Chronic pain or illness is becoming increasingly common and on average one in five people in the developed world now suffers from chronic pain. The biggest causes of chronic pain are arthritis, back problems, injury and headaches. Conditions such as heart disease, fibromyalgia, lupus, coeliac disease, chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome follow closely behind. Chronic pain can lead to stress, depression, anxiety, mental and physical exhaustion and anger (Penman & Burch, 2013).
Many hospitals now prescribe mindfulness meditation to help patients cope with the suffering arising from chronic conditions.
What is mindfulness?
‘Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally’ (Jon Kabat-Zinn). In 1979 Jon Kabat-Zinn developed an eight-week program called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for chronically ill people who were not responding well to traditional treatments. Arising from this extensive research using clinical trials along with thousands of peer reviewed scientific papers prove that mindfulness reduces pain and improves mental and physical health
Suffering and pain occurs on two levels: primary and secondary suffering. Primary suffering is the experience of unpleasant physical sensations felt in the body. On top of this is secondary suffering which consists of all the thoughts, feelings, emotions and memories associated with the pain. These might include anxiety, depression, anger, resentment, worry and hopelessness. The pain and distress which is felt is a combination of both primary and secondary suffering.
Practicing mindfulness can support you to discover your own innate resources, to reduce your suffering, develop self-compassion and enhance your wellbeing.