Practice what ya̕ preach.
Mindfulness, positive reinforcement for yourself.
Confession time. I have been shocked to realize that I have not been keeping up with my own suggestions. We all know I try never to use several words. But in my head I don’t know how many times they have popped in. Pain, hurt, on and on and on.
There are several catch phrases that seem to be popular today. The one that I will be hinting at is “mindfulness ”. It is a term that can take on the meaning of meditation, trying to achieve the attitude of devil may care less, stress reduction and so forth.
I use the term here to mean being self–aware. Aware of my thoughts, vocabulary, stress, and relaxation. A chronic pain person is aware, yep we know every uncomfortable crevice in our body. But we forget to be aware of how we are letting it, pain, affect our being. I am not saying concentrate on the pain but be aware of how we address the pain.
The true battle we face each day is so tiered that we don’t want to mire thru it. If we think just getting out of the bed in the morning a trial, and that trial is conditioned on how much sleep, how many times we woke, even if we had an accident during the supposed rest period, our first tier is already hampering us. The next tier might be simply fixing a bite to eat, then the next might be brushing our teeth. Each tier has to be tackled if we want to be functioning.
So being mindful of the steps that are required in each day can be debilitating. It can be either negative or positive. Thus starts the stress. Thus starts the digging of a hole. We are putting our mind, our expectations, our possibilities in a hole. So a chronic pain person is aware or mindful all day, every day.
Also, we have to be mindful of our mental health and attitude toward our own bodies. We have to learn to be positive. Yep, some people are just so upbeat that you might not realize it is a smoke screen. We have to do what I have been failing at for a week or so. We have to watch what we say to our own body. You ask what the heck is she talking about. It is partly the words we use. It is about rewarding our body. It is about not digging our hole deeper with our words and thoughts.
Hopefully you have witnessed positive reinforcement. That is something that I used when I would tutor children. Helping them feel like learning is possible. Then reminding them that they have done ‘it’ before and succeeded at ‘it’ before, therefore the next time ‘it’ will be easier. We all thrive on the positive reinforcement. So if we apply positive reinforcement to our body we are using another part of mindfulness.
Does using negative words booster mindfulness? Negative words are just that, words that offer no hope. So, if I tell myself that I am in pain, that is what I feel. If I only concentrate on those areas that have pain, then I am reinforcing (digging that hole deeper) that all I want is for my body to feel pain. Your body is huge, think of how large your intestines are. Think about how many muscles are crammed within your skin. ALL of it can’t hurt, surely. But it seems we only concentrate on the areas that are causing problems. That is where our mistake lies. We are ignoring the simple places like our ear lobes, our underarms, between our toes. Yep, those feel good places are just ignored. What happens if you continually ignore a child? He either goes away or raises such a fit that you have to pay attention to him. So using this as my thought, would you rather pay attention to those non-pain areas or would you rather they react with pain? Why put the whole of your body in a hole?
Reward your body for those painless areas. Touch those ignored areas, breathe in relaxation with only thinking about those areas. Learn to feel with your fingertips. Learn to separate your fingertips from say your ear lobe.
I want you to try this simple exercise and think of it as silly. Smile to yourself as you try it. Touch your ear lobe with one finger and close your eyes. Which are you feeling? The lobe or the finger? Try to feel what each feels separately. First picture your finger tip then picture your lobe. What does the finger feel, not what does the ear lobe feel? Not what they both feel together. Your finger should be able to feel each single peach fuzz on that lobe. Concentrate on just the finger until that is all you are aware of. After you have become self aware of that ear lobe, keep this simple exercise up daily. Doing this can distract your mind from some of your discomforts.
Another art of mindfulness is affirmation. These are a must. They are the positive catch phrases that you need to say over and over. Your brain will listen to them. Your brain needs them! Tell your body something good. Praise that earlobe for feeling soft; anything good you want. If you can spend 30 mins a day doing this along with doing deep breathing each day, you are sending your brain new thoughts. You are telling it that you want it to concentrate on those ‘feel good’ places.
Another part of mindfulness is how we talk about our ‘self’. Either to ourselves or to other people. Sitting in bed and telling yourself that today is a difficult day just reinforces that it will be a difficult day. But sitting in bed and saying, wow, I don’t have this or that discomfort tells your mind that that is what you want your body to concentrate on. Just like telling a child he is stupid can make that child feel stupid, that is what you do to your body. You are telling it that it is in pain before it can make up its own decision. So sitting here typing this I can concentrate on the typing or I can concentrate on the burn in my muscles. As they say in school “today can be a great day, the choice is yours”, thus the choice is of our own making. Has the first thoughts in your morning taken another shovel full of dirt out of your hole?
Now, I am not saying that you will never feel pain again, but that you can make it mentally manageable. I am not saying that you won’t feel pain, but I am saying you can determine if the whole-body experiences pain. By doing these types of exercises I can be medicine free most days. But without reminding my body that there are some ‘feel great’ places on and in it, I have only increased my discomfort levels.
So if you take nothing away from this but simply not using any negative words, you can reward your brain. Which in turn will send a message to your body that you are only uncomfortable and that is ‘OK’ with the whole of you. But if you can learn to feel with the good areas and let them outshine the not so good you will see a difference in your levels and tiers. You can choose to walk away from that hole, you can dig it deeper, or you can start filling it.
So after finishing this post I will spend some ‘me’ time. My eyes will be closed, and I will walk through my body and give high fives to those parts that I have ignored. And it is OK with me if you doubt what I am trying to get across with this post. “The choice is yours.” How you choose to talk about and to your body is a very private thing. I choose to share the wacky things I do to accept and conquer my new normal.