Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: How Does It Work?

Mindfulness it is a type of meditation which includes cognitive and psychoeducational elements.

One of its quintessential programs is the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Developed in 1990 by Kabat-Zinn, American professor of medicine, expert in yoga and Zen meditation.

In this article, we will explain what this program consists of, what are its goals, components and techniques. Additionally, we will see what the empirical evidence says about its effectiveness and results, and we will learn about the characteristics and qualities of mindfulness in general.

    Mindfulness: what is it?

    Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a type of mindfulness-based program. Before explaining in detail what this program is all about, let’s take a look at what mindfulness is and what are its main components.

    Mindfulness, also known as mindfulness, encompasses a series of meditation techniques and tools designed to focus attention on the present moment. It is a contemplative experience, which seeks not to judge, only to observe and to feel.

    In addition, it includes cognitive elements such as meditation, breathing, relaxation and yoga, among others, as well as another key element: the technique of the Body Scan, centered on the experience of one’s own bodily sensations.

    This type of meditation has its origins in Zen Buddhist meditation. Kabat-Zinn is an American professor of medicine, considered an important figure in the field of mindfulness, who promotes interest in the same throughout the West. Kabat-Zinn, a leading practitioner of yoga and Zen meditation techniques, used the knowledge he gained to create the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR).


    Christopher K. Germer, doctor and creator of different Mindfulness programs, characterizes the same thing with 8 qualities: according to him, Mindfulness is a non-conceptual (where thoughts are not elaborated), present (focused on the here and now), nonevaluative processIntentional (the participant decides where their attention is directed), which involves participatory (non-judgmental), non-verbal, exploratory, and liberating observation.

    Mindfulness-based stress reduction

    Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a type of program based primarily on meditation. It corresponds to the acronym MBSR, of its English name “Mindfulness-based stress reduction program”, and was developed by Kabat-Zinn, American professor of medicine specializing in yoga and Zen meditation, in 1990.

    Mindfulness-based stress reduction, as the name suggests, it aims to reduce stress and anxiety, Either in healthy people or in people with pathology (mental or physical). In addition, it promotes attention and concentration and promotes spirituality.


    The mindfulness approach to stress reduction is psycho-educational; in other words that is to say, this program aims to provide the patient with the information he needs to understand what he is doing, What therapy is looking for and the changes it is feeling. Its structure is based on 8 weekly sessions lasting 2.5 hours each.

    This is a group program, which has recorded support material, which allows participants to train between sessions. On the other hand, through the sessions of the program, a series of guided formal instructions are administered, which allow participants to acquire the mindfulness skills necessary to reduce the strength of the stress response and the adverse effects it entails. has for people.

    The goal of mindfulness-based stress reduction is for the participant to increase their awareness of the present experience and to do so moment by moment, without judging that experience.

    empirical evidence

    In studies comparing this program in healthy subjects and in subjects with a certain type of disorder, it was verified how the enhancement effects occur in the two groups of subjects. Additionally, in another study, MBSR was compared to standard relaxation training, and the results showed how both treatments reduced stress equally.

    On the other hand, studies show that mindfulness-based stress reduction can reduce stress and anxiety, as well as reflective thinking. In addition, it was also shown how the participant’s self-compassion and empathy can increase.

    However, it is true that much more research is needed to provide reliable results and sufficient empirical evidence.


    The techniques used for mindfulness-based stress reduction are basically 5:00 PM. They are as follows.

    1. Self-examination of the body

    Self-examination of the body, also called a body scanIt consists of the patient exploring their body very consciously, focusing their attention and energy on the feeling of each part of their body. Essentially, it is about experiencing the bodily sensations that the body and the present experience provide.

    2. Mindfulness or vipassana meditation

    This can be done while sitting or walking. It involves focusing on the present moment, trying to leave the mind blank, letting thoughts flow, and applying a series of breathing techniques.

    3. Stretching and postures of Hatha Yoga

    Hatha Yoga is a type of yoga that includes a number of characteristic postures and stretches. Like all types of yoga, its goal is to unite mind with spirit and body, gaining emotional balance.

    4. Pay attention to everyday life

    Following the same line of mindfulness already mentioned, mindfulness in everyday life is another mindfulness-based stress reduction technique. It is based on paying attention to what is happening around us on a daily basis; this attention is intentional and conscious.

    5. Exercise of eating a grape with full attention

    It can also be a step. It is an exercise that aims to increase our level of consciousness, focusing on an act as light as eating a grape or a raisin, thinking about how we are feeling at all times.

    Program components

    Mindfulness-based stress reduction, like any mindfulness program, it involves a number of intrinsic components. These are essential to achieve the stress reduction that mindfulness techniques promote, as well as the emergence of inner peace and mental and spiritual well-being.

    1. Focus on the present moment

    Like any mindfulness practice, Mindfulness-based stress reduction promotes intentional focus on the present moment. The aim is to develop comprehensive and quality care that is sustained and targeted, rather than dispersed and fragmented.

    2. Openness to experience

    The second element of the MBSR is openness to experience, Which implies living and participating in it with full awareness. This experience encompasses all the thoughts and bodily sensations of the person, as well as the external stimuli that they perceive.

    3. Radical acceptance

    This unconditional acceptance means not being bothered by unpleasant experiences. and not cling to pleasurable experiences. It’s about accepting it and letting it flow.

    4. Don’t judge

    It is important that the participant does not judge himself or his experiences; the MBSR also encourages people not to judge in general. It is a program that aims to open the mind and perspective of things.

    5. Drop it control

    The final element of mindfulness-based stress reduction is based on letting go of any type of control intended to be exercised; thus, he encourages one not to seek direct control of thoughts, experiences and oneself, and to simply let things happen. In short, it encourages “to be” instead of “to do”.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Chiesa, A. and Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-analysis. J Alternative supplement Med, 15 (5): 593-600.

    • Feixas, G; Miró, T. (1993). Approaches to psychotherapy. An introduction to psychological treatments. Ed. Paidós. Barcelona.

    • Parra, M., Montañés, J., Montañés, M. and Bartomeu, R. (2012). Know mindfulness. Essays, Journal of the Faculty of Education of Albacete, 27: 29-46.

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