Why learn mindfulness when you have pain?
Let's face it, when we are in pain and we slow down to notice what's present, we just notice more pain! Yet, there is good evidence out there that having a mindfulness practice can improve quality of life for people living with pain. I've experienced it. I've seen my clients and students experience it.
When we practice mindfulness regularly, it can help calm the nervous system. We can be more aware of when we are bracing in response to pain (or anticipated pain). It can also allow us to be more aware of the negative self-talk, guilt and shame that we're piling on top of the physical pain.
When we are in pain, our awareness of our bodies decreases (because we all want to avoid unpleasant sensations). But that also means that we decrease our awareness of the pleasant sensations. One of the benefits of practicing mindfulness is that we can start to notice the pleasant sensations again, without getting flooded by the unpleasant ones.
As we become more aware of what's going on with our body, breath, emotions and thoughts, we can start to make wiser decisions about our lives. Over time, we can move towards living well despite the pain.
Again and again, I've seen clients with pain increase their participation in their lives after 4-8 weeks of mindfulness practice. Once again, they are able to live well, despite their pain. And once the negative emotions and self-talk decrease, the pain probably goes down too!