See you next week.
Just like me, you’re always looking for ways to feel better?
Heard of mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a special way of paying attention that can help with how you cope with everyday life or deal with tough times, and there are great benefits for your physical and mental health.
You might find this useful if:
- You’re not sure what it means to be mindful
- You’d like to be more mindful
- You’re interested in tips to improve your mental and physical wellbeing
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way. When a person is mindful, they:
- Focus on the present moment
- Try not to think about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in future
- Purposefully concentrate on what’s happening around them
- Try not to be judgemental about anything they notice, or label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’
We spend so much time thinking over stuff that has happened in the past, or worrying about things that may happen in the future, that often we actually forget to appreciate or enjoy the moment. Mindfulness is a way of bringing us back to experience life as it happens. When you’re mindful, it:
- Helps clear your head
- Helps you be more aware of yourself, your body and the environment
- Helps to slow down your thoughts
- Slows down your nervous system
- Helps you to concentrate
- Helps you relax
- Can help you cope with stress
Who is mindfulness for?
Mindfulness is something that everyone can develop, and it’s something that everyone can try. It’s been practiced for thousands of years, with origins in Eastern philosophy, and over the past 40 years, it has been taken up in western societies. People can increase their mindfulness in everyday life, through activities like meditation and yoga, or even by simply paying more attention during regular activities like walking, driving or something as basic as brushing your teeth.
Why build mindfulness?
There is a lot of evidence on the many benefits of mindfulness; it can:
- Help to relieve stress
- Help to improve sleep
- Help manage depression and/or anxiety
- Help you to be less angry or moody
- Improve memory
- Help you learn more easily
- Help you to solve problems more easily
- Make you happier
- Help you to be more emotionally stable
- Improve your breathing
- Reduce your heart rate
- Improve your circulation
- Improve your immunity, or
- Help you to cope with pain.
See you next week.
You may have noticed a new ad on the right hand side of the page for Acoustic Brainwave Activation. I haven’t tried it yet (I am totally broke) BUT it sounds really good (or am I being naïve?) so I have put it up as a trial – if any of you have had any experiences with the product, please write a comment below.
The company claims a multitude of fabulous ‘aids’ (I don’t think that’s the correct word but it will have to do for now) but I’m only going to look at the ones that may help us:
Using acoustic brainwave activation, Medipower are able to change the electrical activity in the brain and induce the correct delta frequencies and diminish the interfering alpha frequency incursions – It is delta wave sleep that is the “deepest” stage of sleep and the most restorative. It is delta sleep that a sleep-deprived person’s brain craves the first and foremost.
The product directly addresses the issue of reaching the delta state early in your sleep cycle. It encourages this deep level of sleep in a gentle manner and allows the process of recovery and repair to begin. The program is 45 minutes long and should be listened to, in its entirety, when going to sleep.
As it does not require headphones to be effective it can be played on repeat or loop throughout the night if required.
It can also be used through the day to help with recovery and additional restful sleep.
It has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt that short and long-term memory can be improved by relaxing and meditating in the alpha range. Stimulating a certain part of that alpha range with acoustic activation will increase this benefit even further. The improvement in memory will be rapid, consistent and permanent.
Stress Relief and Deep Relaxation
You are guided through gentle relaxation techniques to relieve tension. In a state of calm reverie, you enter an inner sanctuary, a magical garden that you can return to again and again to restore your sense of self. You will learn how to generate powerful states of being that will contribute to an ever-increasing sense of well-being in your life. At the end you re-emerge into the world cleansed, revitalized and ready to tackle any challenges with a fresh attitude.
All tracks are ideal for stress reduction or creative problem solving and allows you to unwind at your own pace. The gentle pulsations of soothing Alpha, Theta and Delta waves move your mind into a regenerative state of well-being. Your consciousness is lifted above fragmented thoughts and worries, becoming unified in peaceful repose. You experience a euphoric release from anything and everything that bothers you.
HypnoGuide treatments are the simplest and most affordable way to directly influence your inner potential and release the power of your subconscious mind! HypnoGuide treatments are also much more advanced than ordinary hypnosis or meditation CD´s being offered today. Nowhere else can you find recordings this long at this low price!
Like many on-line sellers, there are plenty of products and packages available to purchase and download. AND, importantly, all are backed by a 60 day money back guarantee!
Meditation Power – Acoustic Brainwave Activation provides 7 days/24 hours/365 days online customer services. They have been around since 2007 and have received a number of very positive reviews:
So, after all that, I figured what have we got to lose? Let me know how you go…please.
Meditation produces powerful pain-relieving effects in the brain, according to new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation, demonstrating a (HUGE!) 40% reduction in pain intensity and a 57 per cent reduction in pain unpleasantness.
In the study, 15 healthy volunteers who had never meditated attended four, 20-minute classes to learn a meditation technique known as focused attention. Focused attention is a form of mindfulness meditation where people are taught to attend to the breath and let go of distracting thoughts and emotions.
Both before and after meditation training, study participants’ brain activity was examined using a special MRI scan. During these scans, a pain-inducing heat device was placed on the participants’ right legs. This device heated a small area of their skin to 1200 Fahrenheit 49 0 C, a temperature that most people find painful.
The scans taken before meditation training showed activity in this area were very high.
The scans taken after meditation training showed that every participant’s pain rating was reduced, with decreases ranging from 11% to 93%.
AND, when participants were meditating during the scans, activity in this important pain-processing region could not be detected (AT ALL!!)
At the same time, meditation significantly reduced brain activity in the primary somatosensory cortex, an area that is crucially involved in creating the feeling of where and how intense a painful stimulus is; while increasing brain activity in areas including the anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula and the orbito-frontal cortex (These areas all shape how the brain builds an experience of pain from nerve signals that are coming in from the body).
One of the reasons that meditation may have been so effective in blocking pain was that it did not work at just one place in the brain, but instead reduced pain at multiple levels of processing.
The authors believe that meditation has great potential for clinical use because so little training was required to produce such dramatic pain-relieving effects.
Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain ratings by about 25%.
The study shows that meditation produces real effects in the brain and can provide an effective way for people to substantially reduce their pain without medications.
This is a technique to deeply relax people and allow them to use the power of their mind to make positive changes in their life. Visualisation is the process of actively making pictures in your mind to create the outcome you desire. Visualisation and mental imagery are like mental movies.
When using creative visualisation or imagery in relaxation, you simply imagine a scene, place or event that you remember as safe, peaceful, restful, beautiful and happy. You may spontaneously visualise this scene, which is brought about through your ability to channel when in a deep relaxed state such as meditation. You activate all your senses to hear sounds of nature such as running water or waves crashing on the shore; to smell the air, grass and flowers; to taste the food, water or wine and feel the warmth of the sun. This place becomes an inner sanctuary, to which you can retreat in times of stress. You will often spontaneously experience the most effective images for yourself, as your subconscious mind is free to communicate to you while deeply relaxed.
Other uses of creative visualisation in relaxation involve creating mental pictures of stress flowing out of your body, or stress, negative thoughts, internal chatter and everyday concerns being drawn out and placed in a box with the lid tightly secured. The ability to draw on your intuitive faculties and tap into the subconscious mind becomes easier with regular practice. Many of these examples are used by hypnotherapists, so this style of meditation is extremely powerful.
Applying Creative Visualisation
Visualisation is a form of mental rehearsal. A person who is visualising can actually see himself completing specific actions (like going to a disability hearing and blitzing all the questions!). Whenever we want to do anything, the areas of our brain for planning and movement are involved, followed by activation of the motor areas that carry out the action. The brain prepares the body milliseconds before it is about to begin an action. It formulates a motor program based on movements in the frontal and prefrontal cortex. Then onto the motor cortex where the movements are carried out. As you visualise, you can create the same process.
Put simplistically, the more you visualise the more you practise.
How to visualise
Make the situation as vivid as possible in your mind. Be specific when you imagine the activity and use colour and as many senses as possible – smell, touch, sound. The more real your visualisation, the greater the stimulation of your brain. The more you enhance a situation in your mind, the more powerful it becomes. Powerful imagery will help propel you to where you want to go.
Visualisation is done by closing your eyes and concentrating on the point between your eyebrows directly above the nose. This is the prefrontal cortex area and is also known as the third eye, sixth chakra or Christ consciousness. What is interesting about this point is that it has been used for thousands of years for meditation and prayer, before humans even knew what the prefrontal cortex was.
Build some active processes into your visualisations. For example, if you want to get rid of some old emotions don’t just see the emotions getting smaller and smaller in your mind but go through the actions of making them smaller or throwing them away with your hands so that you engage your body in the action.
Engage all your senses. Visualise the touching, smelling, hearing and tasting as well as the seeing. The more senses you engage the more of the mind you tap into. Create visualisations by using all of your senses. If you’re creating a picture of success, feel the success. Napoleon Hill wrote in his classic Think and Grow Rich, “feel the feeling of success.” Use all your senses as you imagine how it feels to achieve your visualisation.
Visualisation can also be used by creating a strong negative association in your mind with a behaviour you want to eliminate. If you are trying to give up junk foods, you can associate them with being nauseated, vomiting and having stomach cramps. If you can, make the picture vivid enough that it creates a real sensation and the sheer thought of eating that food is enough to turn your stomach. Similarly, you can associate some foods with positive sensations and feel good about eating those foods, even without actually eating them. Do this with healthy, nutritious foods.
Once you have harnessed the power of visualisation, you can use it for almost anything. The more you use it, the more powerfully you’ll imprint the desired outcome in your mind and the more likely you are to actually achieve what you want. This, of course, goes hand in hand with actual preparation for the activity.
Visualisation can be used to prepare for any situation where you may come under extra pressure or need a positive outcome. The first part of the visualisation is to create a positive picture of the success of an event, such as imagining your friends and family coming up to you after your hearing and saying, “Congratulations, that was excellent.” The second part is to mentally rehearse the event in your mind. See yourself walking to the front of the room with a confident smile and body language, taking centre stage, and answering any and all questions perfectly. It is best to run through your major points in your mind. It should only take a few minutes the first time and then when you have done it several times, it will become easier.
Mind power is a phrase we hear constantly and most of us acknowledge its importance but we really have no idea of the infinite capacity of our minds. We only use 10% (and my 10% is full!) and the rest is hidden, even from us. The remaining 90% is subconscious which means we only have the rest to ‘think’ with.
That 10% can be used for conscious mind power, the kind we can make use of on a daily basis to make our lives more dynamic and rewarding.
To harness mind power, we need conscious awareness and choice.
This doesn’t have to be formal. Anything which stills the mind and helps us connect to our inner selves counts as meditation. The more we relate to our higher wisdom, the better we can de-clutter the rubbish from our minds and the desires of our hearts. I watched Elementary last night, where Holmes is forced to go to Rehab meetings…even he said that we have a finite amount of space in our brain, so we shouldn’t fill it with rubbish!
You can meditate to music, a beautiful scene, a colour, a guide. All you need is to relax and feel the silence within. Insights will come and, hopefully, a sense of calm and peace. You can use this time to visualise a person, situation or object you desire. Visualisation is very powerful and is a wonderful way to harness mind power. By seeing yourself in a future scenario but feeling it as achieved, you bring the desired closer. Although using mind power is about focus and concentration, so is meditation and the latter is an effective way to practise these skills. Both need discipline.
The more in tune you are with your higher self, the better you will manage your life in every area. Tuning into your intuition is vital for mental health and a happy life because your brain is full of faulty information and your emotions will lead you astray but your inner wisdom is always pure and right. If you sit quietly and ask, you will get answers. The mind is not your brain. The mind has many aspects and by trusting the instinctive messages you receive when meditating, you will feel the power you have at your disposal. The more you learn and practise, the more you will trust it and see proof of its positive impact on your life. The clearer your mind, the better will be your choices, feelings, decisions. The mind regulates your emotions as well. A lot of people don’t know that. That’s why they say they can’t help how they feel. Actually, we can decide how we want to feel and how we want to react to that feeling. Surely knowing why we do things is crucial – our conscious choice – rather than lurching from one self-defeating act to another.
Positive statements to affirm the life we want are a very powerful tool because they literally change our minds. Decide which area of your life is not working for you then write yourself an affirmation that you can use as a mantra. Say it faithfully without judgement or expectation and results will begin to show in your tangible reality. A lot of people give up after saying an affirmation for a week or two because nothing appears to be changing but that’s where faith comes in.
Before we can understand how to use affirmations to effect positive change in our lives, we need to grasp the role of conditioning and the mind’s power. Right from when we first come into the world and start to operate as part of a family, initially and then in the wider society, we absorb words, attitudes, ideas, thoughts, feelings and energies from all around us. Sad to say, many of these will be negative as we live in a fear-based society. Many of our well-worn adages are created from a fear of lack and loss, such as “Money doesn’t grow on trees”, or “Waste not, want not.” I’m not saying these proverbs aren’t true, but they engender negative ideas which form our sense of reality. This early conditioning stays with us all through our lives and just think about how many social ills can be traced back to these beliefs – racism, sexism, ageism, bigotry of all kinds, discrimination, limitation thinking, all kinds of fear, addictions, self-hatred, hatred, violence, crime and, of course, war. Now try to imagine a world in which positive affirmations form the basis for our belief systems and think how different things would be. If you’re already thinking this is “too good to be true”, there’s another negative belief! What about “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”? Life was meant to be to be easy – if we would only let it be.
Okay, we can’t cure the world’s problems, but we can do something about our own individual lives and, hopefully, influence others positively in the process. What I’m suggesting is that if we can learn negative thoughts in childhood, through the attitudes of our parents, teachers, friends and everyone around us, we can just as easily learn positive ideas, or, in the case of adults, we have to unlearn first. We can achieve both processes at once by using positive affirmations to wipe out the old negative ideas, replacing them with new fresh ones of our own choosing.
For an affirmation to be effective, you need the following conditions:
- use the first person singular, “I”, when saying them
- only use the present tense
- they must be said with conviction and repeated often
- they must be specific
- write your own if possible and keep to one area at a time
- phrase them simply
Here’s an example of how you might put these rules into effect. Let’s say you want more money in your life; it’s no good saying the words, “more money would be good” as that just constitutes a wish. For it to be an affirmation and for it to work, you need to use “I”, then put it definitely in the present and say how much you want but phrasing it as if you already have it. So it would be, “I have $50 more a week in my pay packet”, or “I have $2000 in my savings account.” It’s no use just saying, for instance, “I have more money” as you might then trip over a five cent coin which would fulfil your affirmation! You might have to repeat your affirmation like a mantra for months or even years, depending on how much pre-conditioning you have to break down first (I have been using ‘I am skinny and beautiful’ off and on for years – I’m still hoping my mind catches on to this!). Others might change your life overnight. This also tells you a lot about which ones are your most entrenched beliefs.
You need to suspend your cynicism, impatience and attachment to outcomes if you are to work successfully with affirmations. You might feel silly at first, saying, “I am a wealthy person” when you know quite definitely you are not! But by saying this statement over and over, you are changing your thoughts in this area of your life and the reality of your life will also begin to change.
Pick the issue you want to work on most urgently then write an affirmation of your own that suits the need. Keep saying it constantly – in the shower, in the car, as you’re cooking, all the time. Out loud is best but when not possible, run it in your mind. Affirmations don’t have to be in the form of words. You can affirm in mind pictures which is more like creative visualisation and that works very well for some people. You can also live your life as one extended affirmation, by actions and thoughts in general which enhance your blossoming beliefs.
Affirmations require faith and self-love but most of all, deservability. Without these components, you cannot change your life for the better. You can also say group affirmations such as “My family is well and happy.”
Here are some areas of life that can improve with the help of affirmations:
- Health: “I have a body that works perfectly.”
- Job: “My job is enjoyable and pays me well.”
- Money: “I have all the money I need every day.”
- Relationships: “All my relationships are positive and joyful.”
- Future: “My future is bright and safe.”
- Life: “My life is continual bliss.”
These are generic ones that you can use to make a start but if you have a specific issue such as a particular relationship that needs healing, write an affirmation for it such as, “My daughter and I get along beautifully together” or “My boss values my work.” The more you affirm that your life is good, the more it will be. It’s about taking responsibility for your own life and making choices about the way you want that life to be.
One of the clearest ways to see the effects of positive mind power is in the area of manifesting. We hear a lot these days about “the laws of attraction” and how they can be used to manifest our conscious and subconscious desires. It works best for me when I think of something I want then forget about it. It just turns up in its own time. When we try to control the “how” and the “when”, it doesn’t seem to work, perhaps because we’re not letting go and letting the Universe do its job. Positivity involves trust in Self and the goodness of life. Synchronicity cannot be controlled. It’s magic and to connect to it, just set your mind to getting what you want then let go.
Using visualisation and affirmations, you can, of course, manifest more deliberately but still it’s no use holding your breath waiting for the Universe to deliver. Attachment to outcomes can actually delay the very thing we want, not to mention that we don’t always want what’s good for us! Stay positive no matter how long you need to wait and it will come.
Using the power of your mind, you can turn negative into positive, whether it’s in the form of worrying, bad habits, addictions, toxic behaviour or unhealthy relationships. All these can be turned around by sheer will and determination.
There’s a lot of myth surrounding this philosophy. It’s not about burying your head in the sand and saying everything is wonderful. It’s about finding the gift within the unpleasant, the tragic, the disappointing and so on. There’s always a gift – always – sometimes very obvious, sometimes hidden. Seek and you shall find!
You can also manifest your wishes, be healthier and happier, feel empowered and make positive choices in your life. This only requires the confidence that comes with exercising your immense power both in your mind and in your soul. Something is only good or bad because you think it’s so. When confronted with hurt, betrayal, loss, illness or anything else you don’t like, decide it’s okay and it will be.
You have huge power that is accessible every day of your life, in good times and challenging times. There are many ways to harness this power and make it work for you. The benefits are huge. No matter what your nature is, you can achieve a positive mental attitude by deciding that’s what you want then practising every day to reach that goal.
As Donald Trump says, “If you have to think, think big.”
A University of Sydney study of more than 350 long-term meditators, defined as those who have meditated regularly for at least 2 years, points to improved health outcomes and greater well-being The area of greatest difference between the meditators and the general population was in mental health where the meditators scored 10% higher. And the most significant factor appears to be how frequently the meditators achieved a state of mental silence.
I don’t know about all of you (I think I have an idea) but I love silence…although achieving mental silence (stopping all those thoughts running round and round in my head) seems impossible.
“We found that the health and well-being profile of people who had meditated for at least 2 years was significantly higher in the majority of health and well-being categories when to compared to the Australian population,” said Dr Ramesh Manocha, Senior Lecturer in the discipline of Psychiatry, Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney, who led the research.
He worked with Prof. Deborah Black, Sydney medical School and Dr Leigh Wilson, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University.
The national study is a world first health quality-of-life survey of long-term meditators. It used the same measurement instruments as the ones used by the federal government’s National Health and Well-being Survey.
While we did expect that there would be differences between the meditators and the general population, we didn’t expect the findings to be so pronounced.
“We focused on the definition of meditation as mental silence and surveyed practitioners of Sahaja Yoga meditation who practice a form of meditation aimed at achieving this state rather than relaxation or mindfulness methods that are usually the focus of other forms,” said Dr Manocha.
The meditators were asked how often they experienced ‘mental silence’ for more than a few minutes at any one time.
Fifty two per cent of respondents said they experienced ‘mental silence’ several times per day or more, while thirty-two per cent were experiencing it once or twice a day.
Most markedly there was a robust relationship between the frequency of experiencing mental silence and better mental health. This definition is based on it being the form of meditation practised for centuries.
Our analysis showed very little relation-ship between how often the person physically sat down to meditate and mental health scores. However, the relationship was clearly apparent in relation to how often they experienced the state of mental silence. In other words, it is quality over quantity”.
Reprinted from the September 2012 issue of LIVING WELL with FIBROMYALGIA – like it? Subscribe for the next issue HERE
Stress and pain are intimately related.
In our case, often, being stressed causes pain AND/OR pain causes stress. Psychological therapies – including hypnosis, meditation, and relaxation – may help break the cycle.
For pain therapists, these treatments, which focus on the relationship between the mind and body, are considered mainstream.
For other health professionals, they may be considered alternative or complementary therapies.
And for the layman, they may be considered hocus pocus!
Regardless of how they are labelled, there is evidence that for many people they work.
For many, hypnosis brings to mind a parlour game or nightclub act, where a man with a swinging watch gets volunteers to walk like a chicken or bark like a dog. But clinical or medical hypnosis is more than fun and games. It is an altered state of awareness used by licensed therapists to treat psychological or physical problems.
During hypnosis, the conscious part of the brain is temporarily tuned out as the person focuses on relaxation and lets go of distracting thoughts. The American Society of Clinical Hypnotists likens hypnosis to using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. When our minds are concentrated and focused, we are able to use them more powerfully. When hypnotized, a person may experience physiologic changes, such as a slowing of the pulse and respiration, and an increase in alpha brain waves. The person may also become more open to specific suggestions and goals (such as reducing pain!) In the post-suggestion phase, the therapist reinforces continued use of the new behaviour.
Benefits of Hypnosis
Research has shown medical hypnosis to be helpful for acute and chronic pain. In 1996, a panel of the National Institutes of Health found hypnosis to be effective in easing cancer pain. More recent studies have demonstrated its effectiveness for pain related to other conditions. An analysis of 18 studies by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York revealed moderate to large pain-relieving effects from hypnosis, supporting the effectiveness of hypnotic techniques for pain management.
If you want to try hypnosis, you can expect to see a practitioner by yourself for a course of 1-hour or half-hour treatments, although some practitioners may start with a longer initial consultation and follow-up with 10- to 15-minute appointments. Your therapist can give you a post-hypnotic suggestion that will enable you to induce self-hypnosis after the treatment course is completed
To find a hypnotherapist, speak to your doctor.
More reading on Hypnosis: Look into my Eyes
Find a licensed Hypnotherapist:
Mind Motivations – For US, UK and Australia
Therapy Tribe – for US, UK, Canada and Australia
Meditation involves using a number of awareness techniques to help quiet the mind and relax the body. The two most common techniques are:
- Transcendental meditation. The patient repeats a single word or phrase, called a mantra, and is taught to allow other thoughts and feelings to pass.
- Mindfulness Meditation. The person focuses all of his or her attention on thoughts and sensations. This form of meditation is often taught in stress-reduction programs. Want to give this a try?
Benefits of Meditation
Studies suggest that meditating can increase pain tolerance, activity levels, and self-esteem and decrease anxiety, stress, depression, and use of pain medications.
Mindfulness meditation has been used successfully in programs to reduce pain and improve mood in patients with chronic pain from a variety of conditions, including headache, low back pain, chest pain, and gastrointestinal pain.
Because there are varied forms of meditation and opinions about requirements for training, there is no formal certification or licensing process for instructors. Training requirements differ widely by institution. If you would like to find a meditation instructor, speak to your doctor or a friend, who may be able to recommend one.
To practice meditation, repeated meetings with the instructor may not be necessary. A recent study examining the perception of pain and various mental training techniques has found that relatively short and simple mindfulness meditation training can have a significant positive effect on pain management.
Relaxation therapies include a range of techniques with the goal of reducing stress. In addition to meditation, the major types of relaxation techniques are:
- Progressive muscle relaxation: Also known as systematic muscle relaxation and Jacobson relaxation, this technique involves slowly tensing, briefly holding, and then releasing each muscle group in a systematic fashion, starting with the muscles in the toes and moving upward. During this exercise, the person should notice the differences between tension and relaxation.
MINI-RELAXATION PROCEDURE (for those on a tight schedule!)
For relaxation to be of the most benefit, you need to learn how to relax and calm yourself instantly upon your awareness of tension or irritability. While a 20-30 minute relaxation period is great, and very pleasant, you cannot escape and listen to your tape or do your long practice when you are tense in traffic or irritated with your family or co-workers.
A mini-relaxation is done as follows:
- Take a deep breath and raise your shoulders slightly (until you can feel increased muscle tension).
- Starting at the top of your head, focus on letting go of muscle tension (beginning with the muscles across your forehead). Allow sensations of relaxation, release, and heaviness to flow downward from your forehead, downward through your face, shoulders, arms, torso, and legs and imagine all the muscle tightness and tension draining right out your feet. Exhale as you allow the tension to drain away, and use your “key word” as you do so (this may be Relax, Peace, Calm, Serene, Ocean or any other word or phrase that denotes deep relaxation to you). Be certain that your deep breath was a deep diaphragmatic breath.
- This whole procedure should take no more than about 30 seconds (and can be done in as little as 10 seconds if that’s all the time you have). At the end of this period, go about your business regardless of how relaxed you feel.
- Repeat this process many times during the day, at least 20. Use the coloured dot procedure to remind yourself to do a mini-relaxation, preferably several times an hour. Place coloured dots in places you will see them often: your telephone, kitchen faucet, refrigerator, bathroom mirror, the door frame of doors you walk through frequently, your notebook or appointment book that you consult frequently, and even cut a small part of the coloured dot to place on your watchband. Whenever you see the coloured dot that is your reminder to do a mini-relaxation: deep breath, raise shoulders, let go of muscle tension as you breathe out and drop your shoulders, while repeating your ‘key word.’ You will notice that you become better and better at producing sensations of relaxation in a very short period of time, as you practice this over days and weeks. Do not extend your mini-relaxation more than one minute. If you are still tense, continue with what you are doing, and do another mini-relaxation the next time you see a dot, or the next time you are aware of feeling annoyed.
NB: A note of caution regarding relaxation if you are driving your car: Never practice long periods of deep relaxation while driving. Never listen to a deep relaxation tape while driving. Frequency is the key! The more you practice relaxation, or mini-relaxation, the better you will become at releasing stress and tension quickly and effectively.
Autogenic training: This technique uses visual imagery and body awareness to achieve relaxation. The person imagines being in a peaceful place and then focuses on different physical sensations, such as heaviness of the limbs or a calm heartbeat. People may practice on their own, creating their own images, or be guided by a therapist. Patients may also be encouraged to see themselves coping more effectively with stressors in their lives.
Breathing: Breathing techniques teach people to breathe effectively to relieve stress. While placing one hand on the chest and another on the belly, the person is instructed to take a slow, deep breath, taking in as much air as possible. During this, the belly should press against the hand. After holding their breath for a few seconds, patients are instructed to slowly exhale.
Benefits of Relaxing
According to a 1996 National Institutes of Health report, there is strong evidence to support the effectiveness of relaxation techniques for reducing chronic pain related to a variety of medical conditions. Other benefits may include reduced muscle tension and insomnia and increased activity level.
The best way to learn relaxation techniques is with the help of a trained practitioner (although you can find many guided meditations, etc. on the Net). Usually these techniques are taught in a group class and then practiced regularly at home.
There is no widely accepted license for practicing relaxation therapy. However, it is often practiced by therapists and psychologists. Ask your doctor for a recommendation.
More reading on Relaxation: Relax
Risks of Mind-Body Therapies
Although mind/body therapies don’t have the risks of medical or surgical therapies, there have been rare reports of adverse reactions from them.
- If you have poorly controlled cardiovascular disease, experts recommend avoiding progressive muscle relaxation, because abdominal tensing can cause increased pressure in the chest cavity, slowing of the pulse, decreased return of blood to the heart, and increased venous pressure.
- If you have a history of psychosis or epilepsy, you may wish to speak with your doctor before trying meditation. There have been reports of some people having further acute episodes following deep and prolonged meditation.
- Hypnosis or deep relaxation can sometimes worsen psychological problems in people with post-traumatic stress disorders or a susceptibility to false memories. Its use should be avoided in patients with borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorders, or with patients who have histories of profound abuse. Because competent hypnotherapists are skilled in recognizing and referring patients with these conditions, only appropriately trained and experienced practitioners should undertake hypnosis.
- Meditation for Headache Relief (everydayhealth.com)
- 6 Breathing Exercises to Relax in 10 Minutes or Less (greatist.com)
Pain management is essential when you have a chronic pain condition. Unmanaged pain can rip your life apart in all areas. When most people think of pain management the first thing that pops in their head is pain medication or medication to control the pain. There are many other options than just medication and you can also use an integrative approach to manage your pain by using medication and non traditional treatments for pain management. Having realistic expectations with pain management is also very important. When you have chronic pain nothing is going to take away all the pain and if you keep reaching for that you are setting yourself up for a lot of frustration, discouragement, and disappointment. The only way to resolve pain completely is to address the underlying cause if at all possible.
We have been taught all our lives that when you hurt or get sick you go to the doctor and get a prescription. Medication has it’s place for pain and for sickness but why do we always reach for that first? Medication does not fix anything they just cover up symptoms and is just another toxin in the body that can cause more pain and illness. There are some people who would have NO quality of life without medications or would not be able to stay alive without medication and these are not the people I am addressing. We really need to think if medication is the right thing for us or just a quick fix. We tend to want the most amount of results with the least amount of effort in this world and sometimes that is not the healthiest approach. You need to ask yourself some serious questions when debating how you want to manage your pain and make a personal choice that is best for YOU and your overall health. You need to be your own advocate and be very clear to your medical providers your wants and needs when it comes to pain management. Doctors are taught to write prescriptions and do not come from a place of healing the underlying cause so it is something you will have to do for yourself and make your wishes clear if you want to try alternative options.
Alternative options for treating chronic pain
- Meditation Meditation cultivates an “awareness that develops when you’re paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, former executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in Worcester, Mass. The idea is if you can calm and focus your mind and your body you may be able to control your pain and the degree to which you feel it.”You cannot experience pain unless you focus on it,” says Gabriel Tan, PhD, a pain psychologist at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in Houston. “Let’s say you’re focusing on your pain and then the next moment a person comes into the room with a gun and threatens to kill you; you won’t feel pain because you’ll be focusing on the man with the gun. Meditation helps you shift your focus in somewhat the same way,” explains Tan.
- TENS unit “TENS” is the acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. A “TENS unit” is a pocket-size, portable, battery-operated device that sends electrical impulses to certain parts of the body to block pain signals. The electrical currents produced are mild, but can prevent pain messages from being transmitted to the brain and may raise the level of endorphins (natural pain killers produced by the brain). For some chronic pain patients, a TENS unit provides pain relief that can last for several hours. For others, a TENS unit may help reduce the amount of pain medications needed. Some patients hook the unit onto a belt turning it on and off as needed.
- Chiropractors Chiropractors can treat chronic pain. They use a variety of non-surgical treatments, such as spinal manipulation, to address chronic pain symptoms, such as inflammation and muscle tension.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps people identify and develop skills to change negative thoughts and behaviors. CBT says that individuals — not outside situations and events — create their own experiences, pain included. And by changing their negative thoughts and behaviors, people can change their awareness of pain and develop better coping skills, even if the actual level of pain stays the same.
- Aquatic (water) therapy Aquatic (water) therapy is quickly becoming well-known for its amazing effects on decreasing chronic pain, speeding recovery, and improving function. Aquatic therapy, or pool therapy, consists of an exercise program that is performed in the water. It is a beneficial form of physical therapy that is useful for chronic pain. Aquatic therapy uses the physical properties of water to assist in patient healing and exercise performance.
- Restorative Yoga Restorative yoga turns on the healing relaxation response by combining gentle yoga poses with conscious breathing. Although these poses may look as though you are doing nothing, this is far from the truth. Restorative yoga rests the body but engages the mind. The breathing elements of each pose make restorative yoga an active process of focusing the mind on healing thoughts, sensations, and emotions.
- Dietary Changes and Proper Nutrition You are what you eat, at least that’s the old adage. It’s also one I believe in — what you put into your body has a big effect on how you feel. There are Foods that fight fat, detox foods, and foods that help you get stronger. There are even foods that help you sleep better and look fresher. Adding to the list of foods that fuel with a purpose are foods that help ease pain. Whether it’s a headache, post-workout soreness, chronic pain or an injury, there are foods that will help ease the pain away in a totally natural way.
- Reiki Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.
- Massage Massage for chronic pain works by interrupting the cycle of chronic pain. When you have pain in a certain area of the body, the muscles tighten around that area to “protect” it, mobility is limited, and often, circulation is reduced. Additionally, pain that began with an injury or illness can cause emotional and psychological stress that exacerbates the pain and even remains after the physical condition has healed. Massage for chronic pain restores mobility by loosening tight muscles and trigger points and by lengthening muscles. Massage also improves circulation by increasing blood flow, as well as promotes relaxation and helps relieve emotional stress and anxiety that can contribute to chronic pain.
- Acupuncture A new study of acupuncture — the most rigorous and detailed analysis of the treatment to date — found that it can ease migraines and arthritis and other forms of chronic pain.The findings provide strong scientific support for an age-old therapy used by an estimated three million Americans each year. Though acupuncture has been studied for decades, the body of medical research on it has been mixed and mired to some extent by small and poor-quality studies. Financed by the National Institutes of Health and carried out over about half a decade, the new research was a detailed analysis of earlier research that involved data on nearly 18,000 patients. The researchers, who published their results in Archives of Internal Medicine, found that acupuncture outperformed sham treatments and standard care when used by people suffering from osteoarthritis, migraines and chronic back, neck and shoulder pain.
Medications Medicines can often help control chronic pain. Many different drugs, both prescription and non-prescription, are used to treat chronic pain. All these medicines can cause side effects and should be taken exactly as they are prescribed. In some cases, it may take several weeks before medicines work to reduce pain. To avoid dangerous drug interactions, tell your doctor all the medicines you are taking (including herbal and other complementary medicines).
Your Choice! Your Body! Your Life!
When it comes to pain management you have to make choices that are best for you because it is YOU that has to live with the consequences and results of that choice. Everyone feels pain different and copes with pain different. Just because Suzi Q is doing something that is helping her it does not mean it will help you. We are all very unique beings and your chronic pain management is going to be as unique as you. The one thing I do recommend to EVERYONE with chronic pain and illness is to eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet. Even if it does not resolve any of your pain you will be healthier and be able to cope better. You can never lose by eating healthy
Back in early May, I wrote a post called Treat Yourself – that gave you an idea about creating your own treatment plan. This is an extension of that post.
Although there is no cure is available, a large number of FM treatment options exist. Treatment options vary wildly in effectiveness from individual to individual. What may work very well for one person may not work at all for another. Research suggests that the most effective strategy is likely to be multi-modal involving diet, exercise, drugs, dietary supplements, and various treatment therapies. Both symptoms focused and causal focused treatment approaches should be combined and managed.
FibroMAGICians must strive to validate what works best for them as an individual. This typically involves a process of trial and error. Evaluating various treatment options and building an effective treatment approach can be a complex process, one typically improved through utilizing a team approach. Fibromyalgia patients are well served by a care team made up of doctors, therapists, specialists and a strong support group.
No single approach works best. The best course of action when considering treatment options is to combine a traditional medical approach with other available remedies. Over time, you can validate what works best to alleviate your pain. A number of lifestyle changes and other treatment methods can have a cumulative positive effect on the pain you experience.
Here is a list of some commonly used treatment options:
- Conventional medicines — Your doctor will work with you to discover what prescription medicines may work best for you. Options are many including pain and antidepressant medicines.
- Nutrition and diet — Some researchers believe that the foods you eat can affect FM symptoms.
- Dietary Supplements — Vitamins and minerals play important roles in health and maintenance of the body.
- Exercise — Exercise helps relieve joint stiffness and can help alleviate some of the pain as well. Short workouts have been proven to help many fibroMAGICians. Pain may initially increase, but then gradually decreases. Hydrotherapy, tai-chi and yoga are excellent forms of exercise. These forms of exercise incorporate relaxation and meditation techniques. Deep breathing and slow movement will reduce your stress level and increase your fitness.
- Physiotherapy — A physiotherapist can help you with stretching and good posture. Stretching will reduce joint and muscle stiffness. This therapist can also help you with relaxation techniques, another powerful FM treatment option.
- Relaxation therapy — Stress aggravates FM. Reducing stress will provide you with a more restful sleep, improving symptoms.
- Massage therapy — This is another great relaxation technique.
- Over-the-counter drugs — You will need to work with your doctor. Always talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter medications you plan to take.
- Herbal remedies — Many herbs have medicinal healing powers. Again, you must talk to your doctor when using herbal remedies
- Chinese medicine — Consider exploring Chinese medicine which places great emphasis on herbal remedies and incorporates life energy healing techniques.
- Homeopathy — Visit a homeopathic specialist. They specialize in natural remedies to illnesses.
- Acupuncture — Modern adherents of acupuncture believe that it affects blood flow and the way the brain processes pain signals. Studies have shown this may be effective for FM.
- Chiropractic care—Chiropractors specialize in spinal problems, which can be a major source of pain for some people.
Building a Customised Fibromyalgia Treatment Program
Through an ongoing process of trial and error, using a mixture of the above treatments (and many others), it is possible to develop a treatment program that can be validated as effective – for the individual patient.
This process is made more effective when the patient embraces the concept of “Self-Management” – an ongoing process through which the patient recognizes and assumes responsibility for leading their own treatment efforts. An effective self-management process focuses on the collection, analysis and utilization of patient data such that the trial and error process is better empowered to yield tangible results.