I had my first experience with meditation last year. A friend of mine recommended it to me when I was feeling incredibly low and stressed out. You must understand, my friend is really down to earth and I would never have imagined him being the type of person to practice meditation but he did (I on the other hand am willing to try anything as longs as it makes sense to me), so naturally, I questioned him.
He explained to me that meditation is not necessarily the spiritual, Buddhist monk kind of meditation you may expect it to be (you know, the one you associate with sitting cross-legged with your palms up in absolute silence, perhaps even surrounded by spiritual temples and candles), but that there are modern versions of meditation as well.
Intrigued as I was, I started looking into this a bit further and found out that meditation is a way of providing the optimum conditions for training the mind to be calmer, clearer and kinder. Just as exercising regularly makes you fitter and feel better, regular meditation can transform your mind and well-being.
There are many ways to practice meditation, either traditionally or in the modern sense. Meditation can even be practiced at work, in your bedroom or anywhere you like really, without the need for a quiet environment. But what interested me the most, was that meditation turns out to be a great option for people with chronic pain that want help managing their pain.
Here is why:
Minimal meditation significantly reduces pain
A study has demonstrated that devoting even a minimal amount of time and effort to learning to meditate can have lasting pain-relieving effects. This study revealed that the participants’ perception of pain was significantly reduced after just three 20-minute mindful meditation sessions, spread over three days. Participants who meditated even had an overall lessening of pain after the meditation!
Mindful meditation reduces stress
Stress releases inflammatory chemicals and can have an impact on the pain you may be experiencing. Mindful meditation activates the ‘Rest and Digest’ part of our nervous system which helps with stress management.
Mindful meditation helps you deal with pain emotionally
An area that doesn’t often gets address by healthcare professionals, but experiencing regular pain can have a significant l impact on your emotional well-being. Meditation will make you feel lighter, happier and more at ease with the situation, making it easier to manage your day to day life with chronic pain.
On top of this, meditation has an unusual benefit; it is something that you personally control. Unlike pain medications or medical procedures, meditation is not done to you, it is something you can do for yourself.
So, spurred on by all of this, I had to give meditation a try. I signed up for ‘Headspace’, which provides you with an online free 10 day crash course in meditation that can be accessed online or through an app on your phone (please note this is not an advertisement!). The 10 minute daily sessions provided combines techniques from both calming and insight meditation and can be done anywhere and anytime. I must admit, I found it very hard to concentrate at first and couldn’t resist a giggle here and there as, but after only a few days I noticed my mind calming down and actually being able to follow the instructions given without too much ‘drifting off’.
‘Fortunately’, I experienced a flare up during the 10 day trial and was able to put the ‘pain management’ aspect to the test straight away. Whilst meditation didn’t take the pain away, it did make me feel I was much better able to cope with the pain as my body and mind were very relaxed.
I finished the 10 day trial with ease. Did it change my life? No. But it most certainly made me realize that the calmer your mind and the more relaxed your body is, the better you are able to cope with pain. It has convinced me to practice meditation on a regular basis to help my mind and body come back to base. The benefits have certainly paid off, I am able to cope with my pain better and I am a much calmer happier person!