Mindfulness Improves Well-being

A recent study by Melissa A. Rosenkranz, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin Madison has show that mindfulness can benefit people with arthritis, inflammatory bowl disease, psoriasis and asthma. The result of a study of particpants on an eight week Mindfulness Based  Stress Reduction Programme (MBSR) were published in the January 2013 issue of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. A comparison was made between participants on an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR) and an 8-week active control health enhancement program (HEP) that included walking, balance, agility, core strength, nutritional education, and music therapy in 49 community volunteers randomly assigned to 1 of the 2 groups.

Commenting on the study Dr. Rosenkranz said, “The MBSR group had significantly smaller postintervention inflammatory responses (which cause chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and asthma,) compared to the HEP group.”

MBSR orrginated as a programme for patients with chronic pain but prior to this research there had not been any studies designed to control for other therapeutic mechanisms, such as supportive social interaction, expert instruction, or learning new skills.

Commenting on the research Dr. Rosenkranz said, “Key points would be that MBSR may be beneficial to those with chronic inflammatory conditions by changing the way they relate to their condition and their symptoms, and in so doing, may reduce emotional neural reactivity and the contribution of this reactivity to further symptom expression. Our data suggest that those with conditions which have a neurogenic inflammatory component (eg, psoriasis, dermatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma) may benefit more, in terms of decreased inflammatory potential, from this type of intervention.”

Mindfulness Meditation Course Reduces Loneliness in the Elderly

A seperate study published in July 2012 in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity showed that a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program significantly reduced loneliness and expression of proinflammatory genes in older adults compared with participants in a wait-list control group. “Our work presents the first evidence showing that a psychological intervention that decreases loneliness also reduces proinflammatory gene expression,” senior author Steven W. Cole, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) said, “If this is borne out by further research, MBSR could be a valuable tool to improve the quality of life for many elderly.”

MBSR programs, which teach individuals to be attentive to the present and not dwell in the past or project into the future, have been shown to improve social relationship functioning in couples, but thisis the first study to observe whether MBSR can reduce loneliness. Feeling lonely is a significant risk factor for morbidity and mortality in older adults and is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, AD, and all-cause mortality.

To test whether an 8-week MBSR program reduced loneliness, the researchers conducted a small, randomized trial in 40 healthy adults aged 55 to 85 years who were assigned to either a mindfulness meditation group or a control group that did not meditate. There were no significant differences between the 2 groups at baseline. The meditation group attended weekly 2-hour meetings in which the participants learned the techniques of mindfulness, including awareness and breathing techniques. They also practiced mindfulness meditation for 30 minutes each day at home and attended a single day-long retreat.

The study’s primary outcome measure was a reduction in loneliness as measured by the 20-item composite UCLA-R Loneliness Scale at the beginning and end of the study period.  At study conclusion participants reported a reduced sense of loneliness; in comparison, their counterparts in the wait-list group reported small increases in loneliness.

Study investigator Michael R. Irwin, MD, professor of psychiatry, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and director of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, said in a statement.”While this was a small sample, the results were very encouraging. It adds to a growing body of research that is showing the positive benefits of a variety of meditative techniques, including tai chi and yoga”.

He added that the growing research efforts in this area “move us beyond simply connecting the mind and genome and identify simple practices that an individual can harness to improve human health.”

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