In recent years, there has been an increasing amount of importance placed on having good mental health. As a result of the research done, a number of new and innovative ways to optimise mental health have materialised. One such way is mindfulness-based stress reduction or MBSR therapy, which has seen its popularity soar lately.
Here, we look at what exactly it is so that you can decide whether it might be beneficial for you. In doing so, we investigate what exactly it can help with or even eliminate – for it is not just of use to those with mental health issues.
What is MBSR?
Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a programme that anyone can use to help relieve stress, depression and anxiety. It has been seen to be helpful, as well, in the alleviation of chronic pain.
It works by using a mixture of meditation and other mindfulness techniques alongside training the body through some physical exertion to help relieve mental stress. Being aware of one’s body is included in the program since it can help focus the mind by bringing a person into the present moment. Doing so causes outside pressures to be forgotten for a time, so that when a period of meditation is finished, the mind is rested and far better able to cope with stress.
The mindfulness-based stress reduction program helps give practitioners the tools to deal with emotions and feelings at times of high stress. The intention is that, in doing so, a person can far better cope with those situations. There is an overflow effect that, as their stress is reduced, they are better able to deal with other potentially stressful situations – leading to a far more stable frame of mind.
Emotions are regulated which can then have a beneficial effect on the rest of the body as the heart does not pump so hard, the body does not have to deal with sudden rushes of adrenaline, and blood pressure is reduced.
The mindfulness-based stress reduction program is eight weeks long and consists of weekly group meetings that last two and a half hours. There is also one retreat where mindfulness and meditation practice is taught intensively over a number of hourly sessions. Finally, there is a 45-minute piece of homework set every day. It may sound like a lot, but the program is trying to instil a lifelong habit to take time out from hectic lives.
What can mindfulness-based stress reduction cure?
The mindfulness-based stress reduction programme has been used in the past to help cure a number of different mental and physical issues. In terms of mental health problems, it has been seen to alleviate both the symptoms and causes of anxiety, ADHD, depression, stress, anger, and insomnia.
For physical problems, it has been seen to help in the treatment of chronic headaches or migraines as well as other forms of chronic pain. High blood pressure and fatigue are also alleviated by the mindfulness-based stress reduction program.
Additionally, while more research is needed to see the quantitative effects of the mindfulness-based stress reduction program on other ailments, it has been used alongside more traditional forms of medical treatment to help in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, skin disorders, and psychological diseases such as eating disorders.
Plus, as the programme does not include any drugs, it has been championed by midwives to help decrease the stress levels of pregnant women – particularly in their third trimester. It is hoped that it will be able to help in curing the increase in pre and postnatal mental disorders such as postnatal depression and anxiety.
How does mindfulness-based stress reduction work?
The mindfulness-based stress reduction program works by helping practitioners address unconscious thoughts and feelings that they are not aware of yet have a dramatic impact on how they behave and feel. By raising awareness of both their body and their thoughts, the aim is to slow the body and brain down to give it a chance to relax and rebalance.
In rebalancing, the breath is slowed as well as the heart rate, which has beneficial effects on the body as well as the mind. It can be seen as a way of retraining your attention to better direct it into areas that will help a person, as opposed to channelling feelings and thoughts into a greater state of anxiety. Anxiety and stress are closely linked, and not only do they have an impact on a person’s mental state, they can also impact a person’s physical health, too. By conducting regular body scans, meditation, and yoga, both the mind and body are encouraged to work together so that the health of both is materially improved.
Key takeaways on mindfulness-based stress reduction
Research has found the mindfulness-based stress reduction programme to help alleviate stress. Importantly, it has also been shown that, in the future, it is much less likely to be the problem it was before participation in the programme. That can have lasting implications and positive effects on the mind and body as a whole. These positive effects are the reason that the programme has proved worthy of inclusion in treatments for many illnesses and conditions.
However, it should only be used alongside medical treatment recommended by a trained healthcare professional. Speak to your doctor before embarking on the programme to see whether it will truly help your case and whether it is suitable for you. For, while it has been seen to be highly effective in many instances, self-diagnosing yourself and deciding upon your own course of treatment is never to be advised. Taking advice from a person who knows both your case and all the treatments available to you will always be the best way to ensure that you have an effective treatment plan.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.
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