MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction)

How mindfulness reduces stress and improves health

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Heather Goldstone, WCAI: In 1971, Jon Kabat-Zinn finished his Ph.D. in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate, Salvador Luria, at M.I.T. Then, he took what might be considered a left turn – he went to study with Buddhist masters. Several years later, he drew on both his training in both biology and Buddhism when he founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at U. Mass. Medical School and created the first course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

“It seems like ‘wow, what a gigantic shift from molecular biology to Buddhist meditative practices,'” says Kabat-Zinn. “But it wasn’t so much of a shift for me because ever since I was very young, I was interested in consciousness, and how it evolved, and the biology of consciousness.”

Kabat-Zinn says he’d gone into biology to try to answer some of those questions, and that meditation offered another way to study oneself and explore what fundamentally makes us human.

Of course, in the 1970’s, when Kabat-Zinn began his work, there were no scientific studies about mindfulness. He credits his M.I.T. credentials with convincing colleagues to give him the benefit of the doubt.

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“Of course, I didn’t know what I was doing,” he says. “I was feeling my way with that intuition that came from just being young and wanting to understand things that nobody was looking at.”

Now, there are hundreds of increasingly rigorous studies showing that mindfulness training and the practice of meditation can produce measurable biological changes. Meditation changes the structure of the brain, enhancing regions responsible for learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, and perspective taking, while thinning areas involved in stress responses. In clinical trials, mindfulness training also appears to suppress inflammation pathways, boost cell-mediated immunity, and slow some aspects of biological aging.

Kabat-Zinn says that it’s important to realize that the science of mindfulness is “really, truly in its infancy.” While much of the research is “rigorous, out of very reputable labs, published in top-tier journals,” he acknowledges that some of the studies out there are not top of the line. And, he says, this is a complex subject that will take decades to work out.

“What people are trying to do is drill down to the mechanism,” he explains “Mindfulness seems to be beneficial on so many different levels, it’s like ‘how can that be?'”

As with anything that seems to good to be true, Kabat-Zinn says it’s important to question whether there are any potential risks from mindfulness meditation.

“The biggest negative effect, so to speak, would be that you run into mental states that you really don’t want to pay any attention to – like boredom, or anxiety or panic – because you’re going to be welcoming and embracing any state of mind and body to arise.”

While that may not be a good idea for some people, Kabat-Zinn says that the quality of the teacher can be important in determining the outcome of mindfulness training.

For himself, Kabat-Zinn says he’d still be practicing mindfulness – even if there were no science to back it up – simply because of the enhanced quality of life he experiences as a result.

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Power of positive thinking skews mindfulness studies

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Anna Nowogrodzki, Scientific American: There’s a little too much wishful thinking about mindfulness, and it is skewing how researchers report their studies of the technique.

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, analyzed 124 published trials of mindfulness as a mental-health treatment, and found that scientists reported positive findings 60% more often than is statistically likely. The team also examined another 21 trials that were registered with databases such as ClinicalTrials.gov; of these, 62% were unpublished 30 months after they finished. The findings—reported in PLoS ONE on April 8— hint that negative results are going unpublished.

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Mental-health treatments that focus on this method include mindfulness-based stress reduction—an 8-week group-based programme that includes yoga and daily meditation—and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

A bias toward publishing studies that find the technique to be effective withholds important information from mental-health clinicians and patients, says Christopher Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University in Florida, who was not involved in the study. “I think this is a very important finding,” he adds. “We’ll invest a lot of social and financial capital in these issues, and a lot of that can be misplaced unless we have good data.”…

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Mindfulness key to dealing with holiday stress

wildmind meditation newsTom Ayers, Chronicle Herald: The holiday season can be stressful, what with office parties, gatherings of friends and family, and nearly constant reminders to shop for presents.

Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, have proven health benefits and can help with the stress, said Simon Sherry, a practising psychologist and researcher at Dalhousie University.

But while people may believe the Christmas holidays are the most stressful time of year, studies show they are actually beneficial to people’s mental health, he said.

“There is actually a substantive body of research on the Christmas season,” he said. “It shows that Christmas has a generally positive and generally …

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Mindfulness training helps patients with inflammatory bowel diseases

wildmind meditation newsWK Health: Training in meditation and other mindfulness-based techniques brings lasting improvements in mental health and quality of life for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), according to a study in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, official journal of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

“Our study provides support for the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of a tailored mindfulness-based group intervention for patients with IBD,” concludes the research report by Dr. David Castle, a psychiatrist at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues. More research is needed to demonstrate the clinical benefits of mindfulness techniques–including whether they can help to reduce IBD symptoms and relapses.

Mindfulness Reduces Anxiety and Depression in IBD Patients

The researchers evaluated a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program tailored for patients with IBD. The study included 60 adults with IBD: Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. The patients’ average age was 36 years, and average duration of IBD 11 years. Twenty-four patients had active disease at the time of the study.

The MBSR intervention consisted of eight weekly group sessions plus a daylong intensive session, led by an experienced instructor. The program included guided meditations, exercises designed to enhance mindfulness in daily life, and group discussions of challenges and experiences. Participants were also encouraged to perform daily “mindfulness meditation” at home.

Thirty-three patients agreed to participate in the MBSR intervention, 27 of whom completed the program. Ratings of mental health, quality of life, and mindfulness were compared to those of the 27 patients who chose not to participate (mainly because of travel time).

The MBSR participants had greater reductions in anxiety and depression scores, as well as improvement in physical and psychological quality of life. They also had higher scores on a questionnaire measuring various aspects of mindfulness–for example, awareness of inner and outer experiences.

Six months later, MBSR participants still had significant reduction in depression and improvement in quality of life, with a trend toward reduced anxiety. The patients were highly satisfied with the mindfulness intervention.

Anxiety, depression, and decreased quality of life are common in patients with IBD. Psychological distress may lead to increased IBD symptoms and play a role in triggering disease flare-ups. Previous studies have shown benefits of MBSR for patients with a wide range of physical illnesses, but there is limited evidence on mindfulness-based interventions for patients with IBD.

The new results show that the MBSR approach is feasible and well-accepted by patients with IBD. The study also suggests that training patients in mindfulness practices to follow in daily life can lead to significant and lasting benefits, including reduced psychological distress and improved quality of life. Dr. Castle comments, “This work reinforces the interaction between physical and mental aspects of functioning, and underscores the importance of addressing both aspects in all our patients.”

The researchers point out some important limitations of their study–including the fact that patients weren’t randomly assigned to MBSR and control groups. They also note that the study didn’t assess the impact on measures of disease activity, including IBD flares. Dr. Castle and colleagues conclude, “A larger adequately powered, randomised study with an active control arm is warranted to evaluate the effectiveness of a mindfulness group program for patients with IBD in a definitive manner.”

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Meditation trickles down to ‘regular’ people

wildmind meditation newsKathleen McLaughlin, The Bulletin: When Kevin Meyer picked up Transcendental Meditation in 1971, the practice was sweeping college campuses. The Beatles had made a pilgrimage to India a few years earlier, so meditation was cool, but it also required some pretty big life changes.

“It was a struggle because you couldn’t drink or smoke pot for 30 days before the training,” Meyer said. In that way, he said, meditation was like a “counter-culture to the counter-culture.”

Meyer, 63, has been meditating off and on since his days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, mainly because of the calming effect it has on his everyday life. Meditating first thing …

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Mindfulness and chronic pain: every moment is a new chance

Pain always seems worse at night. Something about the silence amplifies the suffering. Even after you’ve taken the maximum dose of painkillers, the aching soon returns with a vengeance. You want to do something, anything, to stop the pain, but whatever you try seems to fail. Moving hurts. Doing nothing hurts. Ignoring it hurts. But it’s not just the pain that hurts; your mind can start to suffer as you desperately try to find a way of escaping. Pointed and bitter questions can begin nagging at your soul: What will happen if I don’t recover? What if it gets worse? I can’t cope with this. Please, I just want it to stop. . . .

You Are Not Your Pain Vidyamala BurchWe wrote this book to help you cope with pain, illness, and stress in times such as these. It will teach you how to reduce your suffering progressively, so that you can begin living life to the fullest once again. It may not completely eliminate your suffering, but it will ensure that it no longer dominates your life. You’ll discover that it is possible to be at peace, even if illness and pain are unavoidable, and to enjoy a fulfilling life.

We know this to be true because we have both experienced terrible injuries and used an ancient form of meditation known as mindfulness to ease our suffering. The techniques in this book have been proven to work by doctors and scientists in universities around the world. Mindfulness is so effective that doctors and specialist pain clinics now refer their patients to our Breathworks center in Manchester, UK, and to courses run by our affiliated trainers around the world. Every day we help people find peace amid their suffering.

This book and the accompanying CD reveal a series of simple practices that you can incorporate into daily life to significantly reduce your pain, anguish, and stress. They are built on Mindfulness-Based Pain Management (MBPM), which has its roots in the groundbreaking work of Dr. Jon  Kabat- Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. The MBPM program itself was developed by Vidyamala Burch (coauthor of this book) as a means of coping with the after effects of two serious accidents. Although originally designed to reduce physical pain and suffering, it has proven to be an effective stress-reduction technique as well. The core mindfulness meditation techniques have been shown in many clinical trials to be at least as effective as drugs or counseling for relieving anxiety, stress, and depression.

When it comes to pain, clinical trials show that mindfulness can be as effective as the most commonly prescribed painkillers, and some studies have shown it to be as powerful as morphine. Imaging studies show that it soothes the brain patterns underlying pain, and over time, these changes take root and alter the structure of the brain itself so that you no longer feel pain with the same intensity. And when it does arise, the pain no longer dominates your life. Many people report that their pain declines to such a degree that they barely notice it at all.

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Meditation changes your brain for the better; treats migraines and cognitive impairment

Lecia Bushak, Medical Daily: Meditation can alter the brain — and new research shows that it can be used as therapy for cognitive impairment and migraines.

We already know that meditation is good for our mental and physical health, but more and more evidence is delineating just how valuable it could be as an addition to our daily lives.

In a new research report, researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center examined the efficacy of a meditation and yoga program known as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) …

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How ancient practice of mindfulness is emerging into modern mental healthcare

Tabeer Shaikh, India.com: One in five Americans have suffered from mental health issues. As mental health becomes more prevalent in the discourse of overall health, medical practitioners are looking for alternative ways to alleviate depression and anxiety. One of these methods that has been garnering attention lately is mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness meditation, which has recently entered our lexicon but has been a Buddhist practice for more than 2,400 years, focuses on cultivating self-awareness, being present in the moment by paying attention, all while being non-judgmental of …

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Sati and sociopolitics: throwing the Buddha out with the bathwater?

Doug Smith, The Secular Buddhist Association: With Anderson Cooper’s enthusiastic endorsement on 60 Minutes last night, mindfulness practice is well into the mainstream. Cooper’s segment included interviews with mindfulness gurus Jon Kabat-Zinn and Chade-Meng Tan, Google employee with the job title “Jolly Good Fellow”.

As the movement has grown, there has been pushback. Some has focused on the scientific claims, but much has focused on the nexus between traditional and secularized practice. Candidly, I find myself on both sides of this issue. While there is no reason to accept the supernatural claims of traditional …

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Are you mindful? The meditation practice that’s connecting the world

James Maynard, Tech Times: Mindfulness is an ancient practice which encourages people to direct their thoughts toward the present, rather than obsessing over the past or worrying about the future. This relatively simple notion is starting to become a more common practice among people concerned with worry and fear.

Scientific studies are starting to provide evidence that the ancient practice of mindfulness can create beneficial physical changes in brains.

“I don’t feel I’m very present in each moment. I feel like every moment I’m either thinking about something that’s coming down the road, or something …

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