In addition to the severe physical symptoms, living with chronic pain can significantly impact your mental health. As you spend more time and energy managing your pain levels, you may find the amount of time you spend on your mental health fall by the wayside. Eventually, this can lead to mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. In fact, about 45% of people with a form of chronic pain also report an issue with depression. If you have a mental health disorder, seeing a doctor is important. However, you should also consider adding meditation to your daily schedule. You can reduce your symptoms and build a better mindset with the addition of meditation for chronic pain into your life.
How Helpful Is Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain?
In clinical trials, mindfulness meditation has reduced pain by a whopping 57%. For accomplished meditators, that number can go up to 90%. Brain scans have revealed that mindfulness meditation soothes patterns in the brain that form from the underlying perception of pain. Meditation turns down the “volume” control of pain in our heads and in response your brain structure changes over time. Many meditators feel pain at a lower intensity, and, for some, their pain is practically non-existent.
Today, several hospitals and medical clinics offer mindfulness meditation experiences to assist patients coping with chronic pain from cancer, cardiovascular ailments, diabetes, and even arthritis. Some sufferers of migraines, back pain, and fatigue have also reported success in alleviating their pain by practicing meditation. Because meditation can be so beneficial to your pain, it’s a smart addition to your daily self-care ritual.
But how exactly does meditation for chronic pain work? Follow these steps below to begin a guided meditation practice.
1. Find A Proper Spot
To begin with, find a comfortable place to sit and relax. This spot needs to be free of distractions and noise so the mind can focus.
2. Identify the Target Area
Next, identify the area(s) with the maximum pain. Do not rush. Stay calm and focus on the spot where the strain, tightness, achiness or fatigue is the worst.
3. Notice the Sensation
Once the target area(s) has been identified, focus on the sensations in this area(s). Observe how you are feeling about the sensation. Is it mild or throbbing? Are you angry or sad? It’s important to drive all your attention to focus on this sensation, so continue to ask questions about the pain to keep your mind occupied.
4. Check to see if the Sensation Changes
Now see if the sensation changes. As you start to acknowledge your pain, your acceptance of it increases. In your mind, ask the pain what it needs. What is it trying to tell you? What can you give it? Observe how it shifts.
5. Stay Focused
When you meditate, your mind can get easily distracted. This is normal and should be expected. When it happens, gently return your focus to the target spot. It needs your full attention.
6. Repeat Affirmations
Finally, repeat affirmations including, “Pain is a messenger and I’m listening.” Or, “I honor my pain and what it’s here to tell me.” Reciting these statements can give the brain something to attach to. In the end, the idea is to gain more awareness of your pain because your awareness can lead to freedom from it.
Incorporating Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain
Although these steps may appear simple, there is true power in identifying your pain and letting go of it. To avoid pain in the future, your mind may zoom in and amplify your current pain in order to process as much information as possible and find a solution. The mind is searching for a pattern and checks its database of memories for relevant experiences or information.
However, the problem with chronic pain is that although the mind has a lot of experiences to sort through, it comes up with very few solutions. In turn, it may become overwhelmed by unpleasant memories and future anxieties, exacerbating your chronic pain. As these thoughts build on one another, your pain may amplify. As your pain increases, your brain must wade through more events and may eventually become overwhelmed with stress, trapping us in a vicious cycle.
Mindfulness meditation soothes the parts of the brain that have been overstimulated, giving the body a chance to relax and heal. If you meditate consistently, it becomes easier to drop into your pain and serve its needs. The practice develops your ability to pay attention, achieve calm and recover.
Begin with a 2-3-minute meditation per day and increase the time until you are meditating for 15-30 minutes. Considering joining a group of meditators to connect with like-minded people. Or, consider other alternative treatments for pain management. Regardless of the extent of your pain, meditation is a good practice to incorporate into your daily routine, as it also relieves stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and irritability.
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