Calming your mind and body

Pain helped early humans survive. When they felt pain, they saw it as a threat they needed to escape quickly. When you’re always in pain, though, your “high alert” system remains on for too long. You feel stressed and your muscles stay tense, which ends up making your pain even worse. Learning to calm your mind can help you reduce pain.

There are three ways to calm your mind: breathing slowly, being mindful, and using imagery. Though you can do these things almost anywhere, anytime, it can be helpful to set up a schedule to practice them. You could even do a short breathing, mindfulness, or imagery practice before or after your RecoveryOne exercise session. The better you get at calming your mind, the less tension and pain you’ll feel.

Slow, deep breathing is something that can help you relax quickly, and you can do it almost anywhere. All you have to do is breathe in through your nose for two counts and out through your mouth for four counts. Breathe deeply while keeping your chest and shoulders stable. Repeat this a few times and notice how it makes you feel.

Being mindful — you’ve probably heard of it as “mindfulness” — is not as complex as it sounds. It means being aware of your senses, thoughts, and feelings in the present moment, as they happen. To practice mindfulness, sit or lie down, close your eyes, and notice your thoughts. Do your best not to judge or analyze them; let them float away like clouds. Try setting a timer to practice for two or three minutes each day, and increase the time as you get better.

One more tactic to relax your mind and body is to use imagery, or to picture yourself in a calm place. Sit or lie down, close your eyes, and imagine a time or place that makes you feel at peace. This tactic works best when you use all of your senses. How does it feel to be in this place? What can you hear, see, smell, and taste? If you need some ideas, picture yourself lying on a warm beach, walking in a peaceful rainforest, swimming in a balmy pool, or taking a tranquil bubble bath. Learning to calm your mind and body can lessen the impact of stress and help with pain. Slow breathing, being mindful, and using imagery are simple methods that you can add to your daily routine. Your body will thank you for the small efforts you make to deal with stress.