Health Benefits of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Group class sitting and meditating
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Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a healing approach that combines meditation and yoga. Developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction aims to address the unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors thought to increase stress and undermine your health.

What It Involves

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is an eight-week program that involves training in mindfulness meditation and yoga. Participants generally meet once weekly.

In mindfulness meditation, individuals strive to cultivate a greater awareness of the present moment. By increasing their mindfulness, participants in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction aim to reduce their overall arousal and emotional reactivity and to gain a deeper sense of calm.

Uses

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is said to benefit individuals dealing with the following health conditions or problems:

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Anger
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep problems

Benefits 

Here's a look at Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction's potential health benefits, as tested in scientific studies:

Pain Relief

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction may help relieve pain and improve psychological well-being in people dealing with chronic pain conditions, according to a study published in 2010. Researchers found that study members with arthritis showed the greatest improvement in health-related quality of life after undergoing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, while participants with chronic headache/migraine had the smallest improvement.

Stress Management

For a report published in 2009, scientists sized up ten studies on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and found that the program is able to reduce stress levels in healthy people. MBSR also appeared to reduce anxiety and increase empathy.

Better Sleep

Some studies suggest that MBSR may help reduce certain factors (such as worrying) that contribute to sleep problems, according to a report published in 2007. However, in their analysis of seven studies on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and sleep disturbance, the report's authors found insufficient evidence of MBSR's ability to significantly improve sleep quality and duration.

Depression Relapse Prevention

Research also suggests that mindfulness approaches may help prevent the reoccurrence of depressive symptoms. Because this mindfulness-based approach focuses on altering negative thought patterns, it can help prevent people from developing negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves. One study found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy was as effective as antidepressants for preventing depression relapse.

Bias Reduction

Another benefit of mindfulness-based approaches is that they can often help people overcome previously existing association such as biased beliefs. One study found that mindfulness techniques had a positive impact on reducing age and racial biases as measured by implicit association tests.

Cognitive Improvements 

Research also suggests that mindfulness-based approaches may also have cognitive benefits. One study found that four sessions of meditation training led to improvements in verbal fluency, mood, visual coding, and working memory. There were also improvements in visual-spatial processing and executive functioning.

Trying Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

If you're considering the use of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, make sure to pursue training at a university medical center, hospital, or clinic, where classes are taught by qualified health professionals. If you're thinking about using it for a health condition, make sure to consult your primary care provider first. It's important to note that self-treating a condition and delaying or avoiding standard care may have serious consequences.

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Article Sources
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  2. Lueke A, Gibson B. Mindfulness meditation reduces implicit age and race bias: the role of reduced automaticity of responding. Social Psychological and Personality Science. 2014;6(3):284-291. doi:10.1177/1948550614559651

  3. Zeidan F, Johnson SK, Diamond BJ, David Z, Goolkasian P. Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training. Conscious Cogn. 2010;19(2):597-605. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2010.03.014

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