Although it can sometimes feel relaxing, this is not the aim of mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about paying attention to the present moment, without judgement. This can help to reduce anxiety, making it less likely you will be swept away by thoughts about the past or worries about the future. Given that the topic this week is stress management, mindfulness deserves a special mention. Bringing mindfulness into your daily routine can help you to manage the challenges of daily life with chronic pain.
Mindfulness allows you to be present and engage fully in what you’re doing. This often involves being able to sit with and tolerate your physical and emotional discomfort. Paradoxically, when we allow pain and discomfort to come and go naturally, it tends to lessen in intensity. Struggling with pain and discomfort, on the other hand, tends to make it worse. Have you ever noticed this in your own life? Sometimes, the more we wish the pain wasn’t there, the worse it feels. Mindfulness practice allows you to pay attention to your reality without getting caught up in unhelpful stories about it.
Mindfulness has been linked to pain reduction in people with chronic pain. Specifically, it has been found to decrease the intensity of pain and reduce its impact on people’s functioning in several areas of daily life. It has also been linked with reduced anxiety, depression, and fatigue, and better overall quality of life. As you’ll see below, adding mindfulness practice into your daily routine can be relatively simple, but it has the potential to create significant change.
Here are a few examples of how mindfulness may help with chronic pain:
- Mindfulness helps you manage stress and anxiety, which play a role in maintaining your pain.
- Mindfulness can reduce muscle tension, which can directly improve pain and headaches.
- Mindfulness can help you let go of the unhelpful and worrisome thoughts that worsen your pain.
- Mindfulness makes you less emotionally reactive and better able to tolerate your pain.
- Mindfulness can cause physical changes in the brain and body that alter processes linked to your pain (e.g., immune system functioning, inflammation and the stress response).