Hollywood stars, big business and politicians love this form of meditation — called mindfulness it could help reduce pain and depression in people suffering from the debilitating disease, multiple sclerosis. Mindfulness helps people divert their attention on the present moment, that way eases the stresses and strains of their everyday life.
Researchers claim it’s a cost-effective and side-effect-free way to keep at bay the symptoms of progressive MS, which include pain, fatigue and problems with speech and swallowing. At the moment this condition doesn’t have an effective treatment.
A research team of King’s College London, conducted regular meditation sessions via Skype, to treat patients with the most progressive forms of the neurological condition. These sessions helped reduce levels of pain, distress and depression, and patients still felt the benefits three months after the trial.
According to Professor Rona Moss Morris, chair in psychology as applied to medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, the results are ‘very promising’. She adds: ‘They show mindfulness has great potential for reducing distress in progressive MS and warrants further, larger studies.’
Actresses Goldie Hawn and Emma Watson are among the recent devotees of mindfulness – which is becoming very popular all over the world. This technique is used in the NHS as well as by British Airways for patients and passengers. MPs in Parliament also regularly attend mindfulness sessions.
A tailor-made mindfulness programme was created exclusively for progressive MS. It consisted short sessions lasting 20 to 30 minutes delivered via Skype. Thus, without moving anywhere or traveling patients undertook the sessions.
Two groups of 20 patients each were created: those receiving eight weeks of mindfulness, and a control group. Researchers observed that distress scores dropped significantly in the mindfulness group immediately after the sessions and three months on.
Over 100,000 people in the UK suffer from MS — and in those with one of the two progressive forms of the condition, primary progressive MS or secondary progressive MS, symptoms worsen with time. Study results show that about two-thirds of people with MS experience anxiety or depression. A 2014 MS Society-funded study found that both anxiety and depression worsened when physical disability increased.
Policeman Gareth Walker have been using mindfulness ever since he was diagnosed with secondary progressive MS five years ago. Gareth, who lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, says it has helped him control his emotions and eased his debilitating fatigue.
‘I dissolved into a spiral of negative thinking,’ says Gareth, 36. ‘But since I started to practise mindfulness, I can control my negative thoughts and fears about the future. My stress levels are the lowest they’ve ever been and I’m back at work full-time. ‘I think mindfulness is even having a physical effect on the progression of the disease – my disability progression continues to be slow, even though I’ve been diagnosed for five years now.’