How Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction works

Overcoming pain and stress will require you to take three important steps.

1. Inhale.

2. Exhale.

3. Repeat.

Although this is something of an oversimplification, there is also a large amount of truth in it. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a powerful practice that can teach you how to successfully cope with pain and stress by developing mindfulness of your breath in order to calm both body and mind.

MBSR doesn’t seek to eliminate uncomfortable situations from our lives, but to help us relate to them in a more healthy way through developing greater mindfulness.

In MBSR courses, you learn to identify when you go onto “Automatic Pilot”. You’ll probably recognize this phenomenon from everyday activities such as driving, where we’re barely aware of what we are doing and are instead lost in thought. On those occasions our thoughts often turn towards difficulties in our lives, which we then ruminate upon, thinking about them in a way that actually leads to more stress. It’s this self-induced stress that is the real problem in our lives, and that MBSR addresses.

You’ll learn to notice your mind switching to automatic pilot, and will learn instead to “stay in the moment”, experiencing your body, mind, and emotions and learning to accept discomfort as a normal part of life, without adding to your stress by indulging in self-critical talk, by worrying, or by reacting with anger. We learn in this way to become “comfortable with discomfort”.

The eight-week program is designed to help guide you mobilize your inner resources of mind and body, in order to effectively manage pain, stress and illness. The goal is greater levels of health, well being and — most importantly — a more vital sense of control and participation in your life.

However, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is not a miracle cure. In fact it requires a strong and determined commitment to gentle but rigorous daily disciplines of meditation and relaxation, throughout the entire eight weeks of the program and beyond.

Visit the website of UMass Medical Center for details of local MBSR practitioners.

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