These steps and more are echoed by friends, portrayed in movies, and found in self help pamphlets throughout doctor’s offices across the country. But really, how does meditation actually help to manage chronic illnesses like addiction, pain, or anxiety?
The first thing you need to understand is these illnesses all follow a similar pattern. They are persistent pain regardless of the shape they take form, whether physical or mental. While those suffering from addiction might consistently feel compelled to indulge with drugs or imbibe, those dealing with chronic pain physically have a relentless invisible wound incapable of being healed.
With that said, many dealing with these invisible illnesses have struggled with coping in a world where people put too much stock in physical proof of illness. This can make it hard to build a solid support network for the individual suffering with the illness. Support from those closest to the individual, coupled with a physician’s recommended regimen, can truly make the difference for someone facing persistent pain or illness.
Coping with these feelings of pain, addiction, or anxiety can be made easier with help from meditation. By incorporating even the simplest of meditation techniques into your healing regimen, you can see a vast increase to the quality of your life.
The easiest of all meditation exercises is to focus on and re-center your breathing. A breath is something the body does automatically, but it can be controlled.
It is important to understand how breathing can affect your life. By learning how to breathe right, you can aid your body’s elimination of oxidized complex carbohydrates via expelled carbon dioxide. Moreover, the different breathing techniques available can influence the way your body responds. This is vitally important to understand because it essentially means not all breathing techniques are for everyone. If you have a chronic condition, it is important for you to talk to your physician before adding anything new to your regimen.
The most important concept to introduce into your breathing is to slow down. Too often we are found taking deep gasping breaths during anxiety attacks or particularly painful moments. We don’t pay active attention to our breathing and work ourselves up because of the mix of pain and poor breathing patterns.
The easiest way to focus on breathing is by counting the seconds it takes you to inhale and exhale. Try doing that now.
Depending on your particular situation, you are probably taking too many breaths in too short a pattern. Most people find success by slowing down their breaths to about 4-5 seconds per inhale and 4-5 seconds per exhale. Practice this technique and see how easy/hard it is to regulate your breathing. Some find it helpful to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
For others, this breathing technique can be made even more effective by incorporating counting into the breathing. For those who suffer from anxiety or addiction, the counting can give you something to focus on outside of the impulses you have. This, too, can aid those suffering from chronic pain to shift the focus of their attention from the pain to the counting.
To incorporate this strategy into your breathing start by regulating your breaths once again. 4-5 seconds inhale, hold, and 4-5 seconds exhale. For the purpose of this article we will use a 5 second inhale and exhale.
Center yourself. Take a moment to regulate your breathing to match with the 5 second pattern. Now, as you inhale count each second 1…2…3…4…5. When you get to 5, hold for a second and then exhale counting backwards 5…4…3…2…1. Repeat this pattern for as long as needed.
This technique can also be used with 4 second inhales and exhales, deemed the 4-square breathing. You follow the same pattern as seen above but for a count of 4 instead of 5.
By exploring your breathing and trying different techniques, you will be able to gain an understanding of what works and does not work for you.
For many of these illnesses, a sense of displacement or distraction from pain, anxiety, or impulse is what is needed. This is why structured breathing exercises can enhance one’s quality of life. Take the time to sit and concentrate on your breathing. How long do you normally inhale? Exhale? Do you hold your breath for a half second or do you go straight into the exhale?
Doctor’s listen to how patient’s breath because it can tell a lot about what is going on in a patient’s body. By learning to optimize your breathing you can improve your overall health and wellbeing.