Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR) is an established set of meditation techniques that are implemented to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and some forms of depression.
This program was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and is now used as a complementary treatment that includes several forms of meditation.
Some of these main techniques are based on breath-focused attention, body-scanning, sensory experiences and movement meditation.
The goal is always to shift the person’s attention as close to the present moment a possible. This focused awareness is believed to have a very strong influence on the cognitive processes associated with anxiety disorder, as well as the energy systems of the body.
Throughout a typical 8-week program, the student learns how to practice meditation and various body movement exercises. Influenced by yoga and ancient healing practices, this integrated method is designed to release tension blocks and help promote healthy function of the physical systems.
As the nervous system is triggered into a calmer state, emotional reactivity is greatly reduced. Due to this shift in perception experienced by the patient, mindfulness meditation is commonly used as an effective way to work through negative self-beliefs and traumatic emotions.
MBSR is now offered in over 200 medical centers, hospitals, and clinics around the world, including some of the leading integrative medical facilities.
Neuroscientists at Stanford University published this study of 14 patients who were assessed over 8 sessions. During the breath-focused attention technique, less negative emotions were felt by participants and there was reduced activity in the amygdala – the area of the brain that regulates feelings of fear among other emotions. Simultaneously, it increased activity in other regions of the brain that affected attention positively.
A year later in 2011, a study by Yale showed that meditators seem to have the ability to “switch off” areas of the brain that are associated with a cluttered mind, anxiety and even mental health conditions like schizophrenia. Brain scans showed that just by taking a bit of time to practice mindfulness, reducing activity in these areas of the brain gives us the ability to change our own mental framework.
After this study, a 2012 Harvard University study later confirmed that decreased activity in the right amygdala supports the hypothesis that meditation can improve emotional stability and a person’s response to stress.
In the end, all mental activity has a physical response in our bodies. When there’s too much stimulation and stress on our amygdala, we lose sight of our ability to self-soothe. Continually dealing with anxiety symptoms like being fatigued, tense, on edge and out of breath is hard on both the mind and the body. It can also affect the way we perceive life in an extremely positive way.