How Practicing Mindfulness Helps Me Manage Endometriosis
Last updated: June 2019
I’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation regularly for about one year. I practice when I first wake up every morning for 20 minutes and I’ve noticed positive effects both mentally and physically. I feel as though I’m a lot calmer in general and am becoming better at managing my own thoughts; so rather than being the victim of a barrage of incessant negative thoughts, since meditating I find it easier to step back and observe my thought patterns rather than just allowing them to happen to me. I also feel like my pain levels have improved, or I can manage pain better, and research suggests I’m not alone.
Often when we talk about meditation, we envisage monks sitting in caves making their mind go blank. From my experience, this isn’t what happens for me when I meditate. For majority of us, our mind is wanting to pull us into past experiences or take us into the future and this doesn’t magically stop when we try and meditate. So what to do when we’re experiencing incessant thoughts? The goal is to keep bringing the mind back to what you’re focusing on, whether it’s the breath, a mantra, observing your thought patterns, or observing sensations in the body. This process of bringing your attention to the present moment is referred to as mindfulness.
How mindfulness meditation can help manage the symptoms of endometriosis
Studies have found that mindfulness meditation has profound effects on the psychological aspects of living with chronic pain and when practiced regularly over time it improves associated depression and quality of life.1 Other studies have shown that mindfulness meditation improves pain tolerance.2 It’s been shown that people who meditate regularly process pain differently; the biggest difference is that meditators pay more attention to the sensation of pain – this seems kind of crazy right? To focus more on your pain, but the more a meditators brain focuses on their pain the higher their pain tolerance becomes. The detached and non-judgemental observation of stimuli (such as pain or other sensations) in mindfulness meditation not only makes functional but also structural changes in the brain, because it activates regions of the brain associated with emotional regulation and it down regulates the thalamus which is involved in processing pain information.3
Although mindfulness meditation is best practiced daily to get the full benefits, research suggests that even a small amount of practice (such as 20 minutes per day for three days) can be beneficial in changing pain perception.3
A simple 5-minute mindfulness meditation
Read through the steps below and then give mindfulness mediation a try. Don't worry about covering the steps off exactly as they're listed, as they're more a guide to get you started, try to just focus more on the experience. You can set a timer if you want to keep it to 5 minutes exactly.
- Close your eyes and take a moment to check in with how you’re feeling.
- First of all, can you notice any sensations in your body?
- If your mind starts to wander, just bring it back to your breath.
- Start to become aware of your whole body, can you single out any part of your body that has no pain, start to notice how it feels.
- Now can you be aware of a place that is hurting – even for the briefest moment can you turn your attention toward that place.
- How was it? Notice how it felt to turn your attention towards pain.
- If you found the experience challenging, know that with time and regular practice, it has the potential to change your relationship to pain.
- Bring your attention back to your breath and notice the feeling of the air moving in and out of your body.
- When you are ready, blink open your eyes.
Have you tried any of the following for mood swings?
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