Welcome to the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. The content of the course is focused on skill development in mindfulness meditation and support for integrating mindfulness into everyday life. We hope you like it!
If you have any questions, concerns, suggestions, or comments during the course, feel free to send an email to your instructor.
What is Mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of MBSR, has defined mindfulness as the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.
Mindfulness involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our attention tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Why practice it?
Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness, even for just a few weeks, can bring a variety of physical, psychological, and social benefits. Here are some of these benefits, which extend across many different settings:
• Mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress.
• It boosts our immune system’s ability to fight off illness and it may also improve sleep quality.
• Mindfulness increases density of grey matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.
• It helps us tune out distractions and improves our memory, attention skills, and decision-making.
• Mindfulness fosters self-compassion, compassion for others, and altruism.
• It makes couples more satisfied with their relationship, makes each partner feel more optimistic and relaxed, and makes them feel more accepting of and closer to one another.
• More mindful people have a stronger sense of self and seem to act more in line with their values.
• Mindfulness may reduce pregnancy-related anxiety, stress, and depression in expectant parents, and may even reduce the risk of premature births and developmental issues. Parents who practice mindful parenting report less stress, more positive parenting practices, and better relationships with their kids; their kids, in turn, are less susceptible to depression and anxiety, and have better social skills.
• Teaching mindfulness in the classroom reduces behavior problems, aggression, and depression among students, and improves their happiness levels, self-regulation, and ability to pay attention. Teachers trained in mindfulness also show lower blood pressure, less negative emotion and symptoms of depression, less distress and urgency, greater compassion and empathy, and more effective teaching.
• Practicing mindful eating encourages healthier eating habits, and helps people lose weight. Pregnant women who practice mindful eating gain less weight during pregnancy, and have healthier babies.
The body scan involves systematically sweeping through the body with the mind, bringing an affectionate, openhearted, interested attention to its various regions.
It is not uncommon while practicing the body scan for the sensations in the body to be felt more acutely. At the same time, in the context of mindfulness practice, the sensations, whatever they are and however intense, are also being met more accurately too, with less overlay of interpretation, judgment and reaction, including aversion and the impulse to run, to escape.
In this formal meditation, we are developing a greater intimacy with bare sensation, opening to the give-and-take embedded in the reciprocity between the sensations themselves and our awareness of them. As a result, it is not uncommon to be less disturbed by them, or disturbed by them in a different, a wiser way, even when they are acute. Awareness learns to let them be as they are and to hold them without triggering so much emotional reactivity and also so much inflamed thinking about them.
Do the body scan at least six times this week. Don’t expect to feel anything in particular from this practice. In fact, give up all expectations about it. Just let your experience be your experience.
Record your experience each time you do the body scan in the Practice Log. Put just a few words to remind you of your impressions of that particular body scan: what came up, how it felt, what you noticed in terms of physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, etc. It’s important to write the comments immediately after the practice because it will be hard to reconstruct later.
Having a gratitude journal can make you more mindful, helping you to become more grounded and making it easier to notice positive things in your life.
During this first week, write about three things you are grateful for and/or things that went well during the day. E.g., the sunrise this morning, an email from a loved one, having enough to feed yourself and put a roof over your head, the sound of rain falling, etc… Use the Practice Log.
If you want to learn more about gratitude and other attitudes, watch the video below (26 minutes).
Each day this week, see if you can bring mindful awareness to some otherwise routine activity. For instance: sitting on a chair, washing the dishes, waiting in line, etc.
Use the Practice Log to record it.
All tasks completed? Move now to week 2.
If you want the Certificate of Completion, please send your Practice Log to us (firstname.lastname@example.org), using the subject line "MBSR week 1".
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