Mindfulness seems to be the buzz these days. So what is it all about? Mindfulness is the practice of cultivating a focused awareness on the present moment. This can be both a daily habit and lifelong process. It is most commonly practiced and cultivated through meditation, although being mindful does not necessarily require a meditation practice.
How can the practice of mindfulness help with pain? In patients with persistent pain, mindfulness has shown to reduce intensity, anxiety and depression and in improve quality of life. Researchers suggest that mindful awareness may work through 4 mechanisms: attention regulation, increased body awareness, enhanced emotional regulation and changes in perspective on self.
» Attention Regulation: In chronic pain populations, improved attention regulation has been suggested to result in less negative appraisal of pain, greater pain acceptance and reduced pain anticipation.
» Body Awareness: Improved body awareness has been shown to help patients with chronic pain recognize the difference between muscle tension and relaxation, identify early warning signs that precede a pain flare and reduce maladaptive reactions to pain.
» Emotional regulation: Training in mindful awareness has been shown to enhance emotional regulation, improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression in patients with chronic pain.
» Changes in Perspective on Self: In a qualitative study, participants with chronic pain reported becoming less identified with their pain condition or diagnostic label. They felt less fragmented, experienced greater integration of mind and body and described the experience of wellness even though they had a persistent pain condition.
These changes are very apparent in my patients who have learned to be more mindful. When you are empowered with a skillful way to pay attention, you have greater control over the direction your mind and thoughts go. Thus, your body awareness increases, which promotes your ability to relax and self-regulate your reaction to stress. Through mindfulness, you can avoid escalating distressing emotions and experience a renewed feeling of wholeness and well-being.
Enjoy this video on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) technique, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD.
“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally” – Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD