Topic: Additional Topics
Mindfulness is a really broad topic, so there is a lot to discuss. Considering that we also tied it into behavioral therapies and stress reduction techniques, there is an awful lot to say that wasn’t mentioned specifically in the seven topics I’ve outlined.
Is there anything that you would like us to discuss, or think should have been mentioned? Your input is really appreciated!
My questions for you related to this topic are about how practicing mindfulness has affected your relationship with yourself and others. Has your attitude towards yourself been impacted? Have your relationships/interactions with others been impacted by your mindfulness practice? Has mindfulness increased your awareness of your input into social relationships or increased your acceptance of help from others?
From reflecting on my own experiences, I’ve realized that mindfulness, and particularly the mindful therapies I’ve been working with, have had a really positive impact on my relationships. Firstly with myself. Acceptance and compassion are two of the things that have led me to feel gentler with myself and my limitations. I think this, in turn, has affected my relationships with others in a couple of ways. It was hard for me to feel like I had anything to offer in a friendship when I was stuck at home having a hard time getting around, and constantly stressed out from the pain. I was no fun to be around at all, I thought. For a long time I didn’t work on my friendships or relationships at all. I focused solely on myself, thinking “once I kick this pain then I’ll go back to having a life and being with other people.” What this ended up doing was disconnecting myself from my social network and looking back I realize I was wasting time by putting my life on hold. I’ve been searching for more balance now, in focusing on myself and my relationships with others. I think acceptance and compassion have enabled me to feel more comfortable with myself in my relationships with others, which I think has also made me more pleasant to be around – bonus!
Another aspect of my relationships that have really improved through acceptance and compassion is asking for and accepting help from others. I hate to ask for help! I value my independence, and even though I love to help other people it feels like such a burden and imposition to ask for help from others. At the peak of my pain, I was relying on friends and family for everything – grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, and even help caring for my pets. It was really difficult for me to accept that I was in a position where I could not repay the favors being done for me, and social norms taught me that I needed to reciprocate! I think therapy really helped me deal with this, and humbled me to the fact sometimes this is what it means to be human.
#mindfulrelationships #compassion #acceptance #connection
Have any of you noticed any aspect of your relationships that has changed through mindful practices?
Topic: Managing Expectations
As I have been reflecting on the impact of mindfulness on my pain management, I’ve come to realize that one of the major changes it has provoked in me has to do with how I approach my life and treatment. Working to live in the present, to accept myself as I am, and to loosen the hold of my vision of how my body should feel and what my life should be like. This is really all about managing expectations.
I’ve notice this impact in two different ways. The first has to do with acceptance. Through mindfulness, and mindful therapy in particular, I’ve been focusing a lot on accepting my body’s limitations. I’ve come to appreciate the complicated structures that we are, and wonder at how intricate and involved even simple movements are. I have been trying not to take that for granted. This has cultivated an incredible sense of gratitude over what I can still do, and I have found that I am less frustrated about what I am limited from doing. My expectations over my movement and my body’s capabilities have completely shifted. And in turn I find myself less stressed, which eases a great deal of tension I’m facing. It’s all connected!
The second kind of effect that I’ve noticed is with positivity. At the peak of my stress and pain, I became a bit despondent. “I’ll try this new thing, but nothing has worked so I’m sure this won’t either.” That became the way I entered a new treatment. I have been working to let go of expectations and approach new therapies and exercises with an open mind. I think that I’ve actually been having better results with new things simply because I’m more open to them, and I’ve found that I am not alone. I’ve learned that mindfulness and mindful therapies can stimulate patient expectations that treatment will help, which can correlate with improved responses to treatment. (This is discussed in Day, et al., the article I mention in the topic on Coping.)
Have you found that harboring positive expectations has made an impact in your body’s response to new therapies and pain management techniques? Have you found instead that harboring any expectations at all creates a roadblock to body listening? How have your expectations around various treatments affected your perception of the outcome?
#mindfulexpectations #acceptance #gratitude #positivity
Topic: Mindful therapies for coping
Welcome to our discussion of mindful therapies and how developing emotional coping mechanisms may also have a positive impact on our physical wellbeing!
A few months ago I read this scholarly article about how different mindfulness models can be integrated into the medical treatment of chronic pain. I found it fascinating, even though much of what it said wasn’t new to me. I know that the ideas it discusses aren’t unique to this article, but I am sharing it since it was meaningful for me.
Day MA, Jensen MP, Ehde DM, Thorn BE. Toward a Theoretical Model for Mindfulness-Based Pain Management. The Journal of Pain 15(7), 691–703 (2014).
It just all made so much sense, and seeing the mind-body connection described in this way was really satisfying for me. What I liked reading about the most was how mindful therapies have been shown to improve our pain experience. I realized the many different ways in which this has been true for me.
Two years ago, when I realized that I was having serious issues with stress and coping, I sought help from a behavioral therapist that employs many of the mindful techniques discussed in this article. I continue to see her today and find that maintaining my mental health has been just as helpful for managing my pain as treating my physical health. I learned that this is called Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), a kind of counterpart to MBSR. Its approach is to teach patients how to examine the links between our thoughts and our stress, our emotions and our physical sensations. Through reading this article and breaking down my experience, I have picked out several ways in which this therapy has helped me.
It has helped me separate myself from my pain and analyze it in a nonjudgmental way. I learned that this is called emotional decoupling. It also helps create some distance between my sense of self and this pain, which has been a useful way to reperceive my experiences. It has helped me accepted my experience and my pain, as I’ve mentioned in other discussions. Instead of focusing so closely on the pain itself, I’m working to shift focus to my emotional response to the pain. Therapy is helping me to stop catastrophizing my pain, though I still fall back to this in particularly tough periods (that downward spiral!) by helping me build tools that I believe I can call on to manage this pain. This is called self-efficacy (and expecation management, which we will talk about tomorrow!). The last thing I’ll mention is fear. Therapy has helped me acknowledge and work through the fears I have developed alongside my pain. For me specifically, this means the fear of an activity that might cause me pain. I was avoiding certain movements and exercises, as well as avoiding social activities that might be difficult. I still have a lot of work to do, but I think using all the tools I’m developing has helped me approach pain differently and reduced fear as an impediment to my actions.
The article discusses other ways for how mindful cognitive therapy can make an impact in reducing people’s experience of pain. Mindful therapies don’t have to include the traditional behavioral therapy model that I chose, but any method that promotes training our minds to examine the link between our thoughts and our physical being. I am interested in hearing more about how you may have practiced therapies, and specifically how you have developed coping mechanisms for yourself. If any of this resonates with you, please share your experience!
Have you found that mindfulness practices increase your emotional coping mechanisms for dealing with chronic illness or pain? Which practices have the greatest therapeutic effect for you?
#mindfulnessforcoping #mindfulnessbasedcognitivetherapy #retrainthebrain #distancethepain
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