CHRONIC PAIN AND ILLNESS
If you live with chronic pain or illness you will probably know that your mood, thoughts and emotions can affect your pain and it can take over your life. Mindfulness offers natural pain management and helps you to improve your overall wellbeing.
Mindfulness is being aware of your body, thoughts and emotions in the present moment.
With pain you are probably already fully aware of your body so it may seem a bit of a paradox that mindfulness can help as the last thing we want to do is increase our awareness.
When we experience pain it is not only the physical sensations but also the psychological pain as our mind tends to launch into judgements and ruminate about how much we hate it and wish it would go away. We then start looking for solutions to relieve the pain – if they don’t work – frustration, feelings of being overwhelmed or trapped can arise. This reaction is natural but tends to make the pain worse and may cause stress, anxiety and depression.
Mindful awareness is paying attention to something with a beginners mind, with curiosity and without judgement. Rather than letting you mind jump straight into negative thoughts; mindfulness teaches us to be curious about the intensity of pain and to stop achieving goals about reducing it. This helps to relieve the “nothing works” scenario.
Instead the mindfulness approach is to engage with the pain just as it is – exploring what it is like – sharp, dull, solid, moving… asking questions like “what do I notice?” This helps to gain a more accurate perception of pain.
Medical research, through clinical trials, has shown that it is more effective to explore the sensations of pain and illness as they rise and fall in your body with mindfulness meditation. It can be more powerful than the most commonly prescribed painkillers – and shown to reduce chronic pain by 57 percent with accomplished meditators being able to reduce it by over 90 percent.MRI studies show that mindfulness soothes the brain patterns underlying pain and, over time, these changes take root and alter the structure of the brain itself, so that patients no longer feel pain with the same intensity. Pain clinics now prescribe mindfulness meditation to help patients cope with a wide range of diseases such as;
- irritable bowel syndrome
- multiple sclerosis
- chronic fatigue
- back problems
- coeliac disease – and many more.