Nearly 1 million people in the United States are living with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. This disease damages the central nervous system and causes a range of symptoms throughout the body, including muscle weakness, chronic pain, impaired vision, and problems with thinking and memory.
Unfortunately, there is not yet a cure for MS, but researchers study both traditional and nontraditional ways to ease the symptoms. A recent study at Ohio State University, for example, found hopeful signs that practicing mindfulness meditation may help people with MS.
“Mindfulness-based training involves practicing paying attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental and accepting manner,” according to an article published by Ohio State News. “Among the practices in the sessions, participants learned how to focus on the breath and to do mental ‘body scans’ to experience how their body was feeling.”
The result: “People in the mindfulness training group reported they were more able to manage their emotions at the end of the study” as compared to other groups who did not receive mindfulness training. The study also showed that people in the mindfulness group had better processing speed – “The time it takes a person to complete mental tasks [which] is related to how well they can understand and react to the information they receive.”
What is mindfulness meditation?
“Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.”
Here are a few steps to get you started:
1.Find a quiet location with as few distractions as possible.
2. Make yourself comfortable in a position that you can hold for several minutes (sitting, lying down, or even walking). There’s no need to kneel or sit cross-legged if that is uncomfortable.
3. Focus your attention on your breath, the feelings in your body, or even a specially chosen word or set of words. Do this for a few minutes or as long as you feel comfortable.
4. Keep an open attitude, letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them. When you are distracted – and you will be, a lot – bring your mind back to the focus of your attention. Don’t judge yourself for being distracted – simply notice it and refocus.
As the Ohio State News article says, “One of the reasons that mindfulness training is so promising is because it is an easily accessible treatment for all patients.” Notes Ruchika Prakash, an author of the study, “Anyone can use mindfulness – even individuals with limited mobility, who often find other training techniques, like exercise training, to be more challenging.”
MS Awareness Week 2021
March 7-13, 2021, is MS Awareness Week. Visit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for more information on how you can help raise MS awareness in your community.