Living with Chronic Pain

Using Mindfulness to Deal with Pain on a Daily Basis


What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that involves using certain skills (e.g., guided imagery, meditation, journaling, breathing exercises, etc.) to focus on the present and observe inner thoughts and feelings without judgment. Depression, anxiety and stress are increased when too much time is spent thinking negatively, problem-solving, or planning. The goal of mindfulness is to promote relaxation, improve mental clarity, and manage stress.

Mindfulness and pain

Research suggests that mindfulness meditation calms the sympathetic nervous system, which mitigates stress and relaxes the body. Although mindfulness can reduce pain, it does not suggest that pain is imagined. Rather, the mind, which is an important part of the body’s system, is where pain is experienced when pain receptors send signals. Pain is complex and subjective, and can be experienced as severe or mild depending on a variety of factors.

Individuals with chronic pain often get stuck in what is called a “fear-avoidance cycle.” They experience fear, worry, or other uncomfortable emotions surrounding the pain. Activities that may cause pain are then avoided, which reinforces the fear. Mindfulness can help break this cycle by allowing the individual to notice their present state.

Getting started

To begin mindfulness, talk to a psychological therapist. Some are trained to help individuals with mindfulness or can make recommendations. Mindfulness can be practiced in various ways, including meditation, yoga, and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).

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