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MS Patients are Benefitting from Meditation

October 25, 2016

Mindfulness is a state of mind or consciousness. It is a combination of attention, body awareness and emotional regulation that helps generate a different perspective of self.

A huge increase in scientific research on this topic over the last 10 years has produced thousands of peer-reviewed, published papers that address how mindfulness, achieved through meditation, helps with a range of issues:

  • Depression – This is the single most important factor in determining quality of life in MS. People with MS are more susceptible to depression than those in the general population. In a vicious cycle, the disease process increases the risk of depression, which increases inflammation, which worsens the physical illness, which can lead to deeper depression, and so on. Mindfulness is so effective at reducing depression, the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved it as a depression treatment.
  • Neurogenesis – People with MS are more prone to neuro-degeneration than the general population is. MRI scans have shown that mindfulness increases the grey and white matter in specific and important parts of the brain. It also promotes neuroplasticity and the creation of new and helpful neural networks in the brain
  • Pain – Mindfulness has been used extensively to help reduce physical and neurological pain. Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program was originally devised partly to help people in chronic pain. Scientific studies have shown how mindfulness can help with sensations of pain.
  • Telomere length – Telomeres are the little caps at the ends of DNA strands. As we age, telomeres get smaller, and we become more susceptible to age-related illnesses. Mindfulness has not only been shown to slow that shortening, it can actually lengthen the telomeres, effectively reducing cellular age.
  • Happiness – Kabat-Zinn has shown that daily mindful meditation can increase a person’s happiness. It shifts brain activity from the right side, which is active when we’re irritable and anxious, over to the left side, which is typically active when we’re upbeat and optimistic. Even better, much of that shift happens within the first month of meditation 6
  • Compassion – Mindfulness has been shown to increase compassion, which helps build our resilience in the face of trauma 

Everybody is different and will gain different things from their meditation. Someone who decides to meditate will have to find a routine that involves these factors:

  • Location/Setting
  • Finding a Comfortable Position
  • Mantra
  • Time Length
  • Breathing
  • Eyes (open or closed)