Reduce Stress with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Reduce Stress with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“We’ve seen this in the clinical domain for many years. People, in concert with their physicians… actually going off their medications for pain, for anxiety, for depression, as they begin to learn the self-regulatory elements of mindfulness. They discover that the things that used to be symptomatically problematic for them are no longer arising at the same level.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn


Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in improving physical and psychological health. One reason for these benefits is that mindfulness training improves the individual’s physical and psychological reactions to stress. Stress is an integral part of life, that is actually essential to the health of the body. In moderation, it is healthful, strengthening, and provides interest and fun to life. If stress, is high or is prolonged, however, it can be problematic. It can significantly damage our physical and mental health and even reduce our longevity, leading to premature deaths. So, it is important that we develop methods to either reduce or control high or prolonged stress or reduce our responses to it.


Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. In today’s Research News article “Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in a Self-Selecting and Self-Paying Community Setting.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Juul and colleagues recruited healthy adults who self-selected and paid to participate in an 8-week program of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The program consisted of once weekly 2.5-hour sessions and assigned home practice of meditation, yoga, body scan and discussion. The participants were measured on-line before and after training for mindfulness, perceived stress, anxiety, and depression.


They found that following MBSR training there were significant decreases, with large effect sizes, in perceived stress and significant increases in mindfulness, including the describing, observing, acting with awareness, non-judging, and non-reacting facets. The improvements in perceived stress were significantly greater in the 38% of participants who indicated that their perceived stress was very high. Juul and colleagues compared these results to those obtained in a comparable randomized controlled trial with assigned, non-paying, participants. They found that the reductions in perceived stress were significantly larger in the current study with self-selected, paying, participants than the reduction in the comparison study.


These results suggest that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is effective in relieving stress in otherwise healthy individuals. This has been previously observed. The present study, however, also suggests that the stress reduction is greatest in highly stressed individuals and in people who self-select and pay for the program. Paying for the program is thought to produce high levels of motivation and high expectations for positive benefits. These motivation and expectancy effects maybe important in producing large improvements in perceive stress.


So, reduce stress with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).


“When we treat stress as an opportunity instead of a threat, we can change our mindset and meet the challenge head-on, contributing to our own growth and development instead of throwing up our hands and waiting to be swallowed whole. So, how do we turn our “stressed” into “desserts?” What can we do to turn times of struggle into opportunities for positive change? Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has answers.” – Positive Psychology


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Juul, L., Pallesen, K. J., Piet, J., Parsons, C., & Fjorback, L. O. (2018). Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in a Self-Selecting and Self-Paying Community Setting. Mindfulness, 9(4), 1288–1298.



We aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) when implemented in a community setting as a self-referred and self-paid course. Pre-post changes and Cohen’s d effect sizes were calculated for questionnaire measures of mindfulness, perceived stress, and symptoms of anxiety and depression. We compared these effect sizes with those from intervention groups in randomized controlled trials (RCTs), with populations similar to our study sample. These RCTs reported significant effects of MBSR compared to control condition. MBSR was delivered in three different Danish cities by ten different MBSR teachers with various professional backgrounds and MBSR teaching experience. One hundred and thirty-two participants were included in the study: 79% were women, mean age 45 ± 10.4 years, 75% of the participants had more than 15 years of education, 38% had a Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) score≥18, and 27% had a history of mental disorder. Post MBSR, the proportion of participants with a PSS≥18 decreased by 16% points (95%CI −26 to −6), p = 0.0032. Within-group effect sizes for (i) the total study population (ii) the subgroup with PSS≥18 at baseline (iii) intervention group in reference RCTs were as follows: PSS: d = 0.50:1.47:1.00, Symptom Check List 5: d = 0.48:0.81:0.77, Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire: d = 0.67:1.09:1.00. Our results showed that MBSR was effective. The effects were largest among the participants reporting highest perceived stress level at baseline. Our participants were mainly women who were middle-aged, with high educational levels, and more perceived stress and a greater history of mental disorder than the general population, and who were able to seek out and pay for an MBSR course. Reaching vulnerable groups with a clear need for stress management will, however, require other implementation strategies.


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