Meditation/Mindfulness – the health benefits

Forget the hippy dippy image.  Growing scientific research has shown that meditation can help with pain relief, lower blood pressure, regulate your immune system and even slow down the ageing process.  It is also a practical tool for dealing with stress, anxiety and depression.”

Some of our BUS members have told us that they experience depression (either because they have Birdshot or because of the side effects of medication), high blood pressure (either due to stress or as a side effects of medication) and pain in their joints and eyes (possibly a side effect of medication).   Many of our female members (including Rea and I) have complained about our ageing, dry and wrinkly skin (a side effect of medication).

Because of this, we thought it would be useful to introduce you to “Mindfulness”.  It is a simple practice which might just help you with some of the issues resulting from taking steroids, immunosuppressants, and concern about losing visual acuity.

Writer Tim Parks tells us more:-“In 2004 a form of meditation called mindfulness was recommended as a treatment for recurrent depression by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and has been show to halve relapse rates.  Mindfulness uses a combination of meditation, breathing and yoga techniques helps people focus on the present moment and de-stress their thought processes. 

Meditation and mindfulness are the same thing,  you practice meditation to become more mindful.  American research has shown that people who meditate for 20 minutes a day had a higher pain threshold after just four days.  And scans have shown that regularly practicing mindfulness can shift activity from the pessimistic right side of our brain which is associated with fear, anxiety, and depression to the optimistic left side which is responsible for upbeat, positive emotions.”

Some of our members have told of the positive benefits they have received from meditation and mindfulness.   This may be something that could help you – AND, it does not involve taking toxic medication!

There is a four week course which is run on line by the Mental Health Foundation which costs £40 and a book which you can buy for just £5.00 The Mindful Manifesto by Dr Jonty Heaversede and Ed Haliwell which is a practical introduction and guide.”

You can read more about the experiences of Tim Parks is his book where he talks about how Mindfulness has changed his life  “Teach us to Sit Still”  – available from Amazon for just £5.00,  or you can even get started  for nothing by trying out this short Vipassana-based exercise which Tim Parks describes in detail below.

Don’t worry, Tim Parks says.  “You cant know what you’re aiming at until you get there, so don’t aim at anything.

  • Set an alarm for 10 minutes or however long you plan to sit
  • Sit in a position you can hold, hopefully with you back straight
  • There are no mantras, imaging or breathing techniques in this medication.
  • Close you eyes and mouth and feel your breath as it crosses your upper lip, entering and leaving your nose.
  • Maybe be you feel nothing.  Don’t be anxious – just bring your mind back every time it wanders off.
  • Don’t try to regulate your breathing.  Wait for it to come.  It will.

Once you can hang on to your breathing for a minute or two, (it might take a few sittings), use the concentration to go off and explore your body bit by bit.  The important thing is to keep the mind moving.  Painful or pleasurable, don’t linger over any one part of the body.

However futile this all sounds, follow the instructions faithfully and things will eventually begin to happen.  Above all, however long or short a time you’ve decided to sit for, accept that you are there for the duration.  Learning not to worry how much time is left is a great step forward.”

It is time I took some of my own advice, and gave myself an on-line mindfulness course for Christmas to see how it might help me.

If anyone has already tried Mindfulness, we would really like to hear your experiences.



2 thoughts on “Meditation/Mindfulness – the health benefits

  1. I can thoroughly recommend Mindfulness. Did a course in Manchester earlier this year, and have been back for two ‘refresher’ days since. Although you can learn it from a book, get to a Mindfulness course if you can (mine consisted of three half-day sessions and a full-day session, with homework in between, helpful notes, and three CDs of guided meditations). As our tutor said: ‘you don’t have to like it, you just have do it’. In fact, it is extremely relaxing and pleasantly beneficial, you soon notice the benefits, and the ‘three-minute breathing space’ technique can be done any time things are getting tough, eg, eye hospital appointments! I had long-standing problems with anxiety before my birdshot diagnosis, and, as you can imagine, the diagnosis didn’t help. Meditation practices boost the immune system, or the bit we have left when we’re immunosuppressed. Go for it, I’d say!

  2. I have been practising ‘Mindfulness of Breathing’ meditation for about three years. I started it before my diagnosis. I had previously tried to teach myself and found it very hard. It is much easier to learn the practice through a tutor or through a group. If you have tried teaching yourself through a book and have got nowhere, I would forget the book and have the practice taught. After you have been practising for a few months, go back to your book/books. It will make more sense. In my experience it is a very active process and you need to work at it. It is refreshing and relaxing, but it requires your active engagement. It is not a way of switching off. I realised that the practice was having a very good impact on me after about nine months, although I did notice some general improvement in my well being after about two months. I suspect that some personalities will take to it more than others. If you live in your head a lot and spend too much time (?) day dreaming then I think you will benefit.

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