3) Meditation

3) Meditation


Stress, anxiety and mental fatigue severely worsen symptoms of MS. Due to hormonal changes and other biochemical responses to stress, the nervous system is aggravated, creating pain and depressing the immune response.

Sleep disorders often result causing fatigue which increases one’s susceptibility to stress. This, in turn, exacerbates MS symptoms. Hence a vicious circle gets created.

An effective stress reduction technique, and a key component of Ayurveda, Transcendental Meditation is a program, which is excellent for:

  • Reducing and often removing stress altogether
  • Removing the stress component of pain
  • Reducing insomnia
  • Promoting rest and relaxation
  • Creating inner peace and enhancing emotional well-being
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Reducing negativity and depression
  • Reducing fatigue and increasing energy

  • Meditation has also been shown to help:
  • Reduce symptoms of allergies and asthma
  • High blood pressure, heart disease and cancer
  • Binge eating, substance abuse and anxiety disorders

Transcendental Meditation is the single most effective tool Richard Beecroft and the  Beyond MS Association use to overcome MS – physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Between September 2005 and May 2008 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, retired pediatrician Peter Boelens helped people with depression. But he didn't use medicine; he claimed that his cure was prayer. For one hour a week for six weeks, 27 men and women engaged in person-to-person prayer sessions during which they prayed with a Christian minister without making any physical contact. They prayed for forgiveness, and they prayed for god to heal their stresses.

Everyone in the study met the DSM criteria for depressive disorder, and many of them had anxiety too. At the end of six weeks, their self-reported scores on the Hamilton Rating Scales for Depression and Anxiety had all gone down. They also showed increases on a "Life Orientation Test" that tests for optimism and a "Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale," compared to a control group who received no intervention at all.

One year later, when Boelens followed up, the prayer group had maintained their mental health. "You release all the feelings and the emotions," he says. "You dump them out at the foot of the cross and dust them off, and the blood of Jesus washes them away." Last year, Boelens repeated his experiment, wanting to know more. He teamed up with a Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientist Ramiro Salas to see what the brains of the people who prayed were doing.

"I study the brain, not religion," Salas says, when I ask him about the possibility of prayer as a treatment for depression. Salas's work focuses on the mentally ill brain, trying to find ways to predict through imaging what treatments could be most effective. To do that, he designed an experiment for 14 new prayer subjects with depression, all recruited from Houston churches, and asked them to remember their biggest trauma. He scanned them before and after six weeks of prayer with Boelens. Along with their self-reported improvements, Salas found compelling neurological changes: He saw more activity in the prefrontal areas of the brain when he asked them to think about their trauma. This area of the brain is thought to regulate cognitive control, suggesting that "whatever happened during prayer allowed the patient to actually have better cognitive control over their emotions," Salas says.

The precuneus, a region which has been associated with introspection, was less activated when the group was asked to think about their trauma. "What that might mean is that, after prayer, they're feeling that these feelings are not really who they are, they don't define them anymore," Salas says. There are a lot of caveats to their study, Salas says. They only looked at 14 people. The sample group was biased, because they were all recruited from churches, so they were likely to be Christian already. Boelens, Salas says, is a very likeable and charismatic person. "One of my questions is: Is this a Peter-specific effect?' Salas says. "If Peter says after six weeks, 'Do you feel better?' and you really like Peter, you're going to tell him, 'Yes Peter, I feel better.'"

Salas says they need to repeat the study, and have people pray with someone else, test other religions, and a variety of degree of beliefs. "There's so many things we should do," he says. "Basically, the experiment we did shows that if you're a Christian, and you're depressed, and you pray with Peter for six weeks, your brain changes, and you claim that you're a lot better. But that's still something that should be studied."