The reduction of stress inducing thoughts and their reactions has a myriad of health benefits for many different groups of people. Because MBSR is something anyone can do while sitting, walking, or lying down, people with different problems can all benefit. So far, MBSR has been used by itself, or in conjunction with regular medical treatment, to assist people suffering from depression, anxiety, aggressiveness, psoriasis, ADHD, eating disorders, substance abuse, learning difficulties, obsessive compulsive disorder, sleep related problems, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and work related stress. MBSR programs have also been used to benefit prisoners, coaches, people in leadership positions, teachers, and students.
Stress effects the entire body. In situations where we are threatened, this whole body effect is to our benefit. It primes our bodies for action, and gives us the chance to escape, or fight off a threat. This stress response can also be detrmental, especially if we are continuously in this state. The long term effects of stress on the brain and our overall health are well documented. Indeed, stress has emerged as the culprit behind the biggest health issues facing our country. From heart disease, to substance abuse, stress is the common factor. If people could reduce their stress levels, the would live much healthier lives, and would resort to detrimental stress relievers like alcohol, tobacco, and drugs much less. Besides the ancillary benefits of increased creativity, positive self- awareness, better decision making, and reduced aggressiveness, the main purpose of MBSR is in the name- to reduce stress.
There are many different contributors to the field of MBSR. The practice itself is based on thousands of years of knowledge accumulated by practitioners of meditation in the East. The most recognizable modern proponent of these practices is of course the Dalai Lama. One could argue that the successful intergration of these practices into a western framework has a lot to do with his Holinesses willingness to set aside sectarian differences and embrace scientific findings. He seems to understand that for the west to accept the benefits of cultivating mindfulness, it must be validated by science. Interestingly, the Dalai Lama has a great curiousity for science, even remarking once that if he were not the Dalai Lama, he would of liked to be an engineer. The Dalai Lama is of course a Buddhist, but his vow to help allieviate the suffering of all sentient beings means that whether or not you accept the teachings of Buddhism is besides the point. Just like he would not hesitate to help someone hurt in a car accident, regardless of their religious beliefs, the Dalai Lama belives that if a non-sectarian version of Buddhist practices can help people, then so be it. It is of course important to know where these practices orginated, but, it is not necesarry to become a Buddhist to get the benefit of MBSR. Along with the Dalai Lama, other adepts like Matthieu Ricard have helped this field enormously by giving talks