The #1 Foundation for Living Your Best Life: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

One of the biggest things getting in the way of living your best life is stress, especially since the onset of the pandemic. Stress affects us across the board, causing problems with sleep, eating, sex drive, anger, and drugs and alcohol. And stress is often hard to fix too, especially stress from jobs or family situations. 

Having said that, here are the daily strategies and practices the Cleveland Clinic recommends to help manage stress:

The above list can seem like a can of worms as each one of the bullet points can require its own research and plan of action to fit it into your life.

However, there is a single practice that can accomplish many of these strategies and offers other tangible “Living Your Best Life” benefits as well. It’s called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

What is Mindfulness & Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

According to the creator of MBSR, Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Mindfulness is the awareness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

This means not focusing on the past or present, but being here now. And it takes practice!

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an eight-week program that offers secular, intensive training to learn mindfulness.

MBSR was developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1970s by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, and it uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, yoga, and exploration of patterns of behavior, thinking, feeling, and action. And MBSR has been studied in well-designed experiments, which allow the conclusion to be drawn that MBSR is the cause of the positive changes found in the studies (as opposed to just being correlated with the positive changes). Most excitingly, it’s been found that MBSR leads to physical changes in the brains of beginning practitioners in just 8 weeks of practice. Let me say that again… spending 30 minutes a day learning to follow a mindfulness practice physically and measurably enhances your brain. 

Here are the brain regions that grew and thickened:

There are many more studies by other scientists showing benefits of mindfulness from increasing telomere length (telomere length is used as a marker of biological age), fighting Alzheimer’s, and being associated with higher vagal tone (lower systemic inflammation).

But what about stress? Well, the amygdala, the main stress detector in our brains, has been found to decrease in size after just 8 weeks of MBSR and correlated to a reduction in stress levels.

But wait there’s more! MBSR also helps you:

On a personal note, I find taking a break to do 20 minutes of MBSR mentally refreshes my mind after a long stretch of work. Beyond my personal experience, researchers have found (again through an experiment with a control group) that mindfulness practitioners experienced “significantly less emotional exhaustion and more job satisfaction than participants in the control group”. This means practicing MBSR as a work break gives you all of the personal health advantages above, and makes you more productive and happier with your job, and gives you an immediate recharge during the workday. 

Living Your Best Life with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

To sum up, the benefits of MBSR are:

And these are just the benefits we know of so far!

How to Start with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

So now that you’re totally convinced to start MBSR, how can you get started? There are classes of course and apps (Healthy Minds is a free, donation-based app that is actually among the best), but how are you going to make sure you actually take the classes or use the apps?

You need to establish a new habit. 

Establishing habits is a whole other topic that you can read about here but here are some quick tips:

I pulled these tips from “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, which goes deep on habit establishment and is seen by many as the best book on habits out there (as of the time of writing this post, “Atomic Habits” has 4.8 out of 5 stars, with 54,573 positive reviews on Amazon).

For additional insurance, you can also ask yourself, “What will get in the way of me practicing mindfulness?” and then adapt your plan for these obstacles. Additionally, you can ask yourself “How will I make sure I follow through on my mindfulness practise?” and then establish a system of accountability (maybe ask a friend to check in on your progress each day).

Finally, if you’ve tried unsuccessfully to establish a mindfulness practice already, or have doubts that you’ll be able to succeed you can reach out and schedule a session with a Best Life Coach. We’re trained in helping you think deeply and in new ways about your goals, and will help you establish plans of action and accountability systems.


Classes: Jon Kabit Zinn teaches Mindfulness

Apps: Healthy Minds 

Find a Life Coach: Right here!

To Sum Things Up

One of the biggest things getting in the way of living your best life is stress, and while there are many ways to manage stress, however, the #1 foundation for reducing stress is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

– Eric