Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mindfulness Can Heal What Ails You!

By Lenore Flynn

Lately, mindfulness has been getting a lot of attention from psychology and even popular culture. Meanwhile, the message that mindfulness can be helpful for folks whose primary concern is a physical ailment has slipped to page two. Since I am a nurse, I have always been interested in the ways that mindfulness practice can be effective in treating illness. I think it's important that people know how important mindfulness can be in healing the body.

Some people are not necessarily interested in mindfulness as a way to enhance their spiritual practice. They are satisfied with that part of their lives. If your primary problem at this time is pain, anxiety, cancer, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis or heart disease, you are probably looking for ways to heal yourself physically and return to or maintain a healthy and more balanced life.

Clinical research has been done and is ongoing using mindfulness practice to reduce the symptoms and effects of chronic illnesses or pain, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, cancer, heart disease, asthma, gastrointestinal distress, skin disorders as well as anxiety, panic, depression, fatigue and sleep disturbances.

The results of these clinical studies have been very promising. Mindfulness practice can have a positive effect on the level of symptoms associated with and effects of certain illnesses. In an atmosphere of increasing pressure to reduce health care costs, mindfulness is a practice that requires only the initial investment of time and reasonable fees to learn the techniques. Once you learn the technique, the only equipment required is your own breath. No machines, no memberships, no special clothing, no prescriptions.

The Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester, MA has a website listing a number of research papers you can read. It's worth taking a look at their website.

The clinic there has been in existence since 1979 and has treated more than 18,000 people. It is where I trained to teach Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. The clinic at UMass is not a temple or a church, it is a hospital and the people who go to the clinic are often at the end of their ropes and seeking relief from an illness or events that have sidetracked their lives.

Mindfulness practice can be the door to more fulfillment and peace but it can also be a way to find relief. It can help you heal. It can give you a sense of having control over your life once again. The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program uses weekly meetings over an eight-week period to change habits that may be standing in the way of your healing and feeling in control. A great deal of research is showing the neuroplasticity of the brain (the brain’s ability to establish new pathways) enables these changes.

The research shows that by changing your mind, that is, by shifting your thought patterns to find more peace on a moment-by-moment basis, you can improve both your mental and physical health.

It's worth investigating mindfulness as a way to change your life. Just imagine yourself -- freer and happier.

Lenore Flynn, who teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and mindfulness practice in Albany, N.Y., taught the mindfulness portion of the Happiness class at the University at Albany, SUNY, this spring. For information about her classes, go to This post appeared first at the Albany Times Union's Holistic Health blog.

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