Welcome to Living Well with MS, where we are pleased to welcome Melanie Lown as our guest. Melanie is a mindfulness teacher, has an M.A. in Psychology, and follows the Overcoming MS Program. She talks to Geoff about her MS diagnosis, the power of mindfulness and the importance of self-compassion.

Watch this episode on YouTube here. Keep reading for the key episode takeaways.

Read the episode transcript here

Topics and Timestamps:

01:30 Melanie’s introduction and MS diagnosis.

03:58 Balancing self-advocacy with compassion for healthcare professionals.

07:07 Using a diagnosis to discover your purpose.

09:48 Discovering Overcoming MS.

12:02 Our lived experience is as valid as datasets.

13:29 DMTs and COVID.

16:31 The growing popularity of mindfulness in Western medicine.

21:45 Meditation physically changes the brain.

23:33 Depression and spiritualism are opposite sides of the same neural pathway.

27:54 The awakened brain vs. the achieving brain.

29:39 Activating the parasympathetic nervous system with self-compassion.

33:39 Emotions are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

35:44 Mindfully choosing your healthcare team and treatment.

42:22 Tips to incorporate mindfulness into your lifestyle.

47:54 Non-judgmental awareness.

Selected Key Takeaways:

A diagnosis can give you the opportunity to discover your purpose.
“Having that misdiagnosis of a brain tumour was the moment to ask myself, ‘Am I really doing what I want to do with my life?’ and ‘Do I feel like my purpose here is being fulfilled?’… We went back and forth between [whether it was a] brain tumour, [or] MS for about 48 hours, and then they finally settled on ‘no, this is, in fact, multiple sclerosis’. Those 48 hours of considering my mortality completely changed the trajectory of my life.”

The benefits of meditation can be measured by functional MRI scans.
17:31 “It can be really scary when you're experiencing symptoms or when you're going through a relapse or a diagnosis. Mindfulness does allow us to step outside of ourselves and see things with a little bit more curiosity and a little bit more objectively. There are functional MRI scans of experienced meditators that show that our default mode network is going to be quieter and slower than that of individuals who don't meditate at all.”

Using Self-compassion in Treatment Decisions
38:22 “Self-compassion was really key for me when choosing to go on a DMT. At the beginning, I just looked at the risks solely [and] talked about narrowing in on life preservation. I was not broadening my perspective to incorporate how these things could benefit me. I made that decision by talking with my medical professional and doing my own research. Then also sitting with myself and choosing that this felt inherently right and that [taking medication] was something I wanted to do.”

Want to learn more about living a full and happy life with multiple sclerosis? Sign up to our newsletter to hear our latest tips.

More info and links:

Melanie’s Recommended Books

  • The Awakened Brain by Dr. Lisa Miller
  • Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff
  • How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan
  • Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
  • Cured by Jeffrey Rediger
  • Learned Hopefulness by Dr. Dan Tomasulo

Melanie's Recommended Scientific Articles:

  • Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American psychologist, 60(7), 678.
  • Miller, L., Bansal, R., Wickramaratne, P., Hao, X., Tenke, C. E., Weissman, M. M., & Peterson, B. S. (2014). Neuroanatomical correlates of religiosity and spirituality: a study in adults at high and low familial risk for depression. JAMA psychiatry, 71(2), 128-135.
  • Miller, L., Wickramaratne, P., Gameroff, M. J., Sage, M., Tenke, C. E., & Weissman, M.M. (2012). Religiosity and major depression in adults at high risk: a ten-year prospective study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 169(1), 89-94.
  • Portnoff, L., McClintock, C., Lau, E., Choi, S., & Miller, L. (2017). Spirituality cuts in half the relative risk for depression: Findings from the United States, China, and India. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 4(1), 22.

Follow us on social media:

Don’t miss out: 

Subscribe to this podcast and never miss an episode. Listen to our archive of Living Well with MS episodes here. If you like Living Well with MS, please leave a 5-star review.

Feel free to share your comments and suggestions for future guests and episode topics by emailing podcast@overcomingms.org.

Make sure you sign up to our newsletter to hear our latest tips and news about living a full and happy life with MS.

Support us: 

If you enjoy this podcast and want to support the ongoing work of Overcoming MS, we would really appreciate it if you could leave a donation here. Every donation, however small, helps us to share the podcast with more people on how to live well with MS.

Melanie’s bio:

Melanie’s career

Melanie Lown helps individuals and organisations uncover inherent strength, balance, and ease through mindfulness and meditation workshops and consulting.

Melanie’s diagnosis

After journeying through a life-changing diagnosis with MS, Melanie became acutely aware that discomfort can serve as a gateway to equanimity and prosperity through mind, body, and spiritual engagement.

Melanie’s qualifications

Melanie holds an MA in Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. While at Columbia, she trained in the Spirituality, Mind, Body Institute and was a colleague in the Spirituality and Psychology Research Lab. Before her time at Columbia, Melanie was the Lab Manager for the Imagination and Cognition Lab in the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. She has also studied at the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion.

With her BA in Psychology and BFA in Dance, Melanie spent over a decade working in event production and teaching in public high schools.