Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a therapy designed to enhance awareness and nonjudgmental acceptance in clients. Individuals who are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety often benefit immensely from this noninvasive relaxation approach. MBSR uses a combination of techniques that teach individuals how to be more reflective and considerate of their emotions rather than reactive. Research has shown that MBSR has positive results when used for the treatment of many mental health challenges. But less is known about how it can help alleviate physical and physiologic symptoms. To determine if MBSR can be equally affective for physiologic conditions as well as emotional symptoms, Mechthild Hartmann of the Department of Medicine II and Psychosomatik at the University of Heidelberg in Germany recently led a study that evaluated MBSR in participants with type II diabetes.
The 110 participants were assigned to MBSR or treatment as usual (TAU) and were evaluated for symptoms of depression before and after the therapy. Hartmann also measured their levels of albuminuria (protein in urine) and blood pressure. The participants were monitored over the course of the 8-week treatment and were then assessed 5 years posttreatment. Hartmann discovered that the psychologic distress of the participants in the MBSR group decreased much more than in the TAU group. Although there were no significant changes in albuminuria, the diastolic blood pressure in the MBSR group was much lower than that in the TAU group.
Taken together, these findings suggest that although MBSR does not have a direct effect on the physiologic activities of the kidneys in individuals with type II diabetes, it does serve to reduce the depression and stress that can accompany this illness. Psychologic distress is known to increase inflammation and could negatively impact other symptoms of diabetes. Therefore, MBSR can be viewed as one more course of treatment in the overall fight against the negative consequences of diabetes. Additionally, this approach could help slow down the development of other psychological and physiologic symptoms of diabetes. Hartmann added, “The specific advantage of MBSR is its preventive nature and broad applicability for a variety of symptoms.”
Hartmann, M., Kopf, S., Kircher, C., Faude-Lang, V., Djuric, Z. (2012). Sustained effects of a mindfulness-based stress-reduction intervention in type 2 diabetic patients: Design and first results of a randomized controlled trial (the Heidelberger Diabetes and Stress-Study). Diabetes Care, 35.5, 945-947.
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