Mindfulness Meditation is the Best Medication

Mindfulness meditation anxiety stress

Just how much can we reduce the judgements and find acceptance of emotional and physical pain?

What I Think About Pain, Matters

When I feel a pain, be it emotional (as a result of my thoughts) or physical (perhaps from my chronic illness or acute bodily pain) I can choose to do two things:

  1. Shine the entire spotlight of attention on that pain; or
  2. Acknowledge it, without any judgement, and continue with what I should be doing.

If I choose the second option, I’m practising self-compassion, loving kindness and self-soothing techniques. I’m consciously making choices as to whether to define my entire happiness based on a judgement of the pain, or to observe it as it is.

Grab a Pill

When we experience dis-comfort and dis-ease, stress and dis-stress, we have very often been taught during our formative years (and subsequently by parents and peers, marketing and pharmaceutical companies) that if we need relief, we must medicate ourselves to mask the symptoms. And if we don’t use prescription or over-the-counter medication, we can easily turn to illicit drugs, alcohol and other potentially addictive behaviours.

Take 10

Here is a 10-minute introductory exercise from Jon Kabbat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) which he created for thousands of individuals who suffer daily emotional and physical distress. Jon has demonstrated huge success in reducing the otherwise less optimal effects.

Mail Alert

Our senses detect, and inform us of, emotions and pain all the time. These sensations’ are messengers for our thinking-conscious mind to take some form of action. These are indeed hand-delivered clues:

  • If I’m hungry (an emotion), and I recognise that I’m hungry, I can choose to eat. The emotion of hunger can then be released.
  • If I’m lonely, and I feel sad, I can choose to contact someone. Whether by phone, or perhaps via social media and, magically, I will feel less lonely and sad.

Ouch, Dammit!

Returning to the source of physical or emotional discomfort, if I have a toothache (and as is my conscious habit) I can do two things:

  1. Focus all of my attention on the toothache – it’s going to hurt, a lot! I may not be able to concentrate on anything else; I may feel subconsciously threatened and unsafe, and as a result, I may become irritable and angry. OR
  2. I can recognise that I have a tooth-ache and reduce the thoughts that might associate themselves with the pain. I can recognise the event as what it is and elect to take a action (if one is available). I might make an appointment if necessary or wait and see if the pain will pass. In the meantime, I can let it go! It’s unlikely I’m going to forget I have the pain, so why focus on it?

Judge the Pain and be Damned

By practising non-judgemental acceptance of something which can or cannot be changed, we immediately open up the possibility of reducing the impact of the emotional or physical pain, be it acute or chronic. So often it’s not the event itself but what we think of it that’s the issue. This is true of all current and past events as well as the judgements we make about them.

Enter ‘Mindfulness’

For any Mindfulness practices to be effective we have to consider if we wish to become more ‘aware’, more ‘mindful’?

Mindfulness meditation isn’t about ‘hiding away’, or ignoring the world. In fact, it’s about being more aware and awake than we can ever recall.

In the noise of today we’ve become so reactive to stimuli and that serves us when we inadvertently step in to the path of traffic, or some other threat to our well-being. Otherwise we usually experience little genuine threat to our health and well-being.

Whoa There!

So, if we can slow down and consider the information our senses deliver to us each moment and respond appropriately to each moment’s truth, we can be more responsive, less reactive and our physiology will also respond accordingly.

The Battlefield for a Longer Life

The millions of molecular and cellular transactions taking place each second and burning up our lifetime reserves and shortening our telomeres can be improved. (Telomeres and their length are thought to be a factor in determining the longevity of life via cellular reproduction.)

Some researches were conducted to understand the malleable determinants of cellular aging, which is critical to understanding human longevity. The researchers concluded saying “We have reviewed data linking stress arousal and oxidative stress to telomere shortness. Meditative practices appear to improve the endocrine balance toward positive arousal (high DHEA, lower cortisol) and decrease oxidative stress. Thus, meditation practices may promote mitotic cell longevity both through decreasing stress hormones and oxidative stress and increasing hormones that may protect the telomere.

[Source: [47][48][49] ~Wikipedia]

Our immune system can re-boot, our energy levels can return, restful sleep and relaxation can once more become available. This in turn leads to enhanced compassion for ourselves and others, better performance and greater creativity so we can come home to ourselves and the realities of each and every moment.

And it’s free, without prescription and no animals are hurt in the testing process. No one gets rich and there are no adverse side-effects* necessary to accommodate the transition back to our unconditioned self.

*When beginning mindfulness meditation, it is wise to seek an assessment from a counsellor or other professional.


For more on this subject, contact me or consider the excellent publication Full Catastrophe Living, Revised Edition: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

About the author
Bob Brotchie

Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, life coach and creator of Conscious Living by Design™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

Bob provides bespoke counselling services to clients in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).

3 Comments

  1. Informative article as always Bob!

    I’m finding it a bit of a leap to how when I acknowledge it, without any judgement, and continue with what I should be doing, that this is a self-soothing technique.

    Could you elaborate a bit more on that?

    I think where my HEAD is on this is one of the major ways we learn self-soothing is based on how our mother responded to us. If our mother acknowledged our pain without any judgement, and then focused on something else, would that be soothing to us?

    I’m not sure it would be soothing to me and that’s why I am questioning the idea of this being self-soothing.

    Looking forward to hearing more on this from you.

    • Thank you, Trish. A very good question

      I think it is important we have our own ‘take’ on this, but for me and from how I have learned; when I have ‘toothache’, as an example, I can easily get caught up in what this means via my inner-dialogue. But when I acknowledge (recognise consciously) I have toothache – without a running script of negative judgements, then I can know there is nothing more to do and let go of the focus of attention on that toothache. Then, the pain reduces as I go about my business.

      I haven’t ignored the pain, so the pain message is acknowledge within the higher centres of the brain – allowing the information to be processed, along with any re-cognitions about what this may mean to the host organism (us), such as an incorrect message that we’re under greater threat than the reality.
      If we fail to acknowledge the pain for what it is, rather than what is has been in the past in comparing it to other perceived negative events, then the pain – and what becomes the associated misery (judgement) compounds the ‘event’. Now I not only have a toothache, I have emotional misery too! A bit like the saying around forgiveness and letting go of our thoughts about those who have hurt us –

      “drinking the poison – expecting the other to die”

      It serves us little to hold our pain if there is nothing to do with it in that moment – and we are failing then to appreciate what IS working and well – whilst giving less attention to what we are supposed to be doing.

      The “self-soothing” is by way of accurately assessing the issue. When we adopt a ‘present’ moment awareness of what is, and what isn’t, we will find much less emotional turbulence, building as a result our resilience and trust in the impermanence of life, knowing that all passes, whether we judge it or not!

      I hope that rather long-winded explanation gives some perspective, based on my experiences, Trish. Thank you once again.

      Peace and love.

      Bob

      • I thought your answer covered it well and now it makes sense how it can be an approach to self-soothing. It gives me another tool that I hadn’t considered before when I need that type of soothing. xoxo

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Mindfulness Meditation is the Best Medication

by Bob Brotchie time to read: 4 min
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