The beauty of this exercise is that it doesn’t require any extra learning, time or effort.
Pain is an all-too-familiar problem for every person on the planet. Unfortunately, managing chronic pain isn’t always straightforward.
With pain, comes the inability to focus on the life you’re living. Instead, you focus on the pain you’re feeling. This “tuning out” becomes a habit. A really bad habit.
With pain, sometimes comes anxiety.
Anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
With anxiety, comes the inability to focus on “the now”. You worry about things in the past you can’t control, you plan things in the future in obsessive detail, you overanalyze things you said or did a few days ago, you agonize over the pain you’re in. This is all you think about.
When you stop being aware of your surroundings, you lose part of the beauty in life. You lose the joy, excitement and magic in every moment because you’re are always rushing on to the next moment… or you’re stuck in a past moment… or you alternate between past and future without giving any attention to right now. Sound familiar?
There’s a story I heard once that describes anxiety in a way that really captured how it feels for me: imagine that you found some old photographs from that day that you spent laying out on the beach. You remember it, don’t you? It was a beautiful day: waves as far as the eye could see, your skin glowing in the sun and your hair tossled with sand and laughter. You look at each of the photos, but you have to look underneath (’cause nothing is ever as it seems, if you know what I mean). You were there, but you didn’t smile because you were too consumed with the thought that you’d have to leave.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy or MBT is used to help people who suffer from depression, chronic pain, anxiety and fibromyalgia.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the act of BEING HERE NOW, or focusing your attention on what you are doing and where you are. The goal: put your mind in right now — not in the past and not in the future. Right here, right now.
Step 1. Take a deep breath.
Step 2. Recognize how you feel. You’re in pain, but what specifically hurts?
Step 3. Acknowledge your pain.
Step 4. Refocus. Focus your attention using your senses: name 5 things you can see, feel, hear, smell, and touch.
Step 5. Engage. Focus further. Explore one of the things that caught your attention.
The beauty of this exercise is that it doesn’t require any extra learning, time or effort — just present-focus and your five senses (or as many as you’re able to use).
There is no stress if you are not thinking about what might happen. There is no stress if you are not feeling guilt about the past. In the moment, there is only now. How do you feel right now in this very moment?
Give it a try. It won’t hurt.