Three activities on your journey to acceptance

To help you explore the idea of acceptance, and learn some skills along the way, here are some activities you can do . . .

1. Focus on what you can change

Changing your outlook on yourself and your future can be hard work and takes both time and being ‘willing to let go’.

Many people with pain have been on long journeys to try and answer the ‘why pain’ question. They have spent a lot of time seeking an explanation and solution for their pain. Sadly it is impossible for persistent pain to be cured or fixed. We now understand a lot more about pain, the brain and pain nerve networks. We know that to remove persistent pain permanently is an impossible task. In fact often people find that when they focus on trying to solve their pain, their pain systems actually become more sensitive.

So instead, try to focus on the things you can change. Consider:

  • slowly adjusting how you do things
  • accepting and adapting to being a different person
  • thinking and viewing yourself and life differently
  • patiently and steadily shifting the focus towards what you really want to do each day
  • shifting your attention from the pain to your breathing
  • using some techniques from mindfulness like mindful stretching or meditation
  • finding the best type of support and help

2. Think about opportunities

Having chronic pain may give you an opportunity to look again at what life means to you.

It can be about finding a new and hopeful meaning in your current life situation. Events that may seem negative can also be seen as openings for growth, interest, a different path or new understanding.

Now think about the opportunities that you have had, or could have, since experiencing chronic pain. They can be small things, not just major ones. If it’s diffcult to do this alone, try talking it through with someone else.

Write down five positive changes or new opportunities that have come about since you had chronic pain. Remember that they don’t have to be big things – anything counts.

Writing down these opportunites can help you change your focus from what you have lost, to what is more positive – both now and in the future. Try doing this exercise every few weeks, and you’ll gradually start to see more opportunities and look on your situation with more aceptance.

3. Use mindfulness to regain control

Mindfulness is about the kind of awareness that you bring to a situation.

It means being in control of what you pay attention to, and for how long. It can be a helpful way of managing distress and many people have learnt to manage their pain more successfully using it.

The aim is to be in a ‘state of mind’ that is more helpful to managing and living with pain. This state of mind helps the brain to process pain in helpful ways, and is soothing and calming.

When you focus on your pain, it can lead to distress and unhelpful negative thinking about yourself and the future. This increases tension within your body and leads to more worrying or anxious thoughts. Finding different ways of directing your awareness – for example by practising relaxed breathing, without becoming distressed – can really help manage pain. In turn, this can change the way that you experience the pain.

Mindfulness aims to balance ‘reasonable’ and ‘emotional’ thinking. It uses a ‘wise mind’ thinking approach to being with yourself as you are in your life, in the here and now.

You can find out more about mindfulness and relaxation in Footstep 5: Relaxation and mindfulness.