Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease can disrupt the daily life of anyone.
While medical treatments play a crucial role in managing these conditions, there is a growing recognition of mindfulness-based therapy, especially in the treatment/management of autoimmune diseases.
It is a holistic and evidence-based approach that has been gaining attention for its potential to provide relief and enhance the quality of life for those with autoimmune diseases.
Mindfulness, rooted in ancient practices, has shown promise in reducing stress, managing pain, and promoting emotional resilience, all of which are particularly relevant to individuals with autoimmune conditions.
What is mindfulness-based therapy?
Please note that mindfulness-based therapy is not a replacement for medical care. It is a form of integrative medicine where conventional approaches collectively help treat and manage chronic diseases.
Examples of mindfulness-based therapy
Here are some examples of mindfulness-based therapy:
1. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a mindfulness-based therapy that focuses on using mindfulness to reduce stress, and it involves 2-3 hours long sessions that run for eight weeks.
During these sessions, your therapist focuses on teaching you how to use several mindfulness practices, including:
- Body scan: This practice teaches you how to focus your attention on different parts of your body, one at a time.
- Mindful breathing: This practice helps you focus your attention on your breath.
- Mindful movement: This is a practice where you pay attention to your body as you move.
- Mindful listening: This practice helps you pay attention to the sounds around you.
Aside from these weekly sessions, you will also be advised to practice these mindfulness techniques at home and incorporate them into your daily activities.
MBSR effectively reduces stress, improves sleep quality, increases self-esteem, improves concentration, and reduces the risk of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.
2. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a form of talk therapy (psychotherapy) that combines cognitive behavior therapy (therapy focused on changing your thought patterns) and mindfulness.
In MBCT, your therapist will use several mindfulness techniques, including meditation, body scan exercises, yoga, mindfulness stretching, etc.
MBCT focuses on preventing relapse in people who have suffered from depression, and it uses cognitive therapy elements and techniques to help you recognize and reassess your negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones.
MBCT utilizes cognitive therapy, and this inclusion is believed to make it effective in treating diseases, including autoimmune diseases.
Mindfulness helps you observe and identify your feelings, while cognitive therapy teaches you to interrupt automatic thought processes and work through feelings healthily.
An MBCT program can range from 8-12 weeks.
3. Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (MB-CBT)
Mindfulness-integrated cognitive behavioral therapy (Mi-CBT) or Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (MB-CBT) is a broader approach to MBCT that focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns associated with several mental health conditions.
It combines mindfulness techniques with traditional cognitive behavioral therapy to help address several mental health challenges besides depression.
Unlike MBCT, MB-CBT can run for several weeks, depending on the type of condition.
4. Mindfulness-based pain management (MBPM)
Mindfulness-based pain management (MBPM) is another therapy that teaches people how to cope with chronic pain using several mindfulness techniques.
This therapy teaches you how to use mindfulness to be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations without getting caught up in them.
MBPM can be used alongside other pain management techniques to reduce pain intensity, improve quality of life, and reduce the need for pain medications.
Relationship between mindfulness-based therapies and autoimmune diseases
Several medical journals and studies have shown a significant impact of mindfulness-based therapy on autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune diseases are conditions where the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies healthy cells as infected and starts attacking them.
Most autoimmune diseases are inflammatory and weaken the immune system. A 2018 study shows that mindfulness techniques such as MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy) reflect significant changes in the immune markers associated with reductions in disease symptoms and progression. Some of these studies also showed improvements in pain, self-efficacy, and other psychological outcomes of the disease.
Also, mindfulness-based therapy teaches you how to deal with the present, address negative thought patterns, etc. With these techniques, a person suffering from autoimmune diseases can deal with the mental health issues chronic diseases bring.
Benefits of mindfulness-based therapy for autoimmune diseases
Here are some important benefits of mindfulness-based therapy for autoimmune diseases:
1. Stress reduction
Mindfulness-based therapy can help people with autoimmune diseases. One significant advantage is that it reduces stress. Because of their chronic nature, autoimmune diseases frequently cause additional stress. Mindfulness trains people to manage stress by teaching them to stay in the present moment and observe their thoughts and feelings calmly.
This process can help to reduce the body’s stress response, resulting in less inflammation and pain. It can also lessen the anxiety and worry accompanying these conditions, resulting in calm and emotional relief.
2. Pain management
Another vital advantage of mindfulness-based therapy for autoimmune diseases is better pain management. Chronic pain is a symptom of many autoimmune diseases. Mindfulness techniques can help people cope with pain better by changing their relationship with it. People who practice mindfulness may experience decreased pain perception and learn to tolerate discomfort more effectively, improving their overall pain management.
Mindfulness therapy can also help people manage pain by teaching them to focus on their breath and body sensations without judgment.
3. Improved quality of life
For those with autoimmune diseases, mindfulness-based therapy helps to improve their quality of life. Easing the strain of stress and enhancing pain control promotes a greater sense of well-being.
Additionally, mindfulness can improve one’s capacity to participate in regular activities, interpersonal interactions, and interests despite the difficulties of autoimmune diseases. Despite ongoing health issues, learning to live more fully in the present has led to a higher quality of life.
Mindfulness therapy can improve people’s quality of life by assisting them in better managing their symptoms, reducing stress, and improving their mood. This results in a more optimistic outlook and a greater sense of well-being.
4. Enhanced immune function
Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve the immune system. Mindfulness can help regulate the immune response in autoimmune conditions by reducing stress and encouraging relaxation.
This implies that the body’s defense mechanisms may become more balanced, potentially leading to fewer flare-ups and improved immune function.
5. Symptom management
Autoimmune diseases frequently cause many distressing symptoms, including pain, fatigue, and emotional distress.
Mindfulness-based therapy teaches people to accept and cope with their symptoms without judgment, leading to better symptom management as they learn to deal with their symptoms with more resilience and less suffering.
It will not cure the disease, but it will make it easier to live with and lessen the symptoms’ negative impact on daily life.
Tips for effective mindfulness therapy
Despite how effective mindfulness-based therapy is in managing autoimmune diseases, attending these sessions without significantly impacting your health is possible.
Here are some tips that will help you have an effective mindfulness therapy:
- Commit to regular practice.
- Start with guided sessions.
- Choose a comfortable space.
- Be present.
- Progress gradually.
- Use mindfulness apps.
- Practice journaling.
- Practice patience.
- Consult with healthcare providers.
- Adapt mindfulness practices to your needs and abilities.
- Address any emotional challenges that may arise during mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness offers a path to healing that extends far beyond drugs and the diagnosis.
This complementary approach holds the promise of managing chronic symptoms and enhancing the overall well-being of individuals with autoimmune conditions.
Mindfulness is a beacon of hope to those with autoimmune conditions.
Remember the benefits of mindfulness-based therapy and the tips for effective mindfulness therapy I shared in this post; they will help you a lot.
I pray you have a brighter future.
What have you heard about mindfulness-based therapy for autoimmune diseases?
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