Since last year we have all heard a lot about how these are unprecedented times. Though the sentiment is meant to encapsulate the strange reality of pandemic life, it can also apply to the rise in anxiety in the global population. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” A report seeking to track the upward trend of increased anxiety in adults found that “Anxiety increased from 5.12% in 2008 to 6.68% in 2018 (p < 0.0001) among adult Americans.” So if 40 million adults 18 and older are affected by anxiety, and anxiety is increasing by 1.56% every two years, then research suggests that over 624,000 additional people are currently suffering with anxiety today. These numbers are not reflective of the increased pandemic anxiety since 2020 as such statistic trends are still currently being researched.
These are unprecedented times, especially for our mental health! People are in need of peace. So how can MBSR help?
MBSR is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. It was “developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center’s Stress Reduction Clinic.” It is an intensive course—typically eight weekly sessions, around 3 hours each—but with regular training participants learn to maintain stress triggers “from reacting to responding, with the latter involving a clearer perception of the circumstances through being in touch with the thoughts, sensations and emotions that are present.” The aim of the practice is to have a consciously longer and equally more manageable response time between stimuli (like anger, fear, uncertainty) and response (like anxiety symptoms). Stress is a natural part of life, but managing stress makes living life a little bit easier. The evidence is overwhelmingly favourable for this technique. In 2010, Psychology Today reported “[MBSR] is in over 250 hospitals around the country and many more around the world supporting people with stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, alleviating stress related to medical conditions and much more.”
So how does it work?
Well mindfulness is not exactly a new concept. In fact, the premise behind mindfulness “can be traced to Burmese Buddhist reform movements of the first half of the 20th century.” The act of purposeful meditation that scholars acknowledge has influenced MBSR techniques can even be traced to “similar innovations [that] arose in medieval Chinese Zen (Chan) and Tibetan Dzogchen.” Essentially that means that these modern practices have been distilled over centuries and cultures! Now in modernity we can still utilize these practices to help alleviate our stress.
Specifically, MBSR training practices include “highly skilled mindfulness training, meditation training, mindful movement, exploration of mindfulness in daily life, education about the causes and effects of stress, facilitated class discussions, other mindfulness exercises, and daily home assignments.” After the aforementioned eight-week course, participants experience a variety of benefits. A study conducted in 2014 had the following concluding results to report: “Paired t tests showed that from baseline to post-MBSR patients had decreased social anxiety, depression, rumination, and state anxiety, as well as increased self-esteem.” Everyone needs a little bit more of these kinds of results in their life, right?
Well, where can you practice MBSR?
There are courses all over the world! One of the few benefits of the current global pandemic is how people have adapted to conducting their business online. There are hundreds of online MBSR programs available right now. Make sure to do your research before entrusting your money and your mental health to an online program. All reputable teachers of MBSR should be certified and trained by institutions that base their teachings off the works of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center’s Stress Reduction Clinic. You can find a comprehensive directory of certified MBSR instructors at Mindful Leader.
Tap in to the training that has helped people find peace for centuries. Look in to MBSR and see if it is right for you!