The exciting news is that mindfulness can help if you have psoriasis. But what is it and how does it work?
Mindfulness is a meditation technique where you focus your mind on the present moment and appreciate now rather than think about the past or the future.
Take this example:
My daughter and I went out for afternoon tea and we ordered the biggest, stickiest cake on display. My daughter, in her new dress, tucked in with relish. She focused all her attention on the cake, tasting each delicious mouthful and the sweet, sticky sensation in her mouth. She was completely happy, completely absorbed in the moment. I ate my cake too but my mind was elsewhere. I was looking at the smudge of chocolate down her new dress and wondering whether it would stain and whether we should have gone for a plain sponge instead? I was thinking about the calories I didn’t need and feeling bad about the diet I hadn’t started and the clothes I was no closer to fitting into by summer. I was eating but my mind was elsewhere, worrying about whether it was such a good idea to have ordered such a big cake as now my daughter would not be hungry at tea-time and I would be cross. Next thing, the cake was gone and I’d hardly noticed eating it. My daughter had been naturally mindful, I on the other hand had been mind-less!
Being mindful is about being in the present moment and discouraging the mind from wandering. Just think about it: how often do you eat without tasting? Do you spend time with your family worrying about all the chores you have to do rather than enjoying their company? When you are walking your dog in the evening, do you think about your day at work instead of noticing the environment around you?
When our mind wanders, it can have a large physical impact on our bodies; changes in blood pressure, surges in adrenalin, rises in heart rate and cortisol to name a few. Mindfulness not only changes the structure of the brain, it can also reduce depression and stress and improve quality of life. There’s evidence that being mindful slows down the body’s inflammatory response and perhaps this is why it can be beneficial in psoriasis.
Researchers at Manchester University have found promising results from a pilot study using mindfulness as a treatment for psoriasis. They found that patients who had a mindfulness therapy in addition to their usual treatment showed better improvements in their psoriasis when compared to people who had their usual treatment only. This is great news for us psoriasis sufferers.
There are many online courses and apps to learn in your own time, or you might want to consider joining a local class. There are also residential mindfulness centres across the globe. See the Mindfulness Association’s website for a list of courses worldwide.
Remember, it’s not about getting it right or wrong. Your mind will wander – it’s what they do. When you are being mindful, you simply notice your mind has wandered and bring it back to the task. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It can take many years to perfect the art of mindfulness, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
Even short periods of time can have beneficial effects, so why not start with a mindful minute whilst you’re waiting for your coffee to brew?