Mindfulness and MS

Life can be stressful, and MS doesn’t help. It’s easy to get caught up in our thoughts and worries. Mindfulness is one way people take back control.

Fans of mindfulness say it helps them pause, take notice of the world around, and the way they feel. It could even help with MS symptoms like fatigue and pain.

We all need to slow down our minds at times and be reminded of the present. I find it's even more important now I have MS - I am compelled to enjoy this moment, as I know things could change in future - Sarah

What is mindfulness?

The idea is to notice what’s happening in the present moment. How do you feel in your mind and your body? What are your surroundings? By focussing on these details, people can find stillness and calm.

Mindfulness can be a way of stepping back from the everyday stresses of life, and from thoughts about the future or the past.

The aim is to think about things without the judgments we often make – is something good or bad, fair or unfair, important or unimportant, and so on.

It won’t stop you from having negative thoughts or difficult days. But it can be a tool to cope with them better.

Mindfulness isn’t meant to be an alternative to getting advice and treatment for mental health problems. Speak to your GP or MS nurse if you have any concerns.

Is mindfulness for me?

It’s a technique you can learn – and keep practising.

Some people download an app, or read a book to get started. But you can also learn through group classes – like you might for physical exercise.

You can find a mindfulness coach on the BAMBA website (British Association of Mindfulness-based Approaches).

  • You don’t need any particular beliefs to give mindfulness a go.
  • You don’t need equipment or a large space.
  • You don’t need to be physically active or mobile.
  • You could feel the benefits from just a few minutes each day.

What does the research say?

It’s early days for research into mindfulness. So although lots of people say it helps them, we don’t know the details about how it’s working, or who’s most likely to benefit.

We also don’t know much about who it doesn’t help – though NICE  recommends that it’s not routinely offered to treat ‘social anxiety disorder’.

Like anything, it’s not for everyone. But if it works for you, it could help manage the stresses of living with MS. Ask your doctor if you’re unsure but want to try it. You can find out more about mindfulness from the charity MIND's website.

How can mindfulness help with MS?

Supporters of mindfulness say it helps them feel more in control of their mood.

And when scientists have reviewed the research, they’ve found that mindfulness techniques can help people with MS improve their:

  • quality of life
  • mental health
  • fatigue
  • pain

One particular study used an 8-week training programme for mindfulness. The results showed improvements in feelings of anxiety.

Of course, it isn’t the answer to everything. Talk to a doctor if how you’re feeling is affecting your day-to-day life. There are lots of options – including medicines – to help you manage your emotional well-being.

How do I do mindfulness?

Find something you enjoy. All of these can help you develop mindfulness techniques:

Once you have a good idea of what you’re aiming for, use it to create a moment of stillness and calm in your daily life:

  • listen to the podcast on your phone wherever you are
  • take two or three minutes to watch a bird in the garden
  • read a poem

You’ll come up with your own toolkit of techniques. You can visit the Mind website for mindfulness tips and exercises.

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