Perhaps you’re not (yet) into it, but you probably have heard about mindfulness-based meditation. The simplest form is to just sit down, pay attention to your breathing and whenever your mind gets distracted, you just bring it back to the sensation of the breath again and again.
This may seem like a dull thing to do. But actually, learning to meditate can really make a difference in your life. As proven again by new research, exploring the beneficial effects of meditation on skin diseases.
Psychological factors, such as stress, are associated with the onset, maintenance and exacerbation of a wide variety of skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, acne and the pigment disorder vitiligo.
Therefore, a number of specific psychological interventions have been developed to improve the severity of and distress associated with these skin diseases, including habit reversal, cognitive behavioral therapy and arousal reducing techniques such as mediation.
For the first time, researchers of the University of Sheffield have investigated the effectiveness of these psychological treatments. They analyzed findings gathered from more than 900 participants in 22 studies.
”It has long been accepted that psychological interventions can help patients deal with the emotional impact of their skin diseases,” said Deborah Mason of the British Association of Dermatologists. “But for the first time, this shows that they can also improve the physical symptoms.”
The researchers found that behavioral therapies aimed at reversing bad habits had the largest effect, particularly helping patients modify behavior to deal with itching and scratching.
In addition, the data showed that cognitive behavior therapy, which works on changing negative thought patterns, had a medium-to-large effect size on the skin conditions, followed by arousal reduction (meditation) which had medium-sized effects.
Meditation directly ameliorates stress. Therefore it may help people who are stuck in a ‘stress– disease cycle’ where stress is involved in the onset and maintenance of the skin condition, while the skin condition in turn causes stress to the patient.
“It is already widely acknowledged that distress, trauma and stressful periods of a person’s life are often triggers for the initial development of psoriasis and eczema, as well as subsequent flare-ups, said Bevis Man, spokesman for the British Skin Foundation charity when interviewed by the Telegraph.
“It therefore makes sense that we attempt to tackle some of these underlying issues in addition to treating any symptomatic problems caused by the various skin diseases.”
The research team said their study highlighted the need for further research through controlled trials to develop treatments targeting specific complaints and to evaluate them across a wider range of skin conditions.
Lavda, AC, Webb, TL, & Thompson, AR (2012). A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of psychological interventions for adults with skin conditions. British Journal of Dermatology DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2012.11183.x