Mindfulness and pain
People who are in pain can be said to suffer from two types of pain. The first is the pain which arises from their injury or illness. The second is the emotional distress which they feel because of the physical pain. This emotional distress can include fear, anxiety, helplessness and panic. It is this second type of pain that mindfulness can help to reduce.
Mindfulness is a simple form of meditation which is used by many people suffering from chronic pain. As stated above, it does not take away the physical pain that arises from their injuries or other illnesses. However, it greatly reduces the emotional distress they feel.
Mindfulness involves becoming aware of what is actually going on right now without getting “lost” in your imagination. For instance you can become aware of your breathing and this is a very good way to maintain mindfulness. You can become aware of the fact that you are sitting down or lying down. If you are sweeping the floor you can simply be aware of that fact!
Here is a four-part exercise to help you to use mindfulness to manage your response to pain (if the pain is too intense, skip Part 2) :
Notice your breathing.
Notice your posture.
Notice the points of contact between your body and the chair, floor, ground.
Notice your clothes touching your body.
Every time you drift into thinking, just return to noticing your breathing.
If you feel pain, notice the pain without getting involved in thoughts about it.
Notice how the intensity of pain rises and falls but rarely stays the same.
Notice the area of your body that surrounds the area of pain. Notice how that area is tensed up. Imagine that you are breathing into that area and allowing it to relax.
Now, as well as your body, notice the room you are in.
Notice how your pain is just part of your experience. It is not your total experience.
Now notice your breathing again.