Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

by GermanUtopia

Learn how to reduce stress with mindfulness meditation exercises.

In our fast-paced time there are many factors that can lead to stress. For instance, we are requested in our daily and professional lives to multitask. Experienced on a frequent level this can result in stress. Stress can also be caused by social conflicts.

The techniques of mindfulness meditation are a simple way to cope with stress. These techniques are based on the idea of mindful awareness and can be practiced by everyone. You do not need to be especially spiritual if you want to use this method. A mindfulness meditation can be done at any place, right now in this moment.

Besides the stress reduction, these mindfulness-based exercises can also help to clear your mind by concentrating on a subject of choice. This subject can be your breath, your steps while you are walking or simply any action you are doing. You can begin with few minutes and then, with more practice, try it for a longer period if you want to.

What Is Mindful Awareness About?

The basic idea of mindfulness is to stay in the moment. By concentrating on only one subject, you let all thoughts and feelings fly by. You just notice these thoughts and feelings without fixing your mind on them and without to evaluate them. When exercising a mindfulness meditation, you don't have to let your thoughts rise to situations of the past or to worry about things that might happen in the future. The moment is essential, and you are just an observer of what you perceive at this moment. Notice everything with awareness, be conscious, but do not fix on it. Always return to the present and to your subject of focus.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as an Approved Medical Technique

While the idea of mindfulness originally goes back to the Buddhism, Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn was the one who created the method of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, abbreviated MBSR. He is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center of Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society. In his work, he combines modern medicine and the Buddhistic method of mindfulness. He is a board member of the Mind and Life Institute.


His first courses on MBSR took place 1979 with patients who were suffering from stress. There, he combined meditation with mindful awareness and Hatha Yoga techniques. The method of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction spread first across the USA and then all over the world.

Some Mindfulness Meditation Exercises

Now I will shortly describe the most common exercises of mindfulness meditation.


For the meditation, choose a quiet place where nothing can distract you (in the ideal case) and where you feel good. Choose a position which is comfortable for you. Sitting is a good position for the breath meditation because it allows you to keep conscious while you are comfortable. In the horizontal position, there is a greater risk that your mind will drift off during the meditation.


Concentrate on Your Breath


This is the simplest exercise. You have just to notice how you breathe in and out. Do not manipulate your breath while observing it. Only notice its rhythm. If it goes rapidly, chances are good that it will decelerate automatically during the meditation because you are becoming more relaxed. But if not, this is okay too. Do not expect anything and accept every observation you make. And when thoughts come into your mind, notice them without evaluating them.


Walking Meditation Exercise


Of course, to some extend you always have to pay attention to where you make your steps. Otherwise you would stumble upon whatever lays on the ground. But during the walking meditation you concentrate even stronger on every step you make. While walking with mindful awareness, do not manipulate your speed. Go as you actually go in this moment. The rest is like said before: Be conscious, notice everything, do not hang on thoughts that come into your mind and always return to the present.


Focus on Something You Do


Surely you know that: While you clean your home, usually you are not always in the present. Your mind can be in the clouds during this work. This may not affect the result of the cleaning (or whatever you do “by the way”). But if you would stay focused on this action, your mind would feel lighter. And maybe you would even enjoy a little bit of the unloved works like cleaning your house or ironing your clothes.


Of course, you can also try the mindfulness meditation with more enjoyable actions. For example, you can eat something with mindfulness. Be conscious of the taste of something you eat and how it feels exactly on your tongue. Like in all the exercises, just notice what you perceive and don't evaluate it. By the way, eating with mindful awareness forces us to eat more slowly. It is healthier to eat slowly. So our body has more time to digest the food. When you eat slowly and with pleasure, the risk of digestive disorders is much lower than when you eat rapidly.

How Can These Mindfulness-Based Exercises Reduce Stress?

When you practice the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction exercises, you will notice that you get more relaxed after a few minutes. This will happen automatically. Also, you are more conscious about what stress situations make with your body, how it feels when your neck or other parts of your body become tense then and how it feels when they are relaxed. You learn to notice the corporal and mental signs of stress which will enable you to fight it easier in your day-to-day life.

Guided Mindfulness Meditation

Especially in the beginning of your practice, it can be helpful to use a guided meditation. It helps you to keep focused on the subject and to keep conscious of the present. I once started with the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in a course. The female course instructor was competent and guided the mindfulness meditation in a sensitive way. When I tried the exercises at home in this initial period, I noticed that I got easily distracted by my thoughts so that it was more difficult to return to the subject of focus. In a guided mindfulness meditation, the voice of the instructor constantly remembers you to keep your mind in the present. This is the reason why it is easier to start the first steps of practicing with a guided meditation. If you don't want or don't have the possibility to participate in a course, you can use guided mindfulness meditation CD’s available for example on Amazon.


Image credit: Pixabay

Updated: 06/03/2013, GermanUtopia
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DerdriuMarriner on 05/16/2017

GermanUtopia, Thank you for the article and products! In particular, I like your statement "You learn to notice the corporal and mental signs of stress which will enable you to fight it easier in your day-to-day life," which explains so nicely and succinctly why meditation matters.
Do you still have problems with distraction?
Have you tried Theta Meditation System, a disc from 1999 by Jeffrey Thompson? It's 124 minutes long, divided over two discs.

pateluday on 08/30/2014

It is imperative that one find ways to reduce stress using such wonderful techniques. Thank you!

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