Mindfulness Over Pain

In the midst of controversies surrounding the UK government’s ATOS testing for those in receipt of benefits for ‘hidden disabilities’, we look at the psychology of pain management and how meditating and mindfulness can help us control coping with chronic pain, depression and other mental health issues.

How we evaluate pain

When we injure ourselves, our minds evaluate the injury and our thoughts, feelings, experiences, expectations and  genetics; constructing the pain experience accordingly. Anxiety levels, fears, catastrophising and negative expectations can dramatically amplify the way we experience pain. We only have to consider the effects of pointing out a rainbow, or buying an ice cream for a child following a fall; to understand how the mind can be distracted from accident or injury.

Tuning up

Research suggests that creating space to practise mindfulness allows us to tune into our bodies and manage pain effectively. In the case of a bone cancer survivor who had his leg amputated; pain in his phantom limb incapacitated him and held back his progression at university. Upon employing visualisation techniques and acknowledging the normality of pain, he was able to change the way he viewed it. This resulted in restructuring the mind’s pain management; restoring the patient to a normal life.

Mindfulness and mental health

When incorporated within a wider therapy plan, mindfulness can provide effective relief for sufferers of anxiety and stress related illnesses, as well as alleviating depression and even aggression. Identifying the close link between physical and mental symptoms, mindfulness allows us to connect body and mind: reducing anxieties and negative thought patterns.

What is mindfulness?

How many times a day do you switch the kettle on? For many of us, making a cup of tea or coffee is so commonplace, we do it absentmindedly. Imagine not having given your body anything but plain water for just 24 short hours. After that, you take a sip of lemon flavoured water. Upon drinking this water, flavoured with the thinnest slice of lemon, suddenly your senses are awoken. Singing of spring sunshine and dewy daffodils, the lemon is as bright as morning light through the cracks in the curtain. Creating olfactory hallucinations, you are standing in resplendent lemon groves in the south of Sicily, sun pouring its vitality onto you. Delicate, fresh and zingy, the taste is reminiscent of a divine lemon drizzle cake: sharp, sweet and fulfilling.

In a nutshell: that’s mindfulness. We could go on to imagine the soothing sound of it swishing down your parched throat; the revitalising feel of cool water trickling into your body, like a gentle rain. Appreciating the simple things in life and ‘being’ in the moment are at the core of mindfulness. Taking a moment to appreciate the wonderful apparatus our bodies are given and how this allows us to have experiences is mindfulness. Being present in the here and now, rather than past or future, centres us, grounds us and make us mindful.

By integrating mindfulness practises within your daily routine, you are allowing the invasive thoughts or negativities to be replaced with positive and empowering thoughts. And you can do it in your bedroom., at your desk or even on your daily commute.

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