Finding Your own happiness is possible by finding your own state of flow. Csikszentmihályi is a Psychologist who describes flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. Being so absorbed into something you love to do, which is challenging enough, but not too easy or too hard, just for the love of doing it and not for the outcome. To get there, first we need to have some level of honesty with ourselves. There is a calling for something we love to do in all of us, but we get too busy doing what we need to do in order to get what we want to have! There is nothing wrong with trying to make a living. The great loss happens when we forget the actual living in the process of trying to make a living. We go about our daily routines without enthusiasm and we feel exhausted at the end of the day. One day of our daily routine may feel so long at times that we feel it may never end. Bringing enthusiasm back to life is what we need to get into our own state of flow. So consider the following steps: 1- Be Honest with yourself and find your own calling. You are worthy of it, just be honest and have a real look at your own interests. What gives you a kick? 2- Open some time for your own interest and focus on what you love to do. It does not have to be a lot of time out of your schedule, but only you can open this window for you. 3- Don't give into wasting your time on a too simple version of what you like or don't set the bar too unrealistically high. Creating your own balance. 4- Enjoy doing what you love to do for the sake of doing it. 5- Enjoy your new habit: LIVING IN YOUR OWN STATE OF FLOW

Chronic PainMind BodyPatient’s VoiceRemedies

Meditation is very popular practice all around the globe. Meditation is a way to keep your mind fit, the same way a gym trainer would train the body to be fit.

  Meditation is used as an umbrella term. There are many forms of meditation. Just as exercise is an umbrella term, and there are a number of different exercises you can do. It is a group of related activities. You can choose one technique and focus on mastering that, or you can practice multiple until you’ve mastered all forms of mediation.

So how do you go about practicing mediation? And what is the point?

  Many think that the point of meditation is about emptying the mind. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Meditation is about focusing on the Here and Now.

What does that mean?

If you really think about it, many of our thoughts, angers and worries stem from thoughts of the past, and thoughts of the future. Meditation encourages your focus to be on right now, right at this moment. And what is happening right at this moment? You are breathing. Meditation uses a focus on breath because nothing is more current than your lungs filling with air and emptying at that moment. When we meditate, we temporarily let go of the past (which we cannot  change) and the future (which is still unknown) and bask in the present; a place and time that is real and current, and that we often forget to appreciate.

When you can focus on the present, the past seems less significant, and the future is full of endless possibilities. The idea of good things or bad things happening is irrelevant. The understanding is that things happen, and things will always happen. Good or bad is a label we attribute to the situation based on thoughts of the past and our own ideas for the future. This is where our minds often become stuck in a loop.

Our minds are like hamsters on a hamster wheel. They can run all day and all night. But in the end, they aren’t really going anywhere. When our minds are filled with situations and circumstances, things that have been and things that could be, we are running and not really going anywhere. We have no control over most of the things that occupy our minds. And that is why, by using meditation techniques, you can focus on what you do have control over. You can focus on what is relevant. The Here and Now.

The mind is what runs the body. Meditation does not only promote mental health and awareness of yourself and the world around you, it has many physical befits as well. There have been many studies that show the positive effects of meditation on the body and its different systems. For example, meditation combats stress. Stress on its own can affect blood pressure, heart rate, sleep, pain, and anxiety

.

Meditation promotes:

  • better quality of sleep
  • lower blood pressure
  • improved blood circulation
  • a lower resting heart rate
  • less anxiety
  • slower respiratory rate
Mediation has even been known to be useful in weight loss, smoking cessation, and pain management when used in combination with other treatments.

While there are a number of forms of meditation techniques, they all share in the theme of focus. Any technique you choose will be difficult at first. We have spent our entire lives allowing our minds to run free. Getting your mind to focus without thoughts racing through will take practice and persistence.

Concentration Meditation:

This form of meditation involves focusing on one single point for concentration. This can be your breath, repeating a sound, listening to a repetitive gong etc. The purpose of this form of meditation is that is offers you something to refocus back on when your mind wanders into thoughts. Instead of giving in to the random thoughts crowding your mind, you acknowledge them, and then let them go, going back to your point of focus.

This is usually the easiest way for beginners to start practicing meditation.

Mindful meditation:

This technique is different from focused meditation. It is considered a more advanced form of meditation. Mindful meditation encourages the observation of thoughts rather than a clearing of thoughts. The idea is to see the thoughts that are floating through your mind in a neutral light. You are not judging or engaging the thoughts. You are simply acknowledging that they are there.

This meditation technique offers you a view of your thoughts from above, allowing you to find patterns in what you perceive as good thoughts and bad thoughts. With practice, you will become more aware of your tendency to quickly judge situations as negative, and you will be better able to alter your outlook to see things in a more positive light.

There are many other meditation techniques that you can try once you have mastered the art of focus. There is Tai Chi where you use your body and controlled muscle motions while keeping a relaxed mind. There is also walking meditation for those who are now able to practice Mindful Meditation with ease.

By practicing mediation for just 2 or 3 minutes a day, you can better train your mind and slowly begin to increase the amount of time you are able to meditate.

Chronic Pain

 

Living with chronic pain is no easy feat. Pain causes many changes, both outside and on the inside of the person facing chronic pain.

When dealing with chronic pain, it is all too easy to slip into making your life centered on the pain. It can become difficult after a long history of dealing with the pain, to see the line between your pain, and the rest of your life. This is where anxiety is born.

Anxiety is a state of constant fear and worry. You can fear the pain, and worry about all aspects of it. You can worry about the triggers, the intensity of current pain and the pain still to come. You can worry about all possible future outcomes in regards to your health, finances, and family without having any bases to do so.  Anxiety can cause you to spend the better part of most days living in the fear of “what if?”

Anxiety is assuming the worst will happen at all times without having any actual reason for thinking this way. Anxiety is extreme worry coupled with fear, caution, and constantly being on alert for danger. Anxiety is a seed. It is planted inside of you, and if left untreated, will grow and branch into all other areas of your life. Anxiety can also evolve, and take on new forms by way of your friends and family, your workplace, your confidence and self esteem. It can be exhausting at times, and lead to a depression.

So how can you treat anxiety that is combined with chronic pain? It isn’t always easy as these two feed of off of each other. Pain causes anxiety. People who suffer with anxiety may have a lower threshold for pain and may be more sensitive to the medications for treating pain. That being said, treatment is very possible.

Nutrition: Those who suffer with chronic pain and anxiety should limit or eliminate caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. These can act as triggers for anxiety and panic attacks.

Sleep: Good quality sleep in the night hours can help with both chronic pain and anxiety disorders. The symptoms of both conditions can often be made worse when you are not getting enough sleep in the night. Practice good sleep hygiene and avoid caffeine late in the day to promote good sleep.

Alternative treatment: Meditation, Yoga, acupuncture and massage have all been known to be helpful in treating anxiety and managing anxiety. Relaxation techniques: This includes progressive and slow muscle relaxation, breathing retraining as well as visual and auditory aids. Relaxation techniques have been shown to help combat and cope with anxiety.

Medications: Some medications are available to treat symptoms of both pain and anxiety in one pill. Speak with your primary care physician to determine which medications and course of treatment best suit you.

   

Chronic Pain

You can use mypain.ca and #ZENDOSE on @Drkevinrod on twitter as your companion to Mind Body Health. The information on these online resources can be used as a program for achieving better Mental and Physical health. This program is free of charge and is guided by a licensed health professional. You can use the contact us section to get started on this program. Otherwise you can enjoy daily readings of #ZENDOSE on twitter @Drkevinrod, reflect on them and follow up with mypain.ca site as your online resources for learning about Self Help for better mental and physical health. Please scroll down to read more.

Chronic PainMind BodyRemedies

With the new year just around the corner, now might be as good a time as any for chronic pain sufferers to start keeping a pain diary.

Pain is not always easy to talk about. It can often be misunderstood by friends and family. Because the pain is an invisible entity, it can be hard to describe it to someone who does not face your pain on a daily basis. A pain diary is used to create a picture of the pain, making it easier to understand and also helping to uncover useful information that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Pain is often described as a number ranging from the least amount of pain, to the worst pain. These numbers are used to create a picture or a map of the pain. A pain diary uses the same concept, giving as much detail to the pain as possible to create a larger, more descriptive picture of the once invisible pain.

A pain diary can help by allowing you to see and understand your pain patterns and triggers. Over time you can observe which medications and therapies offer you the most pain relief. You can also see how your environment around you affects your pain. Changes in season, amount of natural daylight and even stressful situations can all be pain triggers that go unnoticed because of our busy lifestyles. Diet and activity can also be factors affecting your pain. By using a pain diary, you will begin to notice the patterns and triggers that you maybe hadn’t noticed before, allowing you to make changes to better manage your chronic pain.

Another important benefit of keeping a pain diary is that you are better equipped to communicate with your doctor because you have now become an expert in your own pain. You can offer your doctor vital information about your pain that you may not have had before, maximizing your treatment plan and your overall pain management.

Keeping a pain diary does not need to be complicated. These are the key points that should be included in your log:

  • The date and timeline
  • What activities have you been doing since your last diary entry?
  • What were you doing when the pain started?
  • Where exactly on your body did you feel the pain?
  • How often did you feel the pain or for how long did the pain last?
  • How intense was the pain from 1- mild to 10- severe?
  • Did the pain stop you from doing an activity? (walking, cooking, working, sleeping)
  • What medication did you take and at what time? Did they give you any relief?
  • Was there anything else that you did that helped with the pain?
  • What emotions were you dealing with when the pain started? How did you feel after the pain eased?

Use these questions and try to keep your entries as frequent as possible to get the full benefit of a pain diary. With time, you will start to better understand your pain and you will be better equipped to manage it.

Chronic Pain

sleep   Sleep hygiene is the combination of sleep environmental and behavioral practices that you can take part in to help promote a better quality and more restful sleep.

Sleep is a top indicator of your overall health. Poor sleep can have a direct impact on your daytime activities, mental health, alertness and physical health. People who struggle with chronic pain are much more susceptible to poor sleep at night. Pain sufferers are much more likely to list environmental factors as the main contributor to poor sleep. Taking extra care to maintain a sound sleep environment is particularly important for those who suffer with daily pain.

The following are some helpful tips:

ENVIRONMENT:

Your sleep environment should be consistent from day to day. Where you sleep should be temperature controlled. Your room should be cool, but not cold, to promote restful sleep. The room should be as dark and quiet as possible. An uncomfortable temperature, bright lights and sound can disrupt continuous sleep, leaving you to wake up feeling tired and irritable.

You should choose the most comfortable mattress and pillow that best suits your needs. Bedroom sheets should be light weight, and breathable to prevent overheating while you sleep.

SCHEDULING:

Scheduling your sleep is another form of sleep hygiene. Consistent sleep times will also allow you to adopt sleep routines to ensure quality sleep. Adults require seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

Although daytime naps can be helpful when you have not have good sleep the night before, they can have a negative effect on your sleep the following night.

There is also a benefit in having a consistent wake time in the mornings.

ACTIVITIES:

It is important to turn off your work and worries for the day at least 30 minutes before your set bedtime. The bed should be a worry-free zone. Cell phone, laptops and any other electronic device should never be brought into the bed with you.

Bright lights before bed can have a negative effect on your sleep quality, interfering with your body’s own sleep-wake (light-dark) cycle. Cell phones, television screens and tablets should be avoided in bed.

Exercise plays an interesting role in sleep hygiene. While regular exercise is very beneficial to good quality sleep, exercise too close to bedtime can actually have a negative effect on your sleep at night, leaving you unable to fall asleep at a reasonable time.

DIET:

It is well known that coffee is a stimulant, and drinking coffee before bed may leave you lying in bed at night unable to fall asleep. There are many stimulants out there that are not recommended before bedtime. Coffee, chocolate, many teas, soft drinks and sugary snacks before bedtime can all be detrimental to your sleep at night.

Alcohol and cigarettes before bed will also have an effect on the duration of deep sleep, leading to sleep fragmentation.

Poor sleep has also been linked to increased hunger and consuming larger meals late at night. Eating a large meal too close to your bedtime makes it difficult for your body to metabolize you meal. It is advised that instead of consuming a larger, higher calorie meal late at night, a light snack would be a better choice to promote better sleep.

Chronic Pain

goal_setting

  1. Getting Started and Ready for Change

Your ability to make a change in your life or achieve a goal depends largely on your attitude, commitment, and motivation to do something about your problem. The decision to maintain or overcome the problem is yours. Taking full responsibility to do something about your problem is the most empowering step you can take.

You have the power to make a change, recover, and grow. Taking responsibility does not mean blaming yourself for the problem, and it does not mean that you have go through it alone!

Ask yourself these questions:

“Am I ready to make a change in my lifestyle?”

“Am I willing to learn and incorporate new habits into my daily routine?”

“Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside.” –

Merilyn Ferguson

Some Thought Barriers to Maintaining Motivation

If you have difficulty maintaining your motivation to make changes in your life then ask yourself,

“What are the payoffs if I continue in the same way and in not making this change?”

If your answer is:

  • “I don’t deserve this change!” – If you have been saying this to yourself, then you have the tendency to hold yourself back and the key will be to work on your self-esteem.

  • “It will be too much work!” – This assumption will overwhelm you and make you even more stressed. Instead, replace this negative belief with a more positive one and start by breaking your problem down into smaller steps and work at achieving them at your own pace!

  • “I don’t have time!” – It will be important to give your goal sufficient priority over all other activities going on in your life.

  1. Setting Goals

  • Set clear and concrete goals. Your goals should be realistic and attainable. In setting your goals, try to answer the following questions:

“What are the most positive changes I would like to see in my life?”

“How would these changes affect my thinking, my feelings, my relationship with others, at work, and with myself?

“What new opportunities could I gain from making these changes?”

  • Make a list of your desired goals and then prioritize them from what is most valuable to you and in improving your life.

  • Break down each goal into smaller manageable steps, and plan out what needs to happen in order for you to achieve the next task. This makes attaining your ultimate goal less intimidating. Sometimes it is easier to work backwards from their end goal.

For example, if your goal is to run a 10km marathon, you could divide up this goal into manageable steps to be achieved over a long period of time:

  • Walk for 30 minutes,
  • Run for 20 minutes,
  • Run for 45 minutes,
  • Run 5km in one hour,
  • Run a total distance of 15km in one week,
  • Run a total distance of 25km in one week, etc.

  • Set a realistic time frame for achieving your goals. Don’t be over ambitious. Give yourself enough time to achieve each of the smaller goals at a comfortable pace.

  • Recruit support from spouse, family, or few close friends to help you through the process. By sharing your plans with these trusted individuals, you are more likely to stay committed in achieving your goals or to get back on track after a setback.

  1. Visualizing Your Goals

Once you have defined what you would like to change in your life, it is helpful to practice visualizing it. Research has shown that competitive athletes who mentally rehearse their routines have more positive performances and lower anxiety. In fact, mental practices activate the same brain patterns as actually carrying out the physical practice, and that doing both is even more effective at ensuring positive performance. This is the strength of the mind-body connection!

Try this: Begin by thinking about what you would like to achieve and imagine the scene as if it were happening. Focus on this mental “image” by engaging the five senses and with as much detail as much as possible.

  • Where are you?
  • Who are you with?
  • Which emotions do you feel?
  • What physical sensations are you experiencing?

Imagine how the changes can affect your future, functioning, and relationships. It is helpful to do these visualization following deep relaxation or while in a calm state. Practicing this exercise for 5-minutes everyday will increase your confidence about succeeding. Good luck!!

  1. Putting Your Goals into Action

When you finally decide to do something about your fears or tackling a problem, the initial motivation and enthusiasm may be enough to get you started. But the real test is in following through with a personal commitment and to persist even on days when you don’t feel like it. Do you feel motivated to change? Are you willing to learn new skills and make them into your daily routine and lifestyle?

As you write down your goals, list two reasons why they are valuable and important to you. Keep this list so that you can read them on days where you are in doubt or feel particularly unmotivated.

  1. Dealing with Set-Backs

Set-backs are an inevitable part of achieving any goal. However, the way in which you deal with these set-backs can either motivate you or deter you from striding forward. Instead of brooding over the situation, try and figure out a way to solve the problem. Ask yourself:

“What interfered with my progress?”

“Are these factors within my control to change?”

“Am I trying to achieve a realistic goal and were the smaller steps attainable?”

“Did I set a reasonable time frame to achieve each task?”

“What have I learned from this setback?”

Reach out to your social support system who can provide you with a “reality check” to determine if your goals are realistically attainable and provide you with encouragement to get back on track. It is very important to not allow setbacks to discourage you from obtaining your goals. Setbacks should not be viewed as personal failures rather they are opportunities for you to learn from what happened and persist.

  1. Tips for Effective Goal Setting

Set realistic goals and have realistic expectations.

Do not compare yourself to how you used to perform or to others. Be sure to work towards your goals at your own pace.

It is best to evaluate your progress after reasonable amount of time has passed instead of on a daily basis.

Let go of ‘stubborn’ attitude where the expectation is for change to occur quickly or doing each task to perfection.

Enjoy the process of doing tasks and going through change instead of just looking to finish or accomplish the task. As the popular saying goes, “The journey is more important than the destination.”

Monitor your thoughts and consider factors that may be interfering with your progress.

Do not let setbacks discourage you. Setbacks are an integral part of life and you can use them as a learning experience.

Do not magnify small errors or flaws. Remember that there is no real learning without making mistakes.

Do not minimize or disqualify positive changes you are making. Pay attention to the word “but” – for example, “Yes I completed my report, but it is not my best work.”

Reward yourself for making gradual changes and for achieving each of the smaller steps towards your ultimate goal. Every small step counts!!

Demonstrate patience and be kind and fair to yourself!

Dr. Niusha Ghazban PhD

Chronic PainMind Body

diaphragmatic-or-abdominal-breathing-exercise

When we are stressed and have tension in our bodies, our breathing becomes more rapid and shallow. This exercise allows the diaphragm – muscles that separate the abdomen from the chest cavity – to move downwards triggering our body’s normal relaxation response.  Here is breathing exercise you can try (adapted from: Bourne, E., The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, 2005):

  1. Follow the relaxation techniques discussed previously.
  2. Place one hand on your abdomen underneath your rib cage, and the other on your chest. Monitor your natural breath for a few minutes.
  3. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose by a count of four, so that the air fills the lower part of your lung. You will feel your hand on your abdomen As your lung continues to fill with air, your chest should only slightly move.
  4. Pause and hold your breath for a few seconds (count of four).
  5. Exhale slowly through your nose or mouth and completely empty your lungs (count of eight). As you exhale, visualize your body becoming relaxed.
  6. Repeat the steps and complete ten slow diaphragm breathing (1 set). You may wish to extend this exercise by completing 2-3 sets or for 5-minutes.

If you feel light-headed or dizzy, breathe normally for 30-seconds and resume the exercise. Be sure to keep your breathing regular and smooth without gulping in air. Once you have mastered this skill, this exercise is particularly effective at reducing early symptoms of panic and anxiety.

Chronic PainMind Body

calming-square-breathing-exercise

Here is breathing exercise you can try (adapted from: Bourne, E., The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, 2005):

  1. Refer to the relaxation techniques discussed previously.
  2. Begin by inhaling through your nose slowly while counting slowly: “1, … 2, … 3, … 4 … 5.”
  3. Pause and hold your breath for a count of five.
  4. Exhale slowly through your mouth to a count of five (or longer).
  5. Once you have exhaled completely, take two breaths in your normal rhythm.
  6. Repeat the exercise for 3-5 minutes.
  7. If desired, you can choose to practice by visualizing that with each inhalation energy is flowing to all parts of your body and form a mental picture of this energizing process. Alternatively as you exhale, you may wish mentally repeat to yourself, “peace,” “calm,” or “relax” or any other calming words you prefer. With enough practice, you can eventually achieve the state of relaxation or calm by just saying these words.
 

As you continue this exercise, you might notice that you are able to count higher when you exhale than when you inhale. You should adjust your counting to allow yourself to fully exhale. If you feel light-headed or dizzy, breathe normally for 30-seconds and resume the exercise. Be sure to keep your breathing regular and smooth without gulping in air. Once you have mastered this skill it is particularly helpful to apply it at the first sign of anxiety symptoms or reducing stress.  

Chronic PainMind Body