Meditation has been practiced for centuries, but with the stresses of modern life becoming ever more overwhelming, it’s becoming an increasingly popular way of relaxing and escaping every day concerns.
As well has becoming more popular, meditation has also become more diverse and much more accessible. It’s no longer simply about attempting to clear your mind while sitting still and trying not to fidget for an hour. A number of different styles and techniques have been developed from the traditional form, such as mindfulness-based meditation, mantra mediation and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
So, what’s meditation go to do with MS?
As well as being the “in” thing; meditation really can work!
Meditation has been proven to reduce stress, and research suggests that stress plays a significant role in MS flares. A study by the MS Clinic of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, followed 23 relapsing MS patients for a year and found that 85% of their flares were related to stressful life events.
It makes sense then that meditation, through decreasing stress, could help reduce the symptoms of MS.
Where’s the proof?
A recent clinical study based in Italy took an even closer look at this connection:
The clinical trial recruited 139 MS patients in Milan and each participant was randomly assigned to one of two groups: the “mindfulness-based intervention” group or the “online psychoeducation group” control (comparison) group.
The mindfulness group took part in an online course involving music meditation, discussions on symptom acceptance and video calls with trainers, and they had access to a website which encouraged sharing of resources between members of this group.
The control group instead took part in an online course with informational videos and home exercises.
Both groups participated in these activities for eight weeks and were assessed through questionnaires at the beginning and end of the trial, then six months following the finish of the trial. Questionnaires looked at quality of life, depression, anxiety, fatigue and difficulty sleeping.
The results showed that after eight weeks, those who took part in the mindfulness course reported a significantly higher quality of life, lower depression and anxiety levels, and fewer issues with sleep compared to the control group. These promising results did not last until the six-month point however.
The researchers concluded that online mindfulness courses, such as this one, that incorporate meditation, could be an effective tool for improving wellbeing in MS day-to-day, but that long-lasting effects could require the development of alternative strategies.
Go on Zen, give it a go
It’s clear then that meditation has benefits for people with MS, even just to reduce the day-to-day stress of living with the disease.
If you want to give meditation a try then there are loads of easy ways to get started. You could attend a local class every week, or even just one session to learn the basics. If the idea of meditating in the company of others doesn’t appeal, there are lots of meditation apps and online courses you could give a try in the comfort of your own home.
You’ll be om-ing with the best of them in no time.