If you pay attention to health-related news, you may have heard talk of mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR for short. But, what is it and what does it do?
By definition, MBSR is a healing approach that combines meditation and yoga to address unconscious thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are believed to increase stress and undermine health. Multiple scientific studies have found that using this approach helps with pain relief, stress management and allows better sleep.
This is important not only for your aging loved ones, but also for caregivers, who have their own share of worries and stress as they juggle caring for a parent, a job and their kids.
One study specific to older adults, found that mindfulness meditation reduced feelings of loneliness. Another study suggested that mindfulness may be advantageous for promoting cognitive, emotional and physical health in order adults, even for those with little to no psychological symptoms. And it said that this type of training could be easily integrated into programs at senior centers, etc. Yet another study found that older adults showed improvements in the severity of their worry, memory and executive function (planning, organizing, etc.) by using MBSR.
In the general population, those who use mindfulness training may enjoy the benefits of: higher brain functioning, increased immune function, lowered blood pressure, lowered heart rate, increased awareness, increased attention and focus, increased clarity in thinking and perception, lowered anxiety levels, experience of being calm and internally still and experience of feeling connected.
Mindfulness techniques often include the following elements:
- Awareness: Being tuned into what is happening in the present moment, including sights, sounds, smells or physical sensations you might usually ignore.
- Focus: Paying attention to the present moment, without thinking about past or future events.
- Acceptance: Accepting whatever you might be feeling or thinking, without judging it or trying to change it or your reactions.
- Observation: Recognizing unpleasant sensations, thoughts, feelings as temporary and fleeting, observing them objectively without reaction or judgment.
Here are just a few ways to learn more about, and try MBSR:
- The MBSR program by Jon Kabat-Zinn is the most studied program. Audio-recorded guided meditations are available for purchase at www.mindfulnesscds.com
- A free online mindfulness course is offered at www.palousemindfulness.com
- Smartphone apps such as Headspace, Simply Being or The Mindfulness App.
- Your local library, community center or hospital may offer in-person classes as well.