Life is fast paced. Recent research from the Resolution Foundation, found that the majority of Uk adults have less free time than they did forty years ago. So when chaos and stress become regular companions, it’s important to make time to prioritise our wellbeing. During the Covid lockdown, many people for the first time ever, had time to sit and think about how they felt. It’s no wonder that mindfulness has been referred to as the top wellness trend of recent times. But what is mindfulness? And are the effects and benefits worth your little moments of free time? In this blog I’d like to take a look into mindfulness and how mindful recovery can play a role in pain management, stress reduction, and a better quality of life for those who practise it.
What is mindfulness?
Simply put, mindfulness is a form of concentration training. Derived from the ancient Buddhist practice of mediation, mindfulness strips back some of the spiritual elements of meditation, and focuses on the self. Mindfulness can come in many forms: from calm focused breathing, yoga, to simply finding a quiet space to sit and think. Mindfulness focuses on the idea of being present and aware of your feelings whether that be physical or mental.
Taking a moment to acknowledge stress, emotions, and your physical wellbeing has been shown to have a range of benefits. A study from the US National Library of Medicine showed that mindful based therapy had clear benefits for treating anxiety, depression and mood changes. The same organisation has also done studies into the effect of mindfulness on chronic pain. The study found that mindfulness can improve emotional reactions to pain, aiding recovery and promoting positive mental health
The link between mental wellbeing and physical health has been demonstrated in a range of scientific studies. Studies have shown that people who suffer from mental health conditions can develop a higher chance of suffering with preventable ailments such as heart disease. The royal college of psychiatrists also found that those who suffer from long term or chronic pain conditions can be two to three times as likely to suffer from depression.
It can be hard for people experiencing chronic pain or ongoing health problems to feel they can take matters into their own hands. When placed at the mercy of your own body’s fragility, it is easy to be left feeling powerless, and out of control to help yourself. Although we can’t control everything that occurs in our body, the organ we have most control over is our brain. Mindfulness can help a person to assess how they feel under strenuous conditions, allowing their body and mind to recover with greater efficiency.
When should I find time for mindfulness?
Mindfulness is just a form of exercise, but for your brain. So just like physical exercise a little bit can go a long way. Even finding one minute every few hours to breathe and refocus your mind can have a long term impact on your physical and mental health. Whether you spend five minutes in the morning and the night reflecting the day and your concerns, or taking one minute out of every hour to simply close your eyes and breathe, you may experience greater awareness of yourself and the pains and troubles that afflict you.
Why is mindfulness so important to recovery
Have you ever experienced stress to the point in which you feel exhausted and out of energy? Recognising the correlation between how you feel mentally and its physical symptoms is a great first step to dealing with the physical and mental manifestations of pain and stress. This is particularly important for those who experience regular physical or mental discomfort.
Those who have experienced chronic pain will be very aware of the sense of chaos that can occur from pain, regular hospital appointments and suffering. To be able to take a step back from this chaos and view your own situation objectively, can help ease anxiety over feeling out of control to help oneself. By reclaiming ownership over our emotional responses, we learn better to regulate our physical response to pain.
Mindful exercise and mindful recovery
Making the most of our bodies, mentally and physically, promotes personal growth and better health. The combination of mindfulness and exercise can be a powerful tool in increasing your mobility, raising your mood, and taking control over your body. You can combine these mental and physical exercises in varying degrees depending on your intended effect.
Taking a short and slow walk whilst breathing and reflecting on your body during the exercise, can help to gently increase your heart rate, releasing endorphins that make you feel good. This can be a good time to reflect on what muscles hurt and where pain or discomfort may be occurring, but it also provides you with a quiet moment of calm to accept your feelings and emotions.
Alternatively practising mindfulness, during your warm up and cool down, can work to consolidate your workout routine and give you a better understanding of the impact exercises have on the body. Taking a moment at the end of a strenuous workout to reflect on what’s making you feel good and what is causing you discomfort. This allows you to better tailor your exercise routine not just to your body but your mind.
Our top tips for mindfulness and mindful recovery
So now we’ve talked about the importance of mindfulness in recovery. I’d like to share some of our top methods for practising mindfulness.
Mindful breathing – Take a moment to breathe deeply in and out, focusing on the sensations you experience, from the bottom of your lungs to your lips. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the breath.
Body scan – Find somewhere to comfortably lie or sit down. Take a moment to think about each body part and register any pain or discomfort you might feel.
Mindful eating – During meals, take a moment to really experience your food. Savour each bite, thinking about the flavour, texture and sensations.
Mindful walking – Go for a walk. Preferably surrounded by as much nature as your environment can provide. Pay attention to the sights, sounds and smells as you walk, and focus on each step as your feet move.
Journaling – Take some time to write down your thoughts and feelings each day. This doesn’t just provide a sense of emotional relief but will allow you to track your journey through mindfulness.
As with any exercise, mindfulness is a practice that requires time and patience. |As you develop this skill, you’ll find it easier to find those little pockets of calm in the day. These little moments of tranquillity can help your body and mind function alongside each other, hopefully leading to a happier, more relaxed you.