An Introduction to Mindfulness for Chronic Illness
This post was inspired by a day well spent in the garden, soaking up the glorious sunshine whilst mindfully admiring my flowers; pictures of which you will find scattered within this post for your enjoyment. So…what exactly is Mindfulness and how can it be used for Chronic Illness relief and pain management?
What is Mindfulness?
Mindful.org describes it as:
“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
I discovered mindfulness about 2 years ago during the long and draining process of chasing my diagnosis. I stumbled upon an article discussing Mindfulness in relation to pain management.
In an attempt to learn more I purchased the book “Sane New World: Taming the Mind” by Ruby Wax. Following this I devoured every interview and lecture I could find that featured her.
I was absolutely fascinated by the science behind Mindfulness!
The video below is just short of 30 minutes but I would say it is really worth the time as it is an extremely comprehensive lecture regarding mindfulness 🙂
The Key Benefits of Mindfulness
For those short of time I have put together some bullet points (spark notes if you will) regarding the benefits of mindfulness.
Evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation helps to:
- preserve the brain’s grey matter — the thinking part of your brain
- grow the parts of the brain associated with learning, thinking, emotional regulation, empathy, compassion and taking perspective
- reduce fear, anxiety and stress
- improve attention, concentration and memory
Mindfulness for Chronic Illness
As a Chronic Illness Warrior myself I would like to speak from personal experience on this subject…One of the main triggers of my Fibromyalgia symptoms is STRESS.
Unfortunately the S word is impossible to avoid in the 21st Century.
When I have multiple deadlines at work, personal dramas or both it is almost guaranteed that my symptoms increase… brain fog, burning sensations in my limbs, aching hips, constantly needing to pee, poor sleep quality. Well you all know the score.
The great thing about Mindfulness is that it can lower stress levels and increase future resilience to stressful experiences.
It goes without saying that mental toughness is a BIG deal to us warriors. If I am honest I think having a regular Mindfulness practice has seriously upped my brain game. I just don’t sweat the small stuff so much these days. Having more control over my mind has helped me to gain some control over physical symptoms.
Furthermore Mindfulness is free, easily accessible and can be practised anywhere…including from your bed 🙂
Anything that is low impact and affordable is OK by me!
As hinted upon in the introduction, my favourite mindfulness activity is achieved in the garden. It is perfect for me because I can practise it even when i’m experiencing a bad flare up.
Although everyone differs, so I encourage you to experiment and find your own favourite!
First I observe how the air feels on my skin, and how it smells.
I then scan the overall view of my garden, paying close attention to what section “calls” to me.
Finally I sit comfortably in the place that has invited my attention and focus on the different colours of a single flower. You could also take this opportunity to practise mindful breathing, allowing your lungs to fill with fresh air.
There are plenty of easy and accessible mindfulness practises that can be incorporated into daily life. I really do encourage you to explore them. and start your Mindfulness journey!