Eczema can be a beast—dry, red skin, scaly patches, and that maddening itch. But research suggests there’s a practice you can adopt right now that can help ease the most annoying symptoms of atopic dermatitis.
Meditation—a mind and body practice that already has many proven health benefits, per the National Institute of Health—may also help ease the urge to scratch at eczema, according to research from Emory University.
It’s not exactly a cure-all—it won’t make your eczema disappear—but the pilot study is seriously promising for anyone who deals with eczema on the daily. Researchers found that people who participated in the meditation study saw improved quality of life and felt more in control of their skin by the end of the eight-week meditation course. In fact, all the participants were able to complete a two-hour meditation session without their eczema interfering—an impressive feat if you think about how difficult itchy skin can make it to concentrate.
“[The] feeling of teeth clenching anger towards my itch has improved; and now when that sensation comes, I don’t feel as angry and can let the itch pass faster,” said one of the study’s participants in a news release.
Each person involved met twice a week to learn the technique and practiced between class meetings. The course emphasized things like breathing control, attention stability, and visualization, according to the news release. Throughout the course, each participant tracked the severity of their itch and its impact on their quality of life.
Meditation Tips for Beginners
Getting a better handle on your eczema isn’t the only reason to try this mind-body practice for yourself. You can also reap plenty of other physical and mental health benefits, including lower blood pressure, reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, and decreased pain, according to the NIH.
But getting started with meditation can be daunting. How the heck do you “train your mind,” especially when you already have a million thoughts zooming around your head? It helps to first get a better understanding of what counts as meditation—it may be broader than you think. In fact, there are many types of meditation, but most types share these qualities, per the NIH:
Maintaining a comfortable posture (oftentimes sitting or lying down, but can be walking, too)
Focusing your attention (you may pick a word or mantra, or the sensations of your breath and in your body)
An attitude of openness, which means allowing thoughts and distractions to pass through your mind without judgment
- A quiet place to meditate
Think of it like a workout for your mind that will help you destress and feel better overall. A simple way to try it out is to find a distraction-free place—it can even be your living room carpet—where you can spend even just five minutes with closed eyes and in a comfortable position focusing on slow, deep breaths, says the Mayo Clinic. Try your best to focus all your attention on the feeling and sound of your breath—but if you find your mind wandering, don’t worry, it’s totally normal. Just gently redirect your attention back to your breath.
You can also try meditation apps, like Headspace or Calm that will help guide you through it.