Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is one of the first secular based mindfulness training programs in the west. In fact, it could be argued that the development of MBSR was what launched the mindfulness movement in the west. The movement took off probably because MBSR was shown to be so very effective in the treatment of a wide range of physical, psychological, and emotional issues that plague western culture.
Stress is rampant in competitive western culture producing physical and psychological damage. MBSR’s effectiveness at calming the reactions to stress and reducing anxiety has made it a very popular.
MBSR is not a single practice. Rather it is a combination of practices including meditation, yoga, and body scan meditation. Whether all of these components are necessary for effectiveness or if some components are more effective for some conditions while others are superior for others has yet to be established with empirical evidence. This is an important issue for the understanding of the exact mechanisms by which MBSR has its effects.
It is also not known how much MBSR or how much of each component is needed to have a maximum impact. In more scientific words, a dose response study is needed. This is important to produce optimum effectiveness.
In today’s Research News Article “Effectiveness of Brief Mindfulness Techniques in Reducing Symptoms of Anxiety and Stress’
David Call and colleagues tested whether very brief, three weekly 45-min sessions of hatha yoga or body scan would be effective in reducing stress and anxiety in undergraduate students. Both practices reduced both anxiety and stress levels.
Interestingly, neither group showed a significant increase in mindfulness, possibly due to the lack of meditation practice and perhaps suggesting that yoga and body scan practices might act directly on stress and anxiety rather than by raising mindfulness that then reduced the symptoms. This contradicts the notion that mindfulness based increases in present moment awareness are the cause of the reduction in anxiety which is future oriented. It remains possible that the physiological effects of yoga and body scan on reducing the hormonal and neural responses to stress may be responsible.
The magnitude of the effects on stress and anxiety were quite large and clinically significant. It is amazing that such a brief treatment of 3 sessions of 45 minutes could have this large of an impact. It remains to be seen if the impact is lasting. Regardless, the fact that a brief simple intervention can markedly reduce stress and anxiety is exciting as it is highly scalable; rolling it out to large numbers of individuals.
So, practice yoga and/or body scan and get your calm on.