Next Course: Term 4, 2016 in East Maitland
Please contact Kara to register your interest: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was created by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979, at the Medical Centre at the University of Massachusetts. Kabat-Zinn worked with patients in the chronic pain unit of the hospital, for whom medication was not working. The progressive set of mindfulness practices in the MBSR program, delivered in a group format, helped the patients to develop the ability to see pain more objectively. They learned how to relate to their pain differently, and then it caused them less suffering.
MBSR is a structured eight-week program with
- 2 – 2.5hr classes each week;
- a day-long practice day (10am – 4:30pm) between week 6 and 7;
- daily home practice for 6 days per week during the course.
Kara is available to teach MBSR courses for organisations in the Hunter Valley Region. Please contact Kara if you would like to discuss bringing MBSR into your organisation.
How MBSR Works
To explain how the MBSR practice works, a quote by psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl:
“Between stimulus and response there’s a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response, in our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
In other words, there’s a moment of choice before we react to stress and pain in life.
However, for most of us, we’re unaware of this space “between stimulus and response” because we get caught in habitual, conditioned patterns of reacting to life.
Maybe a car cuts us off and we have the thought, “what is wrong with that person,” while our heart begins to beat faster and our hands begin to sweat. Anger boils within and feeds thinking about how he needs to be taught a lesson. We speed up next to him to stare him down letting him know that what he did was wrong.
This stressful and highly unpleasant situation is fueled by the ongoing, and unconscious, interaction between thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviour. The driver, so conditioned to react in the way that she did, and unaware of her stress response, did not have the skills or opportunity to choose different behaviour. However, there was a space or spaces in between the moment she was cut off and the reaction that ensued.
The MBSR program helps us become more aware of these habitual reactions and helps us relate to ourselves in a new way, to interrupt this cycle and create more choice in life. We become more aware of our reactions. In that moment when we notice our heart beat quicken, or our face flush, or our jaw tighten – a stress response – we are present and are sitting in that space between stimulus and response. We can then choose to ground our attention before we choose how we will proceed.
In doing the work of this program, participants begin to realize that they can break through long-held fears and patterns and face difficult times with greater ease.
An interesting and informative video about MBSR from the Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts: https://youtu.be/lZCOqsSGu4w
Some of the Research Supporting the Efficacy of MBSR
In the last 20 years there has been a huge amount of research pointing to the usefulness of mindfulness training for increasing health and well-being, for dealing with stress and to enhance interpersonal skills and performance.
Mindfulness is a skill that anyone can develop and we now know that mindfulness training literally re-sculpts your brain.
Studies at Harvard and elsewhere have shown that after just eight weeks of training there is a significant increase in brain grey matter concentration in areas associated with sustained attention, emotional regulation and perspective taking. (1)
Brain changes and immune functioning
Mindfulness training also increases activity in the left prefrontal cortex – a predictor of happiness and well-being. And it boosts your immune response, helping to defend against illness. (2)
Anxiety, depressions, stress
Mindfulness training gives you more insight into your emotions and it increases your level of attention and concentration. It’s been proven to help with stress, anxiety, depression and addictive behaviours and has a positive effect on physical problems like hypertension, heart disease and chronic pain. (3)
Rational decision making
People who have trained in mindfulness have been shown to make more rational decisions. At times of economic decision making, meditators activate a different network of brain areas compared with non-meditators and that enables them to uncouple negative emotional reactions from their behaviour. (4)
Meditation has been found to be a highly effective means of training managers in corporate social responsibility. The training significantly raises managers’ levels of care and concern – and that changes their behaviour. (5)
Working under pressure
A study carried out in the US Marine Corps found that those Marines who trained in mindfulness experienced improved mood and working memory. Under pressure, they were more capable of complex thought and problem solving and they had better control of their emotions. Mindfulness training reduces the functional impairments associated with high-stress challenges that demand high levels of cognitive control, self-awareness, situational awareness and emotional regulation. (6)
Emotional intelligence and relationships
Mindfulness training has also been shown to raise one’s level of emotional intelligence and improve relationships. Those completing a course of mindfulness training show significant improvements with respect to emotional intelligence, perceived stress and mental health compared to others. (7)
- “Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.” Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 2011; 191 (1): 36 Lazar, SW, Holzel, BK, et al.
- “Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation” Davison, RJ, Kabat-Zinn, J., et al, Psychosom Med. 2003 Jul-Aug;65(4):564-70.
- Grossman et al: “MBSR and Health Benefits: A Meta-analysis, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Gossman et al: 57 (2004) 35-43.
- Kirk U, Downar J, and Montague PR (2011) Interoception drives increased rational decision-making in meditators playing the ultimatum game. Front. Neurosci. 5:49.
- “Mindfulness: Foundations of Corporate Citizenship,” in J. Andrioff and M. McIntosh (eds.): Perspectives on Corporate Citizenship (Sheffield: Greenleaf Publishing, 2001): 26–38.
- “Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience.” Jha, Amishi P., et al, Emotion, Vol 10(1), Feb 2010, 54-64.
- “Mindfulness Based Relationship Enhancement”, Carson, JW., Behavior Therapy, 35, 471–494, 2004