Chronic Illness and Inflammation: How Mindfulness Can Help
We’re always learning more about how mindfulness practice alters the body’s response to stress. More recently, some researchers have focused on the issue of inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been linked to a host of illnesses and chronic conditions and their research suggests that mindfulness lowers stress hormones, decreases inflammation and prevents illness.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune response. It evolved as a means of protection, helping the body repair itself after accidents or other challenges. Chronic inflammation, however, is a long term inflammatory reaction, linked to issues - such as prolonged stress, or poor diet. It can give rise to issues like asthma, chronic sinusitis or rheumatoid arthritis. Some go as far to say that inflammation is the root of most diseases, including the big ones such as heart disease and cancer.
How does mindfulness help?
Mindfulness meditation has a calming effect on the body and the mind, enabling greater relaxation. David Creswell and his colleagues, who study the impact of mindfulness meditation on the brain and the body, found that daily practice of mindfulness lowers inflammatory molecules and stress hormones by about 15%. When compared with a non-mindfulness centred stress management course, meditation was much more effective at lowering biological markers than a counselling based approach.
What implications does this research have?
If, as some scientists think, stress hormones such as cortisol are a significant source of the inflammation that causes some of the chronic and life-threatening illnesses we experience, then mindfulness meditation, practiced regularly, is likely to lead to a happier and healthier life. If mindfulness can really prevent chronic illness, then that’s a great argument for living more mindfully. We would be happier and live longer.
How can I make a start on a more mindful life?
Anyone, anywhere can make a start now. The evidence that mindfulness meditation leads to positive effects on the body and mind is compelling. We all get busy from time to time and stop noticing the world around us and lose touch with ourselves but mindfulness practice helps us to reconnect with our bodies and take notice of how our thoughts and feelings affect our wellbeing.
Learning meditation with an experienced teacher is a great way to develop a daily practice - though right now bringing yourself into the present moment wherever possible can have immediate effects. When eating breakfast in the morning, savour each taste. Bring yourself into the room by observing all of the colours and textures around you. When you’re alone in a quiet room, notice your breath, breathe deeply and feel every sensation in the body.
To find out how mindfulness can prevent disease contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (+44) 01223 750660