Mindfulness for better health

Eugene Farrell, AXA PPP Healthcare’s psychological health expert explains that practicing mindfulness and mindfulness meditation can carry many health benefits for all of us.

Practicing mindfulness can help with:

  • Anxiety, stress and depression
  • Pain
  • Keeping a healthy heart
  • Coping with life’s worries
  • Reducing IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Treating addiction
  • Our mental abilities
  • Our immune system
  • Managing our anger
  • FMS (fibromyalgia syndrome)

“Most of us are guilty of living life so fast and under so much pressure that our health issues are rapidly increasing.  We suffer from our mental health and heart health, relationships suffer and there is increasing substance abuse” says Eugene.  “We all need to slow down.”

Many studies have been undertaken to examine the health benefits of practicing meditation and mindfulness – more so than complementary medicines and therapies – and evidence is beginning to show that it can help with a number of health issues.  Although research is still on-going to fully substantiate this.”

Meditation and mindfulness are being practiced all over the world, in all types of situations, all professions and ages from children upwards.  It is even being used in the military to try and help people to react to situations in more positive ways.

We can all benefit in some ways:

  • Anxiety, stress and depression – mindfulness can be beneficial to your mental health as well as your physical health. Researchers at Boston University undertook a study where participants with conditions such as generalised anxiety disorder, depression and cancer were given mindfulness-based therapy.  It was shown that mindfulness was ‘promising’ for treating anxiety and problems with low mood.

In another, smaller study it was shown that mindfulness was helpful in treating anxiety and depression in adults with autism spectrum disorder.

  • Pain – a review carried out in 2011 found that mindfulness-based therapy could help patients with chronic pain. It seemed to reduce the pain and the symptoms of depression that accompanied it.  However, further research is still needed to confirm this.
  • Keeping a healthy heart – healthy blood pressure is crucial for maintaining a healthy heart. According to a study, people with heart disease who regularly practise transcendental meditation are 48% less likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke or die compared with those given other health advice.  Following this study, the American Heart Association recommends meditation for reducing blood pressure.
  • Coping with life’s worries – “often we find ourselves automatically thinking in a negative way and this can detrimentally affect our mental wellbeing,” Eugene tells us “practicing mindfulness can teach us to recognise this negative thinking and so look again at our thoughts in a more positive way.”

Practicing mindfulness can also help with those suffering from insomnia as suggested by Research conducted in America in 2015 Sleep can help enormously by enabling us to better cope with life’s issues.

  • Reducing IBS – patients who contributed to a 2015 study in America found that after a nine-week training programme, mindfulness and meditation therapy had a ‘significant impact’ on reducing their symptoms of IBS and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).
  • Addiction – as researchers are proving that mindfulness is effective in reducing stress this sort of meditation can aid with treating addiction.  People who have substance addictions can learn through practising mindfulness to cope with situations in a more positive way and therefore are less likely to relapse.

In 2017, a study by specialists at the University of Utah found that practicing mindfulness helped with the recovery of patients with chronic pain who were deemed to have an opiate addiction risk.

  • Our mental abilities – research has shown that mindfulness training might increase brain function too. The University of Massachusetts Medical School conducted an eight-week programme which showed that the type of brain tissue linked to learning, memory, the way we regulate emotions and how we see the world increased after mindfulness training.

In addition, eight separate areas of the brain were shown to have increased with mindfulness through a 2014 review study at the University of British Columbia.

  • Our immune system – researchers at the University of Wisconsin, following a 2003 study, found that when participants were given a flu vaccine those who meditated produced more antibodies than those who did not meditate.
  • Managing our anger – Eugene tells us that practicing mindfulness can help teach us to control our learned responses. “By learning how to manage these emotions we can help to improve our relationships.”
  • FMS (Fibromyalgia syndrome) – this syndrome is a musculoskeletal condition that causes stiff joints and pain throughout the body. In 2007, at the University of Basel Hospital in Switzerland, researchers found that practising mindfulness was likely to help women with the condition.
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