What is mindfulness practice and can it help reduce symptoms of my multiple sclerosis (MS)?
Answer From Amit Sood, M.D.
Mindfulness practice, also called mindful meditation, is a type of mind-body therapy that involves focusing awareness on what you're experiencing in an open, interested and nonjudgmental way. The goal of mindfulness is to create distance between your perception and response to certain situations or feelings, helping you respond more thoughtfully and calmly, and potentially reducing the effects of stress.
Studies show that for some people with MS, chronic exposure to stress is associated with worsening neurological symptoms and increased brain lesions. Research has also found a consistent association between stressful life events and relapses.
Researchers believe that mindfulness may help people better respond to stress by fostering healthier coping strategies. For example, study participants who reported higher levels of mindfulness were less likely to rely on denial, disengagement and self-blame as coping strategies. They were also more likely to use more-positive strategies, such as information gathering, planning and seeking out social support.
Mindfulness practice appears to be a safe, drug-free approach to coping with stress and anxiety, which may in turn help reduce your MS symptoms.
Sept. 30, 2017
- Blankespoor RJ, et al. The effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction on psychological distress and cognitive functioning in patients with multiple sclerosis: A pilot study. Mindfulness. 2017:e1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12671-017-0701-6. Accessed July 19, 2017.
- Ulrichsen KN, et al. Clinical utility of mindfulness training in the treatment of fatigue after stroke, traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology. 2016;7:1.
- Saul A, et al. Stressful life events and the risk of initial central nervous system demyelination. Multiple Sclerosis Journal. 2017;23:1000.
- Kolahkaj B, et al. Effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction on anxiety, depression and stress in women with multiple sclerosis. 2015;4:e29655.