Mindfulness is not like traditional painkillers, which are intended to dull or eliminate pain. While many experts recommend mindfulness-based practices to manage pain, the goal of those practices is typically not to remove pain entirely, but to change your relationship with it so that you are able to experience relief and healing in the middle of uncomfortable physical sensations.
Pain is a complex experience
The way you experience pain is affected by many factors in addition to pain intensity, such as your emotional state (“I am angry that I am feeling this way”), beliefs about pain (“This pain means there’s something seriously wrong with me”), expectations (“These painkillers aren’t going to work”), and environment (“I don’t have anyone to talk to about how I feel”).
In fact, pain is generally recognized to be associated with three major components:
- Physical sensations
- Emotional response to the sensations
- Social effects of the experience
Mindfulness can help you tune into the difference between these three experiences, making it possible to reduce the suffering associated with pain without necessarily reducing the severity of the pain itself. It can also help you approach your pain with less fear and more acceptance, allowing you to live life fully, even though you have pain.