Reset Your Mind

Integrating MindBody for Optimal Healing

Part of living well is to build awareness about our minds, sometimes referred to as Mindsight. As we build that awareness we can quickly see that the human brain is incredibly fascinating and intricately complex. Infact, It is more complicated than we will ever be able to fully conceive; which is both humbling and promising. The promise lies in the great potential our brains have to change and grow. With each new discovery, we begin to realize the true complexity and flexibility of our brains. 

 

Consider this, the average human brain contains around 86 billion neurons (or nerve cells) and 1000 trillion synapses that can communicate with each other in thousands of ways. Therefore, the potentiality in each one of our brains is greater than the amount of atoms in the universe!

 

Simply put, the mind is a highly diverse and yet adaptable system. 

 

This discovery of our brains’ incredible neuroplasticity has led much of the promising research into MIndBody Integration as a path of healing persistent pain. 

MindBody Integration

 

 

 

The mind and body are not unrelated, separate issues. Remembering this is vital for understanding your pain. Without your brain, there is no pain. Infact, you only experience pain when the electrical signals reach the thinking part of your brain. There are specific regions of your brain where you fully experience pain, but these parts of your brains do much more that just perceive pain.  

 

Psychological and social factors can play an important role in causing pain, especially with the type of pain that persists after 3 to 6 months. Your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, prior experiences, cultural influences, religion, and work can all have an impact on the brain’s decision to produce pain. These factors all influence how the brain and nervous system process injury, disease, pain, danger, and recovery. 

 

Your thoughts can generate pain. Automatic thinking can affect your health, coping ability, and maybe even your ability to modulate pain. Your thoughts affect how you interpret pain, give meaning to it, and your beliefs about it. The meaning of pain can be influenced by anxiety level and how much you feel fear or out of control. 

 

At the heart of your persistent pain lies your thoughts about pain and your experience. There are several ways that your thinking can influence your persistent pain but a very common one is called catastrophizing. 

 

To Catastrophize is to think that something is much worse than it actually is. Psychologist MIchael Sullivan has studied catastrophizing and defines it as having three essential features:

  1. Repeated worrying that things will get worse - “I will never be able to life or be happy”

  2. Thinking that the negative events are huge and overwhelming - “Pain has ruined my life”

  3. Learned helplessness - “there is nothing I can do about my pain”

 

Pain catastrophizing increases your pain and reduces your ability to function physically and psychologically.

 

People in persistent pain often get stuck when they allow their brains to automatically respond to experience. When they buy into their negative, catastrophizing thinking. One of the easiest ways to shift the neural pathway of automaticity is increasing awareness through mindfulness practice and building awareness. Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment non-judgmentally and on purpose.

Simple ≠ Easy

 

Sound hard? It’s actually quite a simple concept, but it is not easy because it takes vigilant awareness of your MindBody, as well as consistency and discipline in your practice.

 

Experiments to try:

 

~Use mindsight to build awareness

~Practice mindfulness to build attention and change your relationship to negative thinking

~Harness the Power of Positive Psychology to shift your negative thinking:

  • Growth Mindset

  • Optimism

  • Gratitude

~Learn Cognitive behavioural Therapy to change your thinking:

  • Challenge your negative self-talk

  • Clarify the problem and what you can do

© 2016 CAPRI Central Alberta Pain & Rehabilitation Institute