Lesson 9 of 10
In Progress

9) Relaxation and Mindfulness

I-Engage May 3, 2021

In this lesson, you will learn about the benefits of relaxation and mindfulness.

Evidence shows that relaxation and mindfulness can help people with health problems, such as chronic pain. It’s been shown to reduce stress, improve concentration, and lessen pain intensity. You can learn to utilize relaxation and mindfulness to make a positive difference in your pain.

For more information on Relaxation and Stress Reduction, please look for the “Managing Chronic Pain with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy” eLearning course on the eLearning page.

What is relaxation?

Relaxation happens when you or someone else guides your mind to release the tension and tightness within your body.

Although you might think of a spa when you think of relaxation, it’s much more accessible than that. You can learn to relax wherever you are, whenever. Relaxation often involves using breathing skills and focusing the mind on relaxing images, colours, sensations, smells, or experiences.

a group of people laying down with their hands on their bellies, in relaxation.

Gentle stretching and relaxing movements, with focus on the breath, can also help to lessen tension within the muscles and body.

Most people who have experienced chronic pain can agree that it is essential to learn relaxation. Additionally, relaxation is a practice that you should keep up with on any day: bad or good. Relaxation is supposed to be enjoyable, so try different approaches until you find one you like.

Learning relaxation is easier than you might think. Many people say they can feel the positive results very quickly.

Some different types of relaxation to explore:

1)Breathing and muscle relaxationBelly breathing; Progressive muscle relaxation; On the spot reduction of anxiety or anger reduction (OTSAR)
2)Distracting the mind’s attentionImagining a pleasurable activity, like a walk in the countryside, or beach, to shift your focus away from pain and unpleasant feelings
3)Doing activities that help you unwindGentle exercise like yoga, spending time in nature, listening to relaxing music, photography, attending a relaxation group, a warm bath, etc..

Regularly practice relaxing to help develop your relaxation skills. Allocate time slots, like 20-30 minutes, to carry out relaxation practices. You may also create rescue relaxation processes as soon as you notice that you’re become tense or worked up. This includes meditation, breathing exercises, scanning for tension, and using imagery. You may set subtle reminders to check for tension throughout the day.

a french bulldog with a sleep mask on taking a nap

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is being aware of your body and mind in the now. It is about noticing what you think, feel or want at this moment without being critical or judging yourself.

Mindfulness is about exploring with all your senses: taste, touch, sound, sight, and smell. It guides you to see your thoughts as events in the mind rather than facts or truths. This allows you to choose how to respond to your thoughts rather than blindly reacting to them. It helps you make kinder choices on how to manage your thoughts, situation, and pain.

a woman enjoying a cup of coffee on a chilly morning in the mountains.

Research shows that mindfulness can help us cope better with difficult health problems like pain and fatigue. It also improves brain function; for example, improving memory and concentration. It is good for problem solving and creativity. These all lend to better self-management. Mindfulness practice helps to reduce stress hormones, thus soothing some anxiety, sadness, and anger.

Learning mindfulness

There are many ways to learn mindfulness. Depending on how you learn best, you could:

  • Get support from a friend who has practiced mindfulness successfully
  • Do your own internet research to find free mindfulness materials
  • Access an online/CD course or read a guidebook
  • Join a local relaxation or mindfulness meditation class and practice at home.
  • There are mindfulness movement courses that link breathing and movement together and are very helpful for stiff and tight muscles.
  • You could get support from a pain specialist, physiotherapist, psychotherapist, or a mindfulness teacher who can guide your relaxation and mindfulness skills.

In the next lesson, you will learn how to manage any setbacks you experience with your chronic pain.