Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) is an effective method of coping with stress (Baer, Carmody & Hunsinger, 2012; Hölzel et al., 2011; Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004). During the last three decades, like many other complementary and alternative strategies for clinical and non-clinical problems, mindfulness strategies for the reduction of stress have gained recognition as a viable means of mitigating stress (Roeser et al., 2013). Mindfulness originated from a Buddhist tradition designed to reduce mental suffering (Carmody, Baer, Lykins & Olendzki, 2009). It is a practice of awareness of experience without judgment (Davis & Hayes, 2011). Practitioners of mindfulness learn to accept their circumstances rather than to engage in negative thinking, deactivating the vicious cycle of stress and worry. MBSR has been successful at reducing stress in a variety of circumstances including teaching, terminal cancer, and for the stressors of daily life (Baer et al., 2012; Nyklíček, Mommersteeg, Van Beugen, Ramakers, & Van Boxtel, 2013; Roeser et al., 2013).

Explaining Efficacy of MBSR

Originally, mindfulness was thought to affect the fight or flight response. When a practitioner of MBSR perceives a threat, they are less likely to engage in the negative thought patterns associated with stress. Instead, they are able to perceive their circumstances without judgment, which reduces the stress experienced from worry and rumination. More recently, MBSR has been shown to affect structural changes in the brain, specifically an increase in gray matter in the hippocampus, and right anterior insula, which are involved in emotional regulation and awareness, respectively (Hölzel et al., 2011). Brain plasticity, specifically plasticity of the neural system is reflected in an increase of gray matter as well as improved functioning in performance associated with the particular brain region. Hölzel et al. (2011) found an increase in gray matter in two brain regions; one associated with the production of norephinephrine, and the other of serotonin. As is commonly known, intervening in the serotonin system has had a powerful affect on depression, anxiety, and a range of psychological issues. The norephinephrine system has been associated with modulating responses to environmental demands (Hölzel et al., 2011).

Contraindications and Cautions for MBSR
There are a few contraindications for MBSR and caution is advised for choosing a capable and legitimate instructor (Dobkin, Irving, & Amar, 2012). Participants should not attend a class if they have a medical issue or serious psychological reaction to the training. This type of training may be contraindicated for individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder and addictions. Further, it may not be suitable for severely depressed individuals (Dobkin, Irving, & Amar, 2012).


Baer, R. A., Carmody, J., & Hunsinger, M. (2012). Weekly Change in Mindfulness and Perceived Stress in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program. Journal Of Clinical Psychology, 68(7), 755-765. doi:10.1002/jclp.21865

Carmody, J., Baer, R. A., Lykins, E., & Olendzki, N. (2009). An empirical study of the mechanisms of mindfulness in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal Of Clinical Psychology, 65(6), 613-626. doi:10.1002/jclp.20579

Dobkin, P. L., Irving, J. A., & Amar, S. (2012). For Whom May Participation in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program be Contraindicated? (Report). Mindfulness, (1). 44. doi: 10.1007/s12671-011-0079-9

Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, 35–43. doi:10.1016/S0022-3999(03)00573-7

Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, (1), 36. doi:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006

Nyklíček, I., Mommersteeg, P. C., Van Beugen, S., Ramakers, C., & Van Boxtel, G. J. (2013). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and physiological activity during acute stress: A randomized controlled trial. Health Psychology, 32(10), 1110-1113. doi:10.1037/a0032200

Roeser, R. W., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Jha, A., Cullen, M., Wallace, L., Wilensky, R., & ... Harrison, J. (2013). Mindfulness training and reductions in teacher stress and burnout: Results from two randomized, waitlist-control field trials. Journal Of Educational Psychology, 105(3), 787-804. doi:10.1037/a0032093

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