While short bursts of stress can help us to improve our ability to meet a challenge, long-term stress can have a major impact on our physical and mental health. The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme aims to reduce prolonged periods of stress which can lead to poor mental and physical health.
As a nation we are reportedly under greater stress than ever before. Said to negatively impact relationships, social lives and health and wellbeing, symptoms of stress can include anger, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, breathlessness and chest pains, resulting in periods of absence from work. Stress is therefore something that individuals may need help with. After bereavement and divorce, work is the third biggest cause of stress.
The MBSR programme incorporates techniques such as meditation, gentle movement and mind-body exercises to help people learn about stress and how to manage it. The programme enables people to gain greater clarity on what is happening in their lives.
What do participants of an 8-week MBSR programme report as the benefits of attending?
increased engagement in their work
fewer physical symptoms of stress
improvements to personal relationships
The MBSR programme has been developed and studied since the 1970s for its impact on mental health. It has been shown to reduce anxiety levels by 58% and stress by 40%. In a research study by Oxford University into individuals with “problematic” levels of stress, a significant improvement in perceived levels of stress over the course of the mindfulness intervention was found (Krusche et al, 2013). The findings of this research were consistent with other studies, which showed that changes in mindfulness “precede changes in perceived stress” (Baer et al, 2012).
Baer, R.A., Carmody, J., Hunsinger, M. (2012) Weekly Change in Mindfulness and Perceived Stress in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Programme, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68(7), 755-765.
Krusche, A., Cyhlarova E., Williams J.M.G. (2013) Mindfulness Online: An Evaluation of The Feasibility of a Web-Based Mindfulness Course For, Stress, Anxiety and Depression, British Medical Journal, October 2013(3), BMJ Open
Mindful Nation UK – All parliamentary working group Oct 2015
In 2014 an All Party Parliamentary Group for Mindfulness was formed to help ensure that public policy could keep ahead of developments in the field of neuroscience.
'The Mindful UK Report’, the first policy document of its kind, seeks to address mental health concerns in the areas of education, health, the workplace and the criminal justice system through the application of mindfulness interventions. The recommendations in this report are evidence-based, sourced directly from experienced implementers, who report notable success in their respective fields and urge policymakers to invest resources in further pilot studies and increase public access to qualified teacher trainers.
The group identified the following key areas for consideration
mindfulness as a way to improve resilience, reduce stress and anxiety, and develop creativity in the workplace
mindfulness in schools to improve classroom behaviour, attention and focus, as a strategy to raise educational standards and supporting social mobility, and to develop young people’s tools for lifelong well-being
mindfulness as a way to reduce stress and improve care, attentiveness and compassion amongst healthcare workers
mindfulness as a way to tackle depression, anxiety and stress in the criminal justice system (both staff and those in custody)
mindfulness as a way to cultivate overall health and well-being
Following on from the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group's 'Mindful Nation UK' report, 'Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace' offers a wonderful resource for anyone wishing to make the business case for Mindfulness in the Workplace.
There is an informative mindfulness resource provided by the NHS. Mindfulness is an approved treatment of stress, depression and anxiety, "Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience," says Professor Williams, "and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful."