The Parkinson Alliance Blog

Mindfulness and Parkinson’s Disease

Mindfulness-1

Becoming “mindful” has entered the American mainstream as evidenced by the countless books and articles devoted to the topic.  At its most basic, being mindful is being consciously aware of something in the present moment and accepting that awareness without judging it.  Many claim that being mindful results in a variety of benefits.  It apparently is good for our bodies, possibly boosting our immune system, and good for our mind, by helping to reduce stress and depression, and it can even tune out distractions and help us better focus.  But can mindfulness possibly play a role in helping to treat  Parkinson’s?  In trying to answer this question, we came across a clinical study written by Barbara Picket, MD, M.P.H. and researchers at the University of Amtwerp in Belgium called Mindfulness Training among Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease: Neurobehavioral Effects.

For this study, persons with Parkinson’s took part in a study in which half of the group were assigned to a mindfulness-based group and the other half to a usual care group.  Those involved in the mindfulness group had weekly sessions that included things like yoga and sitting medication.  They were also instructed how to practice mindfulness at home.  At the start of the study, all participants had a MRI of their brain.  At the end of the study, each had another MRI to see if the MRI recorded any changes in their brains. Interestingly, for the individuals in the mindfulness group, there were changes that included an increase in grey matter density in the left and right hippocampus and other areas of the brain that was not seen in the participants in the other group.

The study concluded that “Even with advances in symptomatic treatment, there is a need for adjunct person-centered therapeutic approaches to help improve the well-being of people who are faced by this disease in daily life. … Mindfulness training, as taught by qualified and experienced teachers, may offer a more participatory medicine, empowering the individual by engagement to learn how to strengthen internal resources to help cope with chronic disease. Mindfulness training may help to restore some degree of self-determination in the experience of living with PD. This is in line with person-centered research that employs scientific methods that are holistic, integrated, and transdisciplinary.”

It is also noted that caution must be used in interpreting their results because of acknowledged limitations of the study.  Even so, the study may demonstrate that a program of mindfulness training for people living with Parkinson’s can be beneficial. The study is available under the Creative Commons Attribution License.  You can read it at Parkinson’s Disease, a peer-reviewed, open access journal, at http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/816404.

If you’d like to try adding mindfulness to your day, there are several resources that will help get you started.  Mindful.org has an article called 11 Steps Toward Daily Mindfulness .  Its goal is to help you avoid going down the “same old mental ruts” and to instead become aware of where your attention is and “deliberately changing the focus of attention.”

In this Ted Talk, mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe describes the power of refreshing your mid for 10 minutes a day.

 

In this TED talk, Pico Iyer talks about the insight that comes with taking the time for stillness.

 

Do you have Parkinson’s and practice mindfulness?  Please let us hear how it is working for you!

– Margaret Tuchman and Gloria Hansen, The Parkinson Alliance

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