Mindfulness for People with neurological conditions

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a form of mediation. The practice of mindfulness is about focusing on what you are sensing in that moment. You practice being aware and accepting of what you are experiencing here and now. Things you may focus on may include what you can

  • see
  • hear
  • feel
  • taste
  • smell

Though is relatively new to western society, it has been practiced in eastern cultures for many years. Almost any activity or exercise can be incorporated into a mindfulness experience. It aims to reducing suffering by bringing awareness, insight, calmness and composure during difficult experiences.

Mindfulness involves paying attention to things around you

Research

Research has shown that the practice of mindfulness may reduce stress, anxiety, pain, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Emerging evidence indicates there may be benefits of mindfulness for people with Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

With over 2000 scientific articles on mediation published to date, the knowledge of the how it works is still young. Evidence is starting to suggest that mindfulness and mediation may cause neuroplastic changes. In other words, neuroplasticity is rewiring the part of the brain that regulates attention, emotion and self-awareness.

Examples of mindfulness exercises:

  • Focus on Breathing: Sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Sitting and breathing for even just a minute can help.
  • Body scan meditation: Lie on your back with your legs out straight and arms at your sides, palms facing up. Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body, in order, from toe to head or head to toe. Be aware of any sensations, emotions or thoughts associated with each part of your body.
  • Sitting meditation: Sit comfortably with your back straight, feet flat on the floor and hands in your lap. Breathing through your nose, focus on your breath moving in and out of your body. If physical sensations or thoughts interrupt your meditation, note the experience and then return your focus to your breath.
  • Walking meditation: Find a quiet place 3 to 6 metres in length and begin to walk slowly. Focus on the experience of walking, being aware of the sensations of standing and the subtle movements that keep your balance. When you reach the end of your path, turn, and continue walking, maintaining awareness of your sensations

Are there any tools to help me ?

Yes. There are several apps available, some free and some paid, that can help you practice this skill. Some of these are:

If you would like to know incorporate some mindfulness as part of your therapy program, or would like to know more about how it may assist you in therapy, please contact Sunshine Coast Neuro Rehab on [email protected] or call us on (07) 5448 1155. 

Neve Cavanagah
Physiotherapist, APA Member

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References:

Campbell, M., Pakenham, K.I. Evaluation of a Brief Mindfulness Program for People with Multiple Sclerosis Delivered in the Community Over Five Years. Applied Research Quality Life 17, 1019–1041 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-021-09944-4

Gilbertson RM, Klatt MD. Mindfulness in Motion for People with Multiple Sclerosis: A Feasibility Study. Int J MS Care. 2017;19(5):225-231. doi:10.7224/1537-2073.2015-095

Pickut B, Vanneste S, Hirsch MA, et al. Mindfulness Training among Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease: Neurobehavioral Effects. Parkinsons Dis. 2015;2015:816404. doi:10.1155/2015/816404

Pye, Deidre (2015). CBT and Mindfulness Psychotherapy for Parkinson’s Disease CBT and Mindfulness Psychotherapy for Parkinson’s Disease. Professional Doctorate, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.https://doi.org/10.14264/374065

Simpson R, Simpson S, Ramparsad N, et al Mindfulness-based interventions for mental well-being among people with multiple sclerosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trialsJournal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 2019;90:1051-1058.

Simpson, R., Booth, J., Lawrence, M. et al. Mindfulness based interventions in multiple sclerosis – a systematic review. BMC Neurol 14, 15 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2377-14-15

van der Heide, A., Speckens, A.E.M., Meinders, M.J. et al. Stress and mindfulness in Parkinson’s disease – a survey in 5000 patients. npj Parkinsons Dis. 7, 7 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41531-020-00152-9