Mindful Pain Management.
Our minds and body are constantly communicating with each other. Our thoughts influence our emotions, and our emotions have a direct impact on our bodies.
Research shows that our minds can create real and measurable changes in the body. But this is also working the other way around. We can harness the power of the body to heal the mind.
The studies show that part of the prefrontal cortex is activated during pain, and the same areas of the brain are involved in executive function, attention, and execution of high-order tasks.
It means that sometimes we can feel physical pain only because we expect it to feel.
So what does that means in our daily life?
Perhaps at the age of ten, when you were running with your classmates, you fell down and experienced a painful knee injury.
Years gone, now you are 40 years old. You have completely forgotten about the injury which you had 30 years ago. But the memory of the pain you felt in your knee still exists in your subconscious mind.
So when you go for a run, subconsciously, you expect to feel the pain, and so you do, which blocks you from running regularly or faster or longer distances.
But the great thing is that our minds learn by repetition. We can rewrite that script with mindfulness exercises.
Research shows that we can become better when we believe we will be better. This is the power of belief. When our body expects to get better, it sends messages to start the healing process and hormones, neurochemicals and immune cells are released.
So today, I want you to implement a very simple mindfulness exercise for your movement.
Mindfulness is about accepting what is here right now as best we can, including pain. So we can release tension and be more responsive to what happens next.
Mindful Pain Management Exercise.
I want you to use pain as a trigger for practising gratefulness.
Next time you exercise – whether it’s running, swimming, cycling, walking, trekking, climbing, mountaineering, cross-fitness, yoga or whatever you like – you will implement those three steps.
Step 1. Acknowledge And Observe Without Judgment.
Let’s say that you run and feel pain in your knee. Instead of getting nervous and saying: “I knew it, that damn knee again,” or resisting the pain and pretending it’s not existing – acknowledge your pain.
Say in your mind: “okay, I feel pain in my knee, and I will watch it for a bit and try to recognise if it’s indicating injury.”
Don’t judge it. Acknowledge your pain and observe it. Look at it with curiosity, and try to learn from the pain.
Step 2. Accept The Pain.
Say in your mind to yourself: “okay, it’s normal. I’m running 10 km today, and I may feel a bit of pain. It was my choice to go for a run today, and I choose now to finish it.”
Step 3. Assign Pain As A Trigger For Gratitude.
Each time when you feel pain, think about three things that happen during the run or today that you are grateful for.
This could be for example:
- I’m grateful that I already passed 8 km
- I’m grateful that I see that beautiful tree in front of me
- I’m grateful that is so green around me
Look for simple things to be grateful for. Each time when you feel pain, repeat the same mindful exercise.
In most cases pain will disappear as soon you accept it. What is happening is that you rewrite the negative scripts and train your mind to look for positive patterns each time when you feel pain.
If you keep practising, it will become automatic. And instead of starting negative self-talk, you will start thinking positively, which will get you into a good mood.
And because our mind loves patterns, with time and practice, your mind will start looking for those positive patterns in all other areas of your life.
So then you make a change in your life, and when you make a change, you heal your mind from past traumatic experiences.
Of course, you need to be mindful, and if your pain gets worse and persists, you may need to see a doctor.