The light bulb moment for a rheumatologist.
This is a contributor article by Dr. Donald Thomas, author of The Lupus Encyclopedia.
I was attending a review course at Johns Hopkins a few years ago. One of the main lectures was about teaching patients with rheumatologic diseases mindfulness. Until then, I thought of “mindfulness” as a new age thing my fantastic next-door neighbors did, or it reminded me of that Saturday Night Live sketch: “Daily Affirmations” by Stuart Smiley.
The expert teaching us was Dr. Neda Gould, Ph.D. She told us that if we taught our patients to incorporate mindfulness into daily practice, even just 5-10 minutes a day, it could help their brain health, immune systems, decrease pain, and improve their quality of life.
What really grabbed my attention was when she discussed the research. One study that really stuck out was one where they looked at brain MRIs of meditators and compared them to nonmeditators. The meditators had essential areas of the brain that were larger. This included the gray matter in the right orbitofrontal cortex, right thalamus, left inferior temporal gyrus, and right hippocampus.
This was remarkable. Some of these enlarged anatomical structures are important for emotional reactions; the hippocampus is vital for memory.
Dr. Gould and other mindfulness experts recently wrote an article named “Stress, mindfulness, and systemic lupus erythematosus: An overview and directions for future research.” It summarizes research on how mindfulness impacts the immune system and was published in the journal Lupus. This post summarizes some of their points.