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Mindfulness for pain management

This resource is about using mindfulness to help with pain management.

What is mindfulness?

There is a lot of talk about mindfulness at the moment. It has become a bit of a ‘buzz word’, which you may have heard in school, on social media, on TV. It is however, not as new as it sounds.

Mindfulness meditation has been practised for hundreds of years in many Eastern cultures. Currently mindfulness courses are being used in schools and healthcare settings to help people manage their worries, stress, fatigue, low mood, and persistent pain. Evidence shows that a regular mindfulness practice has great benefits for everyone.

When we practice mindfulness, the brain releases a ‘feel good’ hormone called ‘serotonin’. It helps steady emotions and calms us down.

Mindfulness is very simple. It is basically paying attention in the present moment which is something we can all do.

Mindfulness involves paying attention to something very deliberately, such as breathing.

A beam of light

It may be helpful to imagine your attention as a beam of light. Just as a torch beam can be moved to shine and light up the places you want to see when it is dark, your attention can be moved in a similar way. Allowing you to focus on what is going on inside of you or outside of you.

The here and now

Mindfulness is about noticing the here and now.

It is okay if your mind wanders elsewhere but try to bring it back to the present by thinking of the following.

Focus on what is happening in and around your body.

Notice how your body is laid on the floor or sat down in a chair. Is your face or neck tense in this position?

Concentrate on the breathing in and out of your body. Can you count your breaths in and out?

Do you hear anything around you? How do your clothes feel on your body?

What are you thinking about? How are you feeling?

Giving it a go

The best way to find out what mindfulness is all about is to have a go and do it.

Although mindfulness is simple, it is not necessarily easy. It requires discipline and effort to maintain an on-going daily practice, and some days are better than others.

Create a quiet time and a space so that you can begin to notice what is going on in and around you. The best way to practice mindfulness meditation is to plan a set time each day to do it, when you know you will not be disturbed. It does not have to be for a long time. It can be as short as 3 minutes or as long as 30 minutes.

Below are some short practices to experiment with if you are interested in giving mindfulness a go. When you have tried these practices, it may be helpful to write down a few notes of anything you noticed in order to discuss them with your therapist next time you meet.

Information:

For example, as you read this resource, start to notice how it feels to sit here, holding the handout in your hands, feeling the paper between your fingers. Feel all the places that your body comes into contact with something. The floor and the chair you are sitting on. Notice the pressure across the soles of both of your feet, the contact they have with your socks and shoes, if you are wearing them. Tune into the weight of your body going down through your buttocks and thighs as they rest and press on to the seat that is supporting you. Notice that you are breathing. Observe how it is to read these words and how you do so automatically, without having to think about it. Notice, if at any point your mind starts to wander away from what you are reading, and then gently choose to bring it back. Check out whether you invite yourself to come back to reading this handout with a kindly attitude, or harshly.

5 finger or star breathing

5 finger or star breathing is a 4 minute practice that involves tracing around your hand as you breathe. It can be done in standing or sitting and wherever you happen to be such in a lesson when you are in school. Follow along with our video on star breathing here.

3 step breathing space

3 step breathing practice can be done wherever you are. It can be as long or short as you want it to be. The instructions for this practice are written below as it follows a simple structure, which may be helpful to remember. You can follow along to this 8 minute video practice.

Step 1: noticing

Become aware of your body and your posture. Gently ask yourself, what sounds can I hear? What physical sensations can I feel in my body? What thoughts do I notice. Am I thinking about the past or the future? How do I feel? Just simply checking in with how you are, your ‘internal weather pattern’, and with kindness towards yourself.

Step 2: gathering

Focus your attention on your breathing wherever you feel it most vividly in your body (your nostrils, mouth, chest, or tummy). Follow the full cycle of your breathing. Notice that there are 4 stages to a full cycle of breathing, the in-breath, the short pause, the out-breath, and the longer pause. To help you to focus you can also choose to count up to 3 silently to yourself on the in-breath, and then up to 4 on the out-breath. Always lengthen your outward breath.

Step 3: widening

Widen out the torch beam of your attention to include an awareness of all of your body, your posture, your breath, physical sensations, sounds, thoughts, and feelings. Hold all of your experience in the wide focus of your mind. Allow it to be here. Say gently to yourself, “It’s OK to feel this”. Stay with this practice as long as you wish.

Body scan

Body scan is a practice is usually done lying down. It goes through all the different parts of the body and can be done at bedtime to help you relax before sleeping. You can follow along to this 14 minute body skim video practice.

Mindfulness of sound

Mindfulness of sound is a short practice, which can help focus your attention if you are feeling restless or are finding it tricky to pay attention to your breathing and body. You can follow along to this 14 minute mindfulness of sound video practice.

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Disclaimer

Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: PAI16

Resource Type: Article

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