Are you stressed?
If you have psoriasis, you may have discovered already that stress can really impact your health, causing psoriasis flare-ups. For everybody, the effects of long-term stress can be far-reaching and detrimental to health and it is beneficial to avoid as many stress triggers as possible. This may not be easy to do but it is something that you can develop over time.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness interventions (usually in the form of meditation) are said to help manage stress. With its origins deeply rooted in the Buddhist traditions, mindfulness is a perfect way of adopting an introspective consciousness which helps to accept the demands of daily life without feeling stressed.
Mindfulness is proposed to consist of 5 different aspects (3):
- You observe internal and external sensations
- You are aware of the present moment instead of 'mind wandering'
- You are nonjudgmental towards your own thoughts
- You describe rather than label your experiences
- You allow thoughts to come and go without responding
Through the regular practice of mindfulness interventions, the body should find an inner balance which should improve your emotional well-being and reduce stress.
What does the science say?
Research into mindfulness and psoriasis led to a study of two groups receiving treatment with light therapy (1). One group listened to mindfulness meditation instructions while receiving ultraviolet light therapy, and the other group experienced light therapy but no mindfulness meditation recordings. There was a distinct benefit in the group who did the mindfulness meditation. Results were remarkable as their psoriasis took approximately half the time to clear up than those in the other group.
A more recent study (2) could not find a direct correlation between practising mindfulness and psoriasis improvements. However, even those study participants who reported no change in the appearance of their psoriasis noticed that their reaction towards their condition changed. They felt calmer and more confident and an increased behavioural control lead to better sleep and more energy.
A third study (3) confirmed the findings that people living with a skin condition who practised higher levels of mindfulness reported less psychosocial distress and a better quality of life.
What can you do?
Psoriasis itself can have an impact on emotional well-being, affecting confidence and self-esteem, so mindfulness can help to address this, helping to quieten the mind and to accept the condition.
If you feel yourself becoming stressed or overwhelmed, you can practise mindfulness intervention like meditation for 5 or 10 minutes or longer if required, focusing on your breathing and clearing your mind. This can quickly become a beneficial behaviour routine which can improve your overall well-being.
1. Kabat-Zenn et al. 1998: Influence of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention on rates of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis undergoing phototherapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9773769
2. Fordham et al. 2014: The acceptability and usefulness of mindfulness‐based cognitive therapy for people living with psoriasis: a qualitative study. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/bjd.13333
3. Montgomery et al. 2016: The importance of mindfulness in psychosocial distress and quality of life in dermatology patients. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/bjd.14719