The Science

When Jon Kabat-Zinn started Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction in 1979 at the UMass Medical Center, he had the intention of providing mindfulness practices in a way that was palatable to westerners.

He also conceived it as a protocol that could form the basis for scientific study and validation, paving the way for it to be ushered into the mainstream of medicine.

MBSR is now offered in over 700 medical centers throughout the world, and peer reviewed scientific studies have increased exponentially as shown above.

With 1,200 studies published in medical journals in 2019 alone, the findings are rich and deep. But here is one frequently cited example:

  • The brain’s fight or flight center, the amygdala, shrinks.  This area is associated with fear and emotion, and initiates of the body’s response to stress.
  • As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex— associated with higher order brain functions such as awareness, concentration and decision-making— becomes thicker.
  • The functional connectivity between these regions also changes. The connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain gets weaker, while the connections between areas associated with attention and concentration get stronger.