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Mindfulness-based stress reduction: Is it right for me?

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March 3, 2020
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Need to De-Stress?

It’s no secret that stress is at epidemic proportions in our world. The hustle, the commitments, the commute, the phones, the texts. It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?  Stress can compound physical and emotional issues. If you are looking to make a dramatic change in your stress levels, then you may want to look into Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at UMass Memorial’s Center for Mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?

Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program over forty years ago. In conjunction with UMass Memorial medical staff and researchers, he created MBSR as an intervention for people with chronic illness. Since that time, the benefits of mindfulness and meditation have been rigorously researched. The results are clear: mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools for addressing physical and emotional health.

The MBSR Program

The MBSR program is still going strong at UMass Memorial. It’s structured as an eight-week program, meeting once a week for 2.5 hours. After the sixth week there is an intensive all-day session. In between sessions, participants are expected to meditate for 45 minutes each day. For those not local to the program, there is an online option. The MBSR website states that participants “will be consciously and systematically working the challenges and demands of your everyday life.”

The Eights Weeks of MBSR

The MBSR program starts with introducing the theory of mind-body medicine and mindfulness. Strategies such as mindful eating and breathing are interwoven with work on how perception and our own preconceived assumptions effect the stress response. The concept of mindfulness (being awake and aware in the present moment, without judging our experience) is explored through hatha yoga poses and meditation. Participants are presented with opportunities to apply mindfulness strategies during the moments of stress. As the weeks progress, strategies are developed to carry on the practice after the program has ended.

What People Say About MBSR

Paul Galvin, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology at Framingham State University. He attended the MBSR program at the Center for Mindfulness in 2004. He taught at the center in 2010 and worked as the assistant director in 2013. Galvin states that, in one way or another, “people are suffering,” when they come to the program. Learning to apply the skills in the program is not easy; it’s challenging to practice every day. When people commit to the practice, he says, the results “are transformative.”

Who Benefits from the MBSR Program?

The skills taught in the Center for Mindfulness MBSR program are applicable to a wide range of issues. Though the program was started to help people with physical illness, eventually people with psychological began to enroll in the program. After that, people who were simply feeling overwhelmed in their lives showed up.  Over 24,000 people have enrolled in the program since its inception.

Beyond the MBSR Program-How to Stick with It

People who practice mindfulness know that it helps to have other people with whom to practice. Because of this the MBSR program schedules in-person and online meditation sessions free of charge each week. Paul Galvin says that finding a follow-up group to join can be challenging. Even so, for those who have gone through the program, “the practice is always available” to them. The mat is always there, whenever we’re ready for it.

Is MBSR Right for Me?

The MBSR program is not a “get rich quick” path to wellness and peace of mind. It’s challenging, it takes commitment, and it requires you to look deep inside your own emotions and experiences. Before you embark on the journey, ask yourself: Am I ready for a big change? Am I ready to transform the way I experience my own life?  Am I willing to change the way I see and process the world?  If you answer yes, then check out the MBSR schedule here.

Further Reading

Delehanty, Hugh,  “The Science of Meditation” December 13, 2017
Goleman, Daniel and Davidson, Richard J., Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body, Avery, New York, 2018

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