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What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness, or mind-body medicine, teaches us how to be present, self-aware, and in control of our mind's responses to internal and external triggers. Meditation for chronic pain can relieve us from feeling tied down by the past or lost in worries of the future. Mindfulness techniques for chronic pain, being able to focus on the present, relaxing the body, noticing the breath and accepting physical sensations can help manage pain and the accompanying physical and mental symptoms.
Practicing daily mindfulness can be helpful for people living with chronic pain because sometimes there are negative or worrisome thoughts about the pain, which can affect mood and in turn, increase pain and even lead to depression. Mindfulness meditation for chronic pain can be used as a tool to create more awareness of the sensation of pain itself, control the way we process the sensation, and shift the negative emotions we project onto pain. When we become more aware of what we are experiencing, the overall perception of pain is reduced. The benefits of mindfulness for chronic pain include:
– Reduced stress
– Increased relaxation and calmness
– Increased sense of acceptance for the present
– Decreased repetitive thinking, rumination and reactivity
– Decreased pain intensity
– Decreased anxiety and depression
– Enhanced self-compassion
The scientific analysis of mindfulness has boomed in recent decades, with some studies showing that meditating for as little as 10 minutes increases the brain's alpha waves (associated with relaxation) and decreases anxiety and depression. Researchers found that meditator’s brains respond differently to pain. A 2014 review in the Journal of the American Medical Association found evidence that Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction reduces the perceived severity of pain experienced, while a 2011 study showed that this practice was as effective at reducing anxiety and depression in patients with chronic pain as cognitive behavioral therapy.
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