How Mindfulness Helps You Cope With Chronic Pain

When we are experiencing pain we just want it to go away immediately. Chronic pain is frustrating and totally debilitating and changes lives and changes who we are and how we think and feel about everything.

When we experience pain our brains typically launch into a litany of judgements and negative thoughts. We start thinking about how much we hate the pain and wish it away. We judge the pain and that only makes it worse. Our negative thoughts then fuel anxiety and depression and before you know it…wham we are in a cycle, trapped and unable to get out.

We reach for something, and the first thing we think of is to take a tablet. That one tablet leads to more as our bodies get used to taking them and before we know it we are taking a cocktail of pain relief int the hope that something, anything will help.

Pain medication is big business. You only have to look at supermarket counters to see the massive range of pain relief available but could there be an alternative to tablets that you have not tried before?

“Mindfulness” a word that you have probably heard of but not really paid much attention to, thinking and feeling it’s not for you..but you could be wrong.

Back in 1979 an eminent Doctor in America called Jon Kabat-Zinn founded an effective program for individuals in chronic pain called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Today, this amazing programme is now used to help people with all sorts of problems, both physically and mentally, to think differently about their illnesses and to take back control of their lives, which is incredibly empowering.

So how can Mindfulness help? In MBSR we emphasise that awareness and thinking are two very different things. Both of course are extremely potent and valuable, but from the perspective of Mindfulness, it is awareness that is healing rather thank thinking.

You might think that bringing awareness to your pain is the last thing you want to do but..Awareness is the only thing that can bring balance to all those negative thoughts and emotions and distortions that frequently blow through the mind, especially when you are in chronic pain.

Mindfulness provides a more accurate perception of pain. For instance, you might think that you’re in pain all day but by bringing awareness to your pain it might actually reveal that it comes in peaks and does completely subside…but you have missed it. Knowing that your pain does actually subside can lift frustration and anxiety and can give you a totally different view of the pain.

Mindfulness based strategies are tools to call upon and to introduce into your every day life. They are techniques to be learn’t and as with everything in life the more you do them the better it will be.

The first practice is something called The Body Scan. This practise is all part of the MBSR and involves bringing awareness to each part of your body. You are taught to bring your attention and focus your awareness to every aspect of your body including any pain, feelings or sensations you are experiencing. The Body Scan actually teaches your brain to acknowledge the fact you have pain and that it’s okay for it to be there.

Breathing correctly has such a powerful and essential part to play in the MBSR programme. When pain starts the brain reacts automatically with negative thoughts such as “I hate this” “What am I going to do?”. We can’t help those thoughts, it what we do but you can learn to calm your mind and slow down and ground your breath.

Mindfulness is a scientifically proven practise that is an effective way to approaching chronic pain. It teaches individuals to observe their pain, be curious about it and counterintuitively it’s the very act of paying it attention that helps alleviate the pain.

For more information about how Mindfulness could help you please contact 01823 323206 or email