Present moment awareness, deep relaxation, and gentle movement can help an individual discover and observe his or her reactions to stressors, such as pain or the emotional devastation of being diagnosed with a chronic illness. This understanding can lead to changes in thought and body awareness that can potentially reduce many symptoms of fibromyalgia.
In the past, pain was understood as simply a neurological signal by the brain that something was wrong somewhere in the body; however, researchers have begun to unravel the true mystery of how and why we feel pain. The experience of pain varies between people and even within in a person based on their physical environment, the time of day, and their psychological state. When we understand that the experience of pain can be manipulated by meditation, we can begin to put “mind over matter”.
Impact of Mindfulness Meditation
According to a recent clinical trial, mindfulness-based stress reduction in fibromyalgia patients can be linked to decreases in perceived stress, sleep disruptions, and symptom severity. Another study found long-term reductions in pain, anxiety and depression in female fibromyalgia patients who engaged in mindfulness meditation.
Starting The Practice of Mindfulness Meditation
One of the great benefits is that it is a low-cost and side-effect free treatment for fibromyalgia. Your practice can simply begin with 10 to 15 minutes of quiet time each day. Concentrate on your awareness of your breath, your environment, and your thoughts. Do not try to quiet your thoughts, but let them pass through. Bring yourself back to your breathe if you mind begin to wander.
Although you can practice this on your own, it is often helpful to have a person knowledgeable in mindfulness to guide you. Seek out a therapist who specializes in mindfulness and use him as a resource as you continue to build your practice. Home practice has been linked to reduced symptom severity. In addition to meditation, yoga and tai chi, which focus on deep breathing and gentle movement, can be added to your mindfulness practice.
Other Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
- Improvements to the immune system response - Research has shown that individuals who engage in daily mindfulness meditation practice are less likely to get sick during the cold and flu season than those who do not practice meditation. In addition, those who did get sick had more mild symptoms and a shorter duration of feeling ill.
- Emotional Well-being - Brain imaging has indicated that there are physical changes to the brain in individuals who practice daily mindfulness meditation. These changes can help an individual to improve their mood, level of self control and response to stress. This is especially important for individuals with fibromyalgia who are at higher risk for developing depression and anxiety disorders.
- Improved communication and relationship skills - Individuals who practice mindfulness meditation are more likely to respond well to relationship stress. Due to a better understanding of self and the personal reactions to stressors, these individuals experience an increase in communication skills. It is paramount to a fibromyalgia patient’s successful treatment that he or she be able to communicate his or her needs and emotions to friends and family.
- Boosts memory and increase cognitive flexibility - Mindfulness meditation is also linked to increase in working memory capacity and the ability to stay focused on the tasks at hand. This is helpful for fibromyalgia patients who sometimes experience forgetfulness and confusion.