The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Mindfulness Meditation has been clinically shown to be effective for the management of stress, anxiety and panic, chronic pain, depression, obsessive thinking, strong emotional reactivity, a wide array of medical and mental health related conditions, and for simply experiencing life in its fullness.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an important element in Mind-Body Medicine. It is a complement, not a substitute, for whatever medical treatments a person may be receiving. Participants in the MBSR Program learn to develop specific skills for paying attention and for deep relaxation, and to apply these in daily situations.
Thousands of people have attended these programs. The majority report lasting decreases in both physical and psychological symptoms. Pain levels improve and people learn to cope better with chronic pain. Most people also report an increased ability to relax, a greater enthusiasm for life, improved self-esteem, and increased ability to cope more effectively with stressful situations.
In developing Mindfulness, or moment-to-moment awareness, you connect more fully with the present moment, the fullness of life, and your own deep inner resources for healing, coping, growing, and taking charge in new ways in your life.
Of course, just because you have the inner wisdom and resources to contend differently with your life and all its aspects, does not mean that you routinely use them. Most of us are on “auto-pilot” much of the day and tend to react (in a habitual and stress filled way) much more than we respond (skillfully act based on the reality of the circumstance) to the decisions and situations we face. MBSR is about developing the innate ability to cultivate mindfulness over “mindlessness,” with which we are all familiar. Think about those moments when we are unaware of where we are, what we are feeling and why we are doing what we are doing and how those moments might contribute most to our suffering. Some examples might be: eating foods that we know we would be better off not eating; spending time with people that cause us great difficulty, emotional pain or drain us; or engaging in activities that are stressful, harmful or unnecessarily distracting.
The program is suitable for people of any religious belief or background. You need not subscribe to any spiritual path to learn and benefit from this program. Rather, mindfulness is about learning to be still in the present moment, and experiencing life as it comes.
The book Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn is a great introduction toMBSR. Another book, The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness by Williams et al is a wonderful guide to this new groundbreaking program for relapse prevention for depression.
Kabat-Zinn founded the UMass program and continues to teach the concepts underlying it all across the country. He was instrumental in moving mindfulness from the fringes to the mainstream in the United States over the past 30 years years.
We offer two programs at the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (MBCT). Our programs are based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and the program developed by the UMass CFM. Both Dr. Rutstein and Deborah Metzger have trained with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (MBCT) is a form of MBSR that includes information about depression as well as cognitive therapy-based exercises linking thinking and its resulting impact on feeling. MBCT demonstrates how participants can best work with these thoughts and feelings when depression threatens to overwhelm them and how to recognize depressive moods that can bring on negative thought patterns.
Learn more about Mindfulness and Meditation
Follow the links below for articles about MBSR, mindfulness and meditation that have appeared in various media.
60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper (12/14/14) Mindfulness
Anderson Cooper reports on what it’s like to try to achieve “mindfulness,” a self-awareness scientists say is very healthy, but rarely achieved in today’s world of digital distractions.
National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (12/16/14) Brain Change and Mindfulness . . . In 8 Weeks?
Mindfulness Meditation Training Changes Brain Structure in Eight Weeks – Science Daily 1/2001
Harvard Yoga Scientists Find Proof of Meditation Benefit – Bloomberg 11/2013
We Need to Take Meditation More Seriously as Medicine – Time Ideas 1/2014
Buddhists’ Delight – The New York Times (06/22/2012)
Are We Living in Sensory Overload or Sensory Poverty? – The New York Times (06/10/2012)
SPOTLIGHT: Therapist takes a holistic approach – Princeton Packet Online (09/12/2011)
Three (Healthy) Ways to Cope with Stress – Town Topics (08/2011)
Go ahead and be yourself – Deborah Metzger (03/16/2011)
Meditation isn’t just about relaxing – PYHS.org (12/02/2010)
Meditation great way to battle stress – St. Louis Post (12/01/2010)
Become mindful of the moment – The Courier News and Home News Tribune (10/05/2010)
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction: Insights and Impact on Women’s Health – Radio Blog (08/25/2010)
Stress less – Seriously! – (05/10/2010)
Mindfulness Over Matter – The Courier News and The Home News Tribune (04/21/2009)