Who Can Benefit From Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)?

Mindfulness is an ancient concept, mostly thought of being associated with Buddhism, though it has mention in ancient writings from multiple cultures. As a notion, many different meanings have been attributed to mindfulness. The one that I find most simple and accurate, is, mindfulness is observing things as they happen. These ‘things’ could be thoughts, the space between thoughts, the physical world, feelings, physical sensations and more. Interestingly, as simple as the definition sounds, when done properly, mindfulness has a host of benefits, including a definite impact on stress​1​. This implementation of mindfulness is called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or MBSR. Let’s go ahead and take a closer look.

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At a high level, MBSR is considered beneficial in a number of situations. These include diabetes, hypertension, cancer, anxiety, chronic pain, depression and immune disorders among others. ​1​

Below, I’ve mentioned some contexts where MBSR interventions are likely to help. Note that this is an indicative list and there are likely to be more situations where mindfulness based initiatives can help.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is a common disorder that has a significant impact on the quality of life in the afflicted, who experience different emotions in social contexts, including fear, humiliation and embarrassment. SAD is often the precursor to other disorders including alcohol or substance use and major depressive disorder (MDD). SAD is often associated with social, educational and occupational dysfunction, increased suicide attempts, increased dependence on alcohol and nicotine and reduced quality of life. Both CBGT (Cognitive Behavioural Group Therapy) and MBSR are commonly and successfully used in the treatment of SAD, towards specific outcomes including causing a change in the way of thinking, reduction in social anxiety, increase in general mindfulness, emotional clarity, acceptance of anxiety, and success of acceptance among others.​2–4​

Breast Cancer is a challenging time for women with the condition, requiring them to cope with their symptoms, as well as high levels of distress over time, which significantly takes away from their quality of life. Distress in turn has established associations with changes in immune function, including a reduction in the body’s ability to defend itself. MBSR based initiatives have been shown to be effective in producing desirable psychological and biological outcomes in women with breast cancer. ​5,6​

Pre-Retirement: the prospect of retirement can induce anxiety for many, where MBSR reports a greater degree of individual resilience and well-being. Additionally, the use of MBSR has been found to alleviate psychological functioning in employees. ​7,8​

Gun Violence: On the same lines, exposure to gun violence results in possibly lifelong trauma and grief, in which circumstance the use of MBSR has resulted in decreased trauma, grief and the mitigation of sleep difficulties. ​9​

Caregivers (of the dementia afflicted): Given caring for those afflicted with dementia is a particularly challenging task, caregivers of patients are at especially high risk of physical and mental health issues. The use of MBSR can result in the short term reduction of anxiety and depressive symptoms. The use of MBSR can also be extrapolated to other categories of caregivers. ​10​

Student life can be stressful at times, considering the different sorts of burdens faced by the average student, which include financial, academic and social stress among others. MBSR interventions report reduced incidence and impact of negative emotional states, including the possibility of increased resilience in participants to negative emotional states. ​11​

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), general anxiety disorders and depressive symptoms are other areas where MBSR can be particularly helpful. ​12–16​

MBSR is also said to be effective in the contexts of chronic back pain and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) among others. ​12,17​

In my experience as a holistic wellness coach, I have found mindfulness based interventions to be particularly useful in the contexts of obesity and self care, in addition to those like Type 2 Diabetes, where stress mitigation plays an important role in blood glucose homeostasis.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction based interventions are effective non-pharmacological approaches to address a number of health situations that can improve the quality of life of the afflicted at a minimum, and also mitigate symptoms, including possible biological effects in addition to the psychological.

Technically reviewed by Renu Handa, Transformational Psychologist


  1. 1.
    Niazi A, Niazi S. Mindfulness-based stress reduction: A non-pharmacological approach for chronic illnesses. North Am J Med Sci. Published online 2011:20. doi:10.4297/najms.2011.320
  2. 2.
    Goldin PR, Morrison AS, Jazaieri H, Heimberg RG, Gross JJ. Trajectories of social anxiety, cognitive reappraisal, and mindfulness during an RCT of CBGT versus MBSR for social anxiety disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy. Published online October 2017:1-13. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2017.06.001
  3. 3.
    Goldin PR, Morrison A, Jazaieri H, Brozovich F, Heimberg R, Gross JJ. Group CBT versus MBSR for social anxiety disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Published online May 2016:427-437. doi:10.1037/ccp0000092
  4. 4.
    Butler RM, Boden MT, Olino TM, et al. Emotional clarity and attention to emotions in cognitive behavioral group therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction for social anxiety disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders. Published online April 2018:31-38. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2018.03.003
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    Kenne Sarenmalm E, Mårtensson LB, Andersson BA, Karlsson P, Bergh I. Mindfulness and its efficacy for psychological and biological responses in women with breast cancer. Cancer Med. Published online April 18, 2017:1108-1122. doi:10.1002/cam4.1052
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    Schell LK, Monsef I, Wöckel A, Skoetz N. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for women diagnosed with breast cancer. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Published online March 27, 2019. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd011518.pub2
  7. 7.
    Diachenko M, Smith KK, Fjorback L, Hansen NV, Linkenkaer-Hansen K, Pallesen KJ. Pre-retirement Employees Experience Lasting Improvements in Resilience and Well-Being After Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Front Psychol. Published online July 15, 2021. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.699088
  8. 8.
    Janssen M, Heerkens Y, Kuijer W, van der Heijden B, Engels J. Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on employees’ mental health: A systematic review. Ebmeier K, ed. PLoS ONE. Published online January 24, 2018:e0191332. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0191332
  9. 9.
    Khatib L, Riegner G, Dean JG, et al. The Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Trauma in Victims of Gun Violence: a Pilot Study. Mindfulness. Published online March 22, 2022:1032-1041. doi:10.1007/s12671-022-01858-y
  10. 10.
    Liu Z, Sun YY, Zhong B liang. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for family carers of people with dementia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Published online August 14, 2018. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd012791.pub2
  11. 11.
    An A, Hoang H, Trang L, et al. Investigating the effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on stress level and brain activity of college students. IBRO Neuroscience Reports. Published online June 2022:399-410. doi:10.1016/j.ibneur.2022.05.004
  12. 12.
    Braden BB, Pipe TB, Smith R, Glaspy TK, Deatherage BR, Baxter LC. Brain and behavior changes associated with an abbreviated 4‐week mindfulness‐based stress reduction course in back pain patients. Brain Behav. Published online February 16, 2016. doi:10.1002/brb3.443
  13. 13.
    Marciniak R, Šumec R, Vyhnálek M, et al. <p>The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on Depression, Cognition, and Immunity in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Pilot Feasibility Study</p> CIA. Published online August 2020:1365-1381. doi:10.2147/cia.s249196
  14. 14.
    Haller H, Anheyer D, Cramer H, Dobos G. Complementary therapies for clinical depression: an overview of systematic reviews. BMJ Open. Published online August 2019:e028527. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-028527
  15. 15.
    Strauss C, Cavanagh K, Oliver A, Pettman D. Mindfulness-Based Interventions for People Diagnosed with a Current Episode of an Anxiety or Depressive Disorder: A Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials. Laks J, ed. PLoS ONE. Published online April 24, 2014:e96110. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096110
  16. 16.
    Hölzel BK, Hoge EA, Greve DN, et al. Neural mechanisms of symptom improvements in generalized anxiety disorder following mindfulness training. NeuroImage: Clinical. Published online 2013:448-458. doi:10.1016/j.nicl.2013.03.011
  17. 17.
    Taub R, Horesh D, Rubin N, et al. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: A Mixed-Methods Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of an Adapted Protocol. JCM. Published online September 28, 2021:4450. doi:10.3390/jcm10194450

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