Stress has always been a factor in the human experience, but psychologists have noted exceptionally high and persistent stress levels among many Americans in recent years. Surveys put out to the public have logged an average stress rating of 5.6 out of 10. In those surveys, a rating of 1 means “little or no stress,” while ten standards “a great deal of stress.”
This elevated stress level has many reaching for any solution that can bring them some relief. Some still seek prescription solutions to their problems, but others are interested in non-medical interventions to help with whatever stresses they are currently facing. One choice is something known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
At SoCal Mental Health, one of the Orange County treatment services offered is mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). When combined with other forms of treatment, MBSR can help reduce symptoms of mental health disorders.
What is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a practice led by an instructor who guides their students in weekly practices such as meditation or yoga. The purpose of this technique is to use the natural power of the human mind to work on lower stress levels and assist with other ailments. During a mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy session, the goal is to stay in the present moment to avoid worrying about the past or future.
MBSR therapy is suggested to be used alongside other therapeutic methods to help with mental health disorders. MBSR can help reduce stress and reduce symptoms of mental health disorders when used with other therapies. During an MBSR session or group, mindfulness techniques can be learned to be used in daily life.
Practitioners of MBSR often report a multitude of different types of benefits that they may receive from the practice. Mindfulness-based stress reduction can help stay in the present moment and develop a focus of attention.
Common benefits of mindfulness-based stress reduction can include:
- Reduced Stress Levels – A natural decline in the feeling of stress is typical for practitioners of MBSR. It is considered one of the best upsides to practicing this technique, and most who go through this state that they can at least better manage the feelings of stress they experience after going through an MBSR session.
- Pain Relief – Stress can have physical manifestations as well as psychological ones. It is not out of the ordinary for people to report that they have physical pain directly associated with the stress load they are carrying on their shoulders. The pain experienced by those with high-stress limitations often shows up as headaches or migraines, which can be highly unpleasant. However, they may begin to dissolve when practicing MBSR.
- Reduced Anxiety and Depression – Roughly 30% of all adults will experience anxiety in their lifetime, according to the best estimates. A more minor but not insignificant percentage of adults (roughly 5%) will meet the criteria for having clinical depression. Both ailments can be reduced through the use of repeated sessions of MBSR.
This is not to say that one’s anxiety and depression will completely go away by using MBSR, but it may be possible to see a reduction in symptoms when practicing MBSR.
These are just a few of the benefits that practitioners report.
Types of Practices within MBSR
“Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” is an umbrella term with several practices. Each session may be a little different, and instructors may offer a variety of mindfulness techniques.
Some of those techniques include:
- Breathing Exercises – Everyone breathes throughout the day. It is something that is done involuntarily, and it is done to keep us alive. However, most of us don’t pay much attention to our breathing. It is so common and a part of our life that we feel we can easily ignore it without any consequences. However, taking time to practice breathing exercises is a great way to bring some stress relief into our lives.
- Group Therapy/Dialogue – Sitting around and talking with strangers isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but it does help many. Speaking with others going through the turmoil of depression, anxiety, and more is a great way to help find relief from some of the worst of these issues.
- Meditation – The practice of meditation isn’t just for some distant and isolated monks to practice. Instead, this ancient art is appreciated and practiced by people from all walks of life. It is recognized for its usefulness in reducing the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even high blood pressure. Many people incorporate it into their daily life to find some relief from the stresses and the grind of their day-to-day existence.
- Gratitude Journaling – It is surprisingly helpful to write down your feelings when you experience something that is particularly positive. Taking notes about moments of gratitude is a great way to rewire the brain to think about the positive things that are happening in one’s life. It is truly one of the best ways to care for the mind.
Some or all of these practices may be incorporated into MBSR sessions. It is often the case that instructors will rotate which types of procedures are used. This allows people in the lessons to experience the full scope of what MBSR offers, making it possible for them to enjoy some of the numerous benefits of this practice.