Today, mindfulness has been adopted into mainstream science and medicine, and it is used as a way to cope with stress, mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, and chronic health issues, including pain.
How It Works
Chronic Pain Symptom Relief
As mentioned above, MBSR is a program that was originally developed to help people with chronic pain.
Other Health Benefits
Research has found that MBSR can help with a number of other health conditions:
- Heart issues, such as coronary heart disease, by reducing blood pressure, stress, and symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Gastrointestinal issues, including?irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)),?by keeping practitioners in the present moment, reducing rumination about their symptoms, and easing psychological distress
- Skin conditions,?such as?psoriasis, by reducing stress, a common trigger for symptoms
- Diabetes, by helping those living with the condition manage stress and psychosocial issues that come with the lifestyle changes necessary to manage diabetes
- Menopause,?by reducing psychological symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Multiple sclerosis, by improving perceived stress and anxiety
- Quality of life in people with cancer,?by reducing anxiety, fear, and fatigue
General Health and Wellness Benefits
How to Get Started
A great way to get started with mindfulness-based stress reduction is to work with a mindfulness instructor. To find a credible teacher, go to your local medical centers and check with the integrative medicine or psychology departments. Many offer both in-person and online courses.
What to Expect From a Live MBSR Course
Fees: Is MBSR Expensive? Will Health Insurance Cover it?
The cost of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program is individually set by the hospital, clinic, or institution running the course.
Fees are typically not covered by health insurance. Generally, the price ranges from $300 to $650 for the full program, which includes class materials and the cost of the retreat.
Examples of costs of a live mindfulness-based stress reduction program at major institutions in the United States include:
- About $300 to $650 at the University of Massachusetts, with some discounts offered for employees, students, and certain health plan members.
- About $600 at the?University of California in San Diego, with discounts and scholarships available; it also offers free one-on-one phone consultations to see which mindfulness program might work for you.
- About $300 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, with discounts and scholarships available.
You can also find remote live MBSR courses online:
- About $300 to $700, on a sliding scale, at Brown University
- About $400 to $600 at Cooper Beach Institute
- About $350 to $600, on a sliding scale, at East Coast Mindfulness
- About $300 to $700 for Mindful Leader’s online class, with scholarships available
Recorded options (not live) are also available:
- MBSR Online Course?About $300 at Sounds True. Similar to the live course, this online program of downloadable content is divided into eight weekly sessions, plus an all-day self-guided retreat. Different weeks focus on different practices; in week 5, for example, participants learn to apply mindfulness when experiencing pain or other physical sensations.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to cultivating mindfulness, but if the cost of MBSR is putting you off, check out the following trial tools and bite-size samples to learn more about using mindfulness in your life.?Unlike the standard eight-week in-person class, these may not be live, interactive experiences.
- Weekly Podcast at the Hammer?Each week, the?Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) at the University of California in Los?Angeles (UCLA) holds a free, 30-minute guided meditation session at the Hammer Museum, which is then archived as a podcast. You can find them for free on MARC’s website?or download the UCLA Mindful App. One podcast that is particularly relevant?for people with rheumatoid arthritis and is available for download is on working with physical pain.
- Books Public libraries carry classic mindfulness books, e-books, and audiobooks. See Resources We Love for titles to put on your to-read list.?
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: The MBSR Program for Enhancing Health and Vitality Written by Linda Lehrhaupt and Petra Meibert, both European experts on MBSR, this book is based on the eight-week course, providing guidance through many of the steps that course participants experience and allowing readers to do the exercises on their own.
- Two-Session Course Kabat-Zinn has released a two-session course called Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief: Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your Life. The first session offers an overview on cultivating mindfulness in relationship to chronic pain. In session two, he leads listeners in guided meditations drawn from his MBSR method. (around $11 for an?audio download?on Sounds True)
- On-Demand Sessions Copper Beech Institute offers on-demand Introduction to Meditation sessions ($25) and a Seven-Day Mindfulness Challenge ($50)
$125 to $200
- MAPs for Daily Living This is the live online version of the six-week MAPs (Mindful Awareness Practices) program offered by MARC. Classes meet once a week for two hours, and the program costs $200. A recorded webinar option allows you to go at your own pace, with eight weeks of access to the course materials, for $125.
Considerations and Risks
Resources We Love
Favorite Organizations for Info on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
This online resource for all things mindfulness offers a primer on how to meditate and articles focusing on mindfulness and sleep, anxiety, and children. The site also features a bimonthly magazine, online mindfulness courses, and a directory of mindfulness teachers and events.
This is the official site offering three series of guided meditation practices developed and voiced by Kabat-Zinn. Each series is available for digital download at $20, or the set of three can be purchased for $49. The site also offers links to videos about mindfulness and meditation apps.
MARC lists Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness-based stress reduction program as a major contributor to the mindfulness programs the institution offers. On MARC’s site, you’ll find a number of meditation resources, including free guided meditations, a weekly podcast, and information on local drop-in meditations. You can also download the free UCLA Mindful App, which offers basic meditations for beginners in both English and Spanish, wellness meditations for people living with health conditions, and instructional videos.
Favorite Books About Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Written by Kabat-Zinn, this book offers a practical, step-by-step guide to practicing mindfulness meditation based on the eight-week program of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. The book describes a self-guided training program in mindfulness-based stress reduction to help readers develop a sense of self-awareness and calmness when facing the “full catastrophe” of life, which may include stress, pain, and illness.
The Miracle of Mindfulness?by Thich Nhat Hanh and Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness by Susan L. Smalley and Diana Winston are good options as well.
Favorite Apps to Practice Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Though it does not focus specifically on mindfulness-based stress reduction, Headspace is one of the most popular and well-known meditation apps. It offers a variety of guided meditations for every aspect of life, including work, kids, sleep, focus, stress, and anxiety, and can be a helpful supplement to your meditation practice during and after your eight-week course. Users can sign up for a 14-day free trial. After that, an annual subscription costs about $70.
Calm is another well-known meditation app, offering an array of meditations, calming exercises, and breathing techniques to help users relax and think mindfully. The app also features sleep stories, as well as relaxing music and nature sounds to listen to while studying, working, or going to sleep. A seven-day free trial is available, and then a subscription costs $70 per year.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Greeson J, Eisenlohr-Moul T. Chapter 12: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Chronic Pain. In:?Mindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches (Second Edition). 2014.
- Wilson J. On Mindfulness. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. 2016.
- Booth R. Master of Mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn: ‘People Are Losing Their Minds. That Is What We Need to Wake Up To'. The Guardian. October 22, 2017.
- Khan Niazi A, Khan Niazi S. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: A Non-Pharmacological Approach for Chronic Illnesses. North American Journal of Medical Sciences. January 2011.
- What Is MBSR? Institute for Mindfulness-Based Approaches.
- Gu J, Strauss C, Bond R, Cavanaugh K. How Do Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Improve Mental Health and Well-Being? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Mediation Studies. Clinical Psychology Review. April 2015.
- Lao S, Kissane D, Meadows G. Cognitive Effects of MBSR/MBCT: A Systematic Review of Neuropsychological Outcomes. Consciousness and Cognition. October 2016.
- Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga E, et al. Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine. March 2014.
- Serpa J, Taylor S, Tillisch K. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Reduces Anxiety, Depression, and Suicidal Ideation in Veterans. Medical Care. December 2014.
- Chen T, Chang S, Hsieh H, et al. Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Sleep Quality and Mental Health for Insomnia Patients: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. August 2020.
- Jones B, Kaur S, Miller M, Spencer R. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Benefits Psychological Well-Being, Sleep Quality, and Athletic Performance in Female Collegiate Rowers. Frontiers in Psychology. September 2020.
- Kabat-Zinn J, Lipworth L, Burney R. The Clinical Use of Mindfulness Meditation for the Self-Regulation of Chronic Pain. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. June 1985.
- Zeidan F, Salomons T, Faris S, et al. Neural Mechanisms Supporting the Relationship Between Dispositional Mindfulness and Pain. Pain. December 2018.
- Gard T, Holzel B, Sack A, et al. Pain Attenuation Through Mindfulness Is Associated With Decreased Cognitive Control and Increased Sensory Processing in the Brain. Cerebral Cortex. November 2012.
- St. Marie R, Talebkhah K. Neurological Evidence of a Mind-Body Connection: Mindfulness and Pain Control. The American Journal of Psychiatry. April 2018.
- Anheyer D, Haller H, Barth J, et al. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Treating Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine. April 2017.
- Pérez-Aranda A, Feliu-Soler A, Montero-Marín J, et al. A Randomized Controlled Efficacy Trial of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Compared With an Active Control Group and Usual Care for Fibromyalgia: The EUDAIMON Study. Pain. November 2019.
- Fogarty F, Booth R, Gamble G, et al. The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Disease Activity in People With Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. November 2014.
- Parswani M, Sharma M, Iyengar S. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program in Coronary Heart Disease: A Randomized Control Trial. International Journal of Yoga. Jul-Dec 2013.
- Naliboff B, Smith S, Serpa J, et al. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Improves Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms via Specific Aspects of Mindfulness. Neurogastroenterology & Motility. September 2020.
- Neilson K, Ftanou M, Monshat K, et al. A Controlled Study of a Group Mindfulness Intervention for Individuals Living With Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. March 2016.
- Kabat-Zinn J, Wheeler E, Light T, et al. Influence of a Mindfulness Meditation-Based Stress Reduction Intervention on Rates of Skin Clearing in Patients With Moderate to Severe Psoriasis Undergoing Phototherapy (UVB) and Photochemotherapy (PUVA). Psychosomatic Medicine. Sept-Oct 1998.
- Wong C, Yip B, Gao T, et al. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or Psychoeducation for the Reduction of Menopausal Symptoms: A Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial. Scientific Reports. April 2018.
- Simpson R, Mair F, Mercer S. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for People With Multiple Sclerosis — A Feasibility Randomized Controlled Trial. BMC Neurology. May 2017.
- Lengacher C, Reich R, Paterson C, et al. Examination of Broad Symptom Improvement Resulting From Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology. August? 2016.
- MBSR 8 Week Online Live Class. UMass Memorial Health.
- MBSR or MBCT: Tuition and Payment. UMass Memorial Health.
- Fees and Finance. UC San Diego School of Medicine.
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
- MBSR Training. Mindful Leader.
- FAQ: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. University of Virginia School of Medicine.