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Meditation can help People with HIV

Update Date: Oct 31, 2014 11:25 AM EDT

When people get diagnosed with a life-altering disease, such as cancer or HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), they often become focused on managing symptoms and taking medications. However, even though it is important to adhere to one's medical regimen, remembering to take care of the mind is vital as well.

In a new study, researchers examined the effects of a non-pharmacological intervention method on the mental and physical health of patients with HIV. They discovered that meditation could improve patients' overall health.

For this study, the team with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the non-profit David Lynch Foundation recruited HIV-positive patients. The team collected information on their stress levels, wellbeing, psychological distress levels and physical symptoms associated with their infection. A total of 37 people finished the study.

The participants were taught how to practice Transcendental Meditation (TM), which is a mindfulness regimen. For three months, the patients practiced TM for 20-minutes twice a day. After the study ended, the patients reported feeling better. Overall, the patients got sick less frequently, had more energy and felt less fatigued. In terms of mental health, the patients reported lower stress and anxiety levels as well as fewer depressive symptoms and feelings of hostility and anger.

"My prediction two years ago was that this [TM] could improve the quality of life of people living with HIV," Thomas Roth, the director of the David Lynch Foundation HIV Initiative, said according to TIME. Roth has been teaching TM for 40 years.

Despite the study's findings, the researchers noted that they relied heavily on the patients' self-reports. They did not carry out blood tests to measure factors such as stress and T-cell counts. The sample size was also very small.

The study is currently not published but has been submitted to scientific journals. For more information on the research, click here.

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