Can you use your mind to attack your MS, just as you use things such as medications and physical therapy? Some people who believe in the benefits of mindfulness think you can, at least to some extent.
Mindfulness is defined as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us,” according to mindful.org. It uses a combination of things like yoga, meditation, music, stretching, and group support to reduce stress.
For a number of years, Maryanna Klatt, PhD, and others at The Ohio State University have been using mindfulness techniques to help people with MS. The idea is that by lowering a person’s stress, their quality of life will be raised. The Mindfulness in Motion program was first tried several years ago on a group of surgical intensive care nurses. (There’s plenty of stress in that line of work.) An article in NARCOMS Now magazine reported that following the eight-week program, “nurses who participated had lower levels of salivary amylase, an enzyme in the saliva associated with prolonged stress. Along with lower levels of these stress chemicals, the nurses had increased job satisfaction and less ’emotional exhaustion.’”
Mindfulness in Motion and MS
The NARCOMS story then detailed how last year, a group of 22 people with MS tried using the Mindfulness in Motion system. They met for an hour a week for eight weeks. As a group, they worked on things like breathing, eating, and sleep. They stretched and did chair yoga exercises with relaxing piano music in the background. They also practiced the techniques at home for 20 minutes a day.
After two months, tests showed the participants had less anxiety, depression, and fatigue and better cognitive function.
According to Dr. Klatt, this is because the program gave participants the ability to stop fighting their MS. “Mindfulness helped them begin to let go of the frustration that they can’t control [the disease],” Klatt said. They were able to accept their MS, reduce their stress, and hopefully, improve the quality of their lives.
Mindfulness proponents say this isn’t as easy to do as it may sound and it might not be right for you. “It may not change the progression of MS,” Klatt said, “but adding to your stress certainly isn’t going to make the disease any easier to deal with.”
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