There are many different ailments that can result in pain, such as infections, arthritis, and joint and nerve problems, among many others. Living with chronic pain that causes suffering year-round can feel like a living nightmare. Things can feel almost hopeless, but your suffering can be mitigated and managed using a steady combination of medications, as prescribed and advised by your doctor, as well as positive thinking and self-affirmation. To this end, we’ve gathered 10 mental tricks you can perform to keep your pain at bay, as well as 5 mantras you can recite to keep your strength and spirits up!
Visualization is a method that focuses on the use of the power and strength of your mind to create scenarios that can reduce your pain. One method of visualization requires you to picture your pain in a physical form, e.g. as a giant red throbbing mass. Focusing on the physical form of your pain, you can shrink it or reduce it to a smaller pink mass in your imagination, which should help with the actual pain you're experiencing.
Another use of visualization aims at relaxing and soothing your mind. Picture yourself in a relaxing place, like on a beach with a drink in your hand, or in a warm Jacuzzi with all your joints being warmed and massaged by the water, and experience the pain slowly melting away as you relax.
Meditation is a great way to manage not only stress and discomfort but also pain. A study conducted in 2011 looked into the effect of mindfulness meditation on pain management. This study conclusively showed that mindfulness meditation can have extremely positive effects on pain management. The combination of meditation and application of heat probes to affected areas reduced pain intensity by approximately 60%, and pain unpleasantness by approximately 70%.
To learn more about meditation and find helpful tutorials on meditation, follow this link: Helpful Guides on Meditation and Relaxation
Believe it or not, writing is a great way of channeling any strong emotion. American Social Psychologist, James W. Pennebaker, recommends writing for at least 15 minutes a day before sleeping when struggling with chronic pain and stress. You can write about everything - from what your current struggle is, to things that are worrying you and frustrations you’re dealing with, to dreams of the future, places you want to visit, and other thoughts that give you joy.
4. Controlled Breathing
If meditation is not the thing for you, have no fear. Controlled breathing can help immensely. Diaphragmatic breathing can be helpful, as it requires deep breathing from the stomach rather than the more shallow breathing from the chest. Dr. Janice M. Singles, Psy.D. of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, a distinguished psychologist in orthopedics and rehabilitation, states that this sort of breathing from the belly can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows for a more quiet response to pain.
Laughter truly can be the best medicine, and there have been a few studies to prove it. A study conducted by researchers at UCLA determined that kids and adolescents who had their hands immersed in ice water were able to tolerate the pain longer while watching humorous video clips.
A similar study carried out in 2010 showed that humor therapy can be an excellent way of reducing pain and loneliness for elder persons, recommending humor as supportive therapy to nurses and healthcare professionals. At times of intensified pain, ensure to add a dash of comedy to your life!
6. Apples all around
Surprisingly, apples can be effective at pain relief. A study by the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago showed that sniffing test tubes with the green apple scent improved the condition and reduced the pain of patients suffering from migraine attacks.
A controlled study in 2016 further showed that the use of apple vinegar could have numerous positive effects in reducing pain and anxiety, particularly in patients suffering from varicose veins. Even eating green apples can help keep the pain at bay. An apple a day really can help keep the doctor away!
7. Turn up the Volume
Most people suffering from joint and nerve issues, like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis will know that doctors often prescribe more exercise as a means of treating joint pain, but it can be difficult to carry out such activities with the persisting pain.
Music can serve as a great way to keep your mind off the pain while exercising. A 2013 study determined that music can help control pain levels and act as an effective therapeutic intervention. A 2012 study on the effects of music for people with osteoarthritis of the knee suffering from joint lavage similarly showed lower levels of anxiety and pain after the use of music intervention. Music is an effective tool for distracting patients from the pain, which aids in pain relief.
8. Look through a photo album (or the pictures on your phone)
Believe it or not, but rummaging through your phone or old family photo albums and surrounding yourself with pictures of familiar faces and loved ones can be immensely good for the brain and the body. Especially in times of heightened pain, looking at the face of a loved one or a reminder of treasured memories can result in the release of chemicals in the brain that can reduce the sensations of pain one may be suffering from.
Much like music, it also serves to act as a distraction from the pain as well, making it easier to reduce pain levels.
9. Enjoy some lovely artwork
Staring at masterpieces may not be something you’d ordinarily do in your free time, but looking at beautiful works of art and being surrounded by the color and majesty of these pieces can go a long way in easing your pain. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Bari found that looking at beautiful art actually helped reduce the pain levels of a number of hospital patients.
Art created by famous creators like Picasso, Botticelli, and even Da Vinci were selected and viewed by the 24 participants of the study. It was found that by focusing on these paintings and what these works of art made them feel and think significantly reduced the intensity of the pain they were experiencing.
10. Recite these 5 pain-relieving mantras
One of the best things you can do for your body, particularly when suffering from an ailment of which chronic pain is a major symptom, is to keep thinking positively. That can be extremely difficult when daily tasks seem like an impossibility and basic movements cause you immense pain.
However, reminding yourself of your own true strength and remembering that you can get through anything will keep you steady and dull the pain on the worst of days. Here are some mantras you can recite to yourself on days when the pain is especially unbearable.
(i) I am strong, no matter what
We often feel like the pain makes us weaker, particularly because it impairs our ability to function in our day to day lives. It’s important to remember that your strength lies in not what you can’t do but what you can. And every day that you are bearing through the pain is another show of your strength and courage.
(ii) One step at a time
This mantra is for those days where a task or event is bearing down on you, and the pain is making it seem like an impossibility to complete. Even things like exercise and physiotherapy can seem like a daunting event, but taking it slowly and appreciating every step of your progress along the way can help immensely.
(iii) I will get better
A big part of pain management is reminding yourself that your current suffering isn’t going to last forever. Even if you are struggling with a chronic ailment, the intensity of the pain will ebb and flow, and once you find a system that works for you, you will have more good days than bad ones.
(iv) I am not alone. I am safe and loved
These are 2 very important things to keep as a constant reminder. You are not alone in your suffering, and as many before you have recovered and survived the same struggle you bear with now, so shall you. And as you make your way through your journey, place value in all those that support you and give you a safe space to heal.
(v) This too shall come to pass
This is perhaps one of these most powerful mantras that can help you cope not only with chronic pain but almost any difficult situation. The knowledge that nothing is truly permanent can go a long way in helping you cope with your pain. Focusing on the good to come in the future can make these periods of pain and suffering pass quicker.