There have been many trends and exclamations to the importance of our mental health in recent years, which is a very positive thing – we are not just acknowledging the importance of a healthy mental state but furthering our understanding of the linkages between our physical and mental self. The mind-body pain connection explores the link between physical and mental well-being.
As we continue to allow ourselves to explore our emotional state and accept the fact that we are not always happy, however, we uncover an entirely new problem – if I admit I am not happy, or depressed, or in pain, how do I go about recovering from this state?
The Mind-Body Pain Connection
An important element to understand and embrace is that pain is both a physical and mental symptom – we can suffer emotionally from a physical injury and vice versa.
That is not to say that all mental pain and emotional stress is rooted in a physical injury, but nonetheless, it is common to experience depression or other emotional states of distress in conjunction with physical injuries and pain.
Several research areas have been conducted into the connection(s) that exist between physical pain and mental awareness and state.
Psychologist Rex Schmidt
Psychologist Rex Schmidt at the Nebraska Medical Center Pain Management states that “Depression and pain happen to share a part of the brain that’s involved in both conditions, which means that mind-body techniques that affect those areas can be efficacious for both.”
The logic here is that when you suffer from a physical injury, your emotional well-being is at risk for several factors. The well-being you feel from a full recovery is not just the fact that the pain is gone, but the recovery can be mental too.
Recognizing and addressing subtle depression.
Depression can take many forms and is often very subtle, so it is tough to acknowledge or recognize when we are suffering. The upside is that by taking care of yourself, and working to recover and actively target and releasing areas that may be causing you pain, you are actively targeting potential depression too.
It is well recognized that endorphins are released as a result of exercise – this is a process in the brain that is releasing chemicals through our nervous system, but again the link between the mental and physical is vital here as endorphins can also serve to relieve pain and establish feelings of euphoria.
Meditation for Pain Relief and Well-being
Mindfulness is another area that has received growing attention when it comes to pain relief and managing depression. Specifically, meditation is being advocated as a great technique to focus on ‘the now’ and manage pain by controlling your stress levels.
Specifically, researchers at Brown University in Providence, R.I. found that when women with chronic pelvic pain participated in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program, their pain decreased and their mood improved.
This was part of a research initiative to determine whether mindfulness meditation — focusing on your breath and each present moment — could serve to lessen cancer pain, low back pain and migraine headaches.
Freeing the Mind from Pain
As we start to consider these relationships in increasing detail, the great opportunity here is clear – whether or not we are in physical pain, there is an opportunity to free ourselves from pain through mental application.
More importantly, when we are in pain, there is an equal opportunity to free ourselves from emotional and mental distress by freeing ourselves from the physical pain that is burdening us.
Whether that is recovering from an immediate injury, or longer term release from a lifetime of bad movements that is causing our body constant distress that we may not acknowledge, there is great potential for mental well being by taking care of our physical selves.