It can fight stress and ease itchy skin, but committing to a daily practice takes work.
This is our final week of meditation for better skin health. During the past three weeks we’ve accomplished a lot. We’ve increased our meditation stamina little by little and we’ve experimented with timing and techniques to help us stay in the moment. And we’ve also had a chance to see whether these mindful moments have improved our skin. According to research, even just 10 minutes a day of mindfulness meditation can reduce the stress response in the body. Since stress is a common psoriasis trigger, squashing it can lead to more good skin days in your future.
Now that you know what works for you (and what doesn’t), make a plan for the next week or two. Maybe you commit to squaring away time at 8 p.m. every weekday to open your meditation app in a quiet place after dinner is done, dishes are clean, and the kids have settled into bed. Or perhaps you set a reminder on your phone for three short meditative moments sprinkled throughout your workday. Or tack it on the end of your morning walk or run.
That’s something Reena Ruparelia of Toronto, Ontario, a longtime psoriasis warrior learned for herself. Ruparelia became a meditation teacher after discovering how it changed her own life. “It starts to drip into every aspect of our lives and that’s one of the biggest benefits,” Ruparelia says. Specifically, meditation has helped her treat herself with more kindness and compassion. “If I have an itch or pain, I notice it and then come back to it the next day and see if it’s still there. I’ve become more objective with my body sensations,” she says. Getting in tune with her body has made it a lot easier to avoid flares—and avoid spiraling when bad skin days do happen.
Evan Rieder, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Health in New York City, offers mindfulness meditation as a tool to his patients with psoriasis. As one of the only docs in the country who’s board-certified in both dermatology and psychiatry, he knows a thing or two about how our brains influence our skin (and vice versa). One of his big pieces of advice: You have to be motivated to keep up with a real meditation practice. “If you think you’re going to get better doing this a couple times over, it’s not going to work.” Consistency is key.
Goal: 20 Minutes of Daily Meditation
It’s time to—you guessed it!—add a few more minutes to your routine. Twenty minutes would be amazing, as would twice-daily meditation sessions. But remember, this journey is yours and yours only. If you’re still working up to that, don’t sweat it. Whatever you’re doing is great. If you’re meditating for even longer, then congrats to you for coming so far. There’s always further to go, and you’ll find your meditation routine will continue to give back to you if you keep committing to it.
Now comes the fun part: tailoring your practice to your own life.
How to Make Meditation a Habit
One of the best things about a meditation practice is that when you’re flexing those mindfulness muscles regularly, you can use them on demand when you really need them, say when a psoriasis flare hits or if you’re feeling stress mounting and you know you need to simmer down before things get out of control. “You have to [meditate] when you’re not stressed out and practice these things enough so that the moment you are stressed, you can snap into it,” Dr. Rieder says. That only works, though, if you’re working on it every day. And we have been! Now it’s time to make our newfound habit stick.
Stick With What Works
One of the most important things you can do to make your meditation routine effective is to keep it consistent, Ruparelia says. You might be tempted to try new meditation techniques every day or each week after you’ve gotten a little bored of what you’re doing. Resist the urge.
“It’s great to learn different tools, but you want to stick with a similar practice so you can see how things change on a day-to-day basis,” Ruparelia adds. If you’re constantly switching it up, it’ll be impossible to know what really works best for you. Remember: Boredom is to be expected. Try not to run away from it, but embrace it.
Track Your Progress
With meditation, there’s no end goal. It can help, though, to notice how your meditation practices change weekly or monthly, so that you can see how far you’ve come and can continue to make sure you’re benefiting from it. Keeping some sort of symptom log can also help you suss out how your new routine is impacting both your mental health and psoriasis—which is the real reason you’ve embarked on this journey, right?
You should also simply take note of how your practice translates to real life—writing that down in a journal can’t hurt either. Maybe you’re able to stay more patient when you’ve had a bad day. Or instead of getting angry when someone cuts you off in traffic, you find that now you take a deep breath and let it go. Meditation is also “working” when you can be present and enjoy your surroundings a bit more, Ruparelia adds. “Maybe you can feel the wind and the grass beneath your feet, or you actually listen to someone at work instead of being in a constant narrative in your head.” These are all signs that being mindful is coming more naturally to you.
While meditation isn’t going to change your skin instantly or even cure your psoriasis, there’s no denying that stress and skin are intimately connected. Psoriasis is for life, but so is your new meditation practice, which arms you with ways to keep your stress levels low and reduce that major psoriasis trigger so that you’ll have more flare-free days ahead of you.