TUESDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A small study finds that
mindfulness training, which teaches people to push away troublesome
thoughts, helped improve well-being in people with rheumatoid
arthritis and similar diseases.
Patients in Norway who received the training didn't have less
pain compared to those who didn't receive the training, but
researchers found they coped better, were less tired and showed
"Yes, they still have pain, but they are able to manage their pain in more constructive ways," said study author Heidi Zangi, a graduate student at the National Resource Center for Rehabilitation in Rheumatology at Diakonhjemmet Hospital in Oslo.
Mindfulness training teaches people to "stay in the here and
now," explained Stefan G. Hofmann, a professor of psychology at
Boston University. "It keeps people in the present moment. The
instructions are often to focus on breathing or present-moment
awareness. As thoughts come into the mind, you just let them come
and go without hanging on to them, without focusing on the future,
without ruminating about the past."
Mindfulness isn't meditation, but the two are linked, Hofmann
said, since "it's impossible to do meditation without doing
Zangi said there's only been limited research into how
mindfulness affects people's abilities to cope with pain.
In the new study, researchers recruited 73 people aged 20 to 70
who suffered from inflammatory rheumatic joint diseases such as
Some participants took part in 10 group sessions, each 4.5
hours, that focused on teaching mindfulness; they got a booster
session after six months. "Through exercises such as guided
imagery, drawing, moving to music and use of poetry, participants
are invited to process and express their emotions, releasing the
energy that has been used to avoid or suppress them," Zangi
The other participants were given compact discs with training
about mindfulness, but it was up to them to decide whether they
would listen to them.
After a year, the researchers followed-up with 67 of the
participants to see how they were doing.
The study, published in the Dec. 20 online edition of the
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, found that those who took part in the in-person training reported better coping and overall well-being than the others.
Kendrin Sonneville, a clinical nutrition specialist at
Children's Hospital, Boston, who's studying mindfulness and eating,
said the study is strong. It adds to previous research that
suggests mindfulness is most effective for mental disorders, such
as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and binge-eating disorder,
plus pain syndromes and musculoskeletal diseases, Sonneville
Hofmann said one next step is to better understand how
mindfulness takes people's minds off their pain. It might be a
matter of distraction, he said, or general relaxation.
For more about
the mind/body connection, visit the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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