I’m quick to regret the label of chronic pain. I believe in the power of words and thoughts, so the idea of labeling a consistent pain as “chronic” feels like a resignation of control and possibility. For about two and a half years now, I’ve experienced persistent little nudges and discomfort in various parts of my bodies—mostly symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, joint pain, and the general discomfort that comes along with a desk job. Yes, I visited doctors and specialists to no avail and eventually turned to alternative healing modalities—like acupuncture, exercise, hot and cold therapy, physical therapy—searching for answers in the form of relief, management, and prevention. And while these methods worked, only temporarily so. Plus, I never feel that these practices address the root of the pain circulating throughout my body, which is sharp and rarely dormant these days.
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Entries by bodywise
Reach for the hand of a loved one in pain and not only will your breathing and heart rate synchronize with theirs, your brain wave patterns will couple up too, according to a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The study, by researchers with the University of Colorado Boulder and University of Haifa, also found that the more empathy a comforting partner feels for a partner in pain, the more their brainwaves fall into sync. And the more those brain waves sync, the more the pain goes away.
You might have heard people mention the benefits of TRE for the healing of trauma and for reducing stress. TRE stands for Trauma Release Exercise. The words ‘traumatic’ and ‘traumatized’ are used casually now in everyday speech, e.g. ‘There were no dark chocolate biscuits in the meeting room today, it was fairly traumatic’.
They say you never forget how to ride a bike, so maybe it’s time to climb aboard a two- or three-wheeler and enjoy the health benefits of cycling. “It’s socially oriented, it’s fun, and it gets you outside and exercising,” says Dr. Clare Safran-Norton, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
There’s nothing wrong with being a little weird. Because we think of psychological disorders on a continuum, we may worry when our own ways of thinking and behaving don’t match up with our idealized notion of health. But some variability can be healthy and even adaptive, say researchers in a review published February 20th in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, even though it can also complicate attempts to identify standardized markers of pathology.
“I would argue that there is no fixed normal,” says clinical psychologist and senior author Avram Holmes of Yale University. “There’s a level of variability in every one of our behaviors.” Healthy variation is the raw material that natural selection feeds on, but there are plenty of reasons why evolution might not arrive at one isolated perfect version of a trait or behavior. “Any behavior is neither solely negative or solely positive. There are potential benefits for both, depending on the context you’re placed in,” he says.
Has someone ever sent you an angry email, and then you found yourself, weeks later, thinking about it while you’re wide awake at 2am?
Emotions can be a major source of distraction, according to researchers Richard Davidson and Daniel Goleman, who have chronicled what we know thus far about the meditator’s mind in a new book, Altered Traits, Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body.
In this whiteboard session for Harvard Business Review, Davidson and Goleman talk about one of the most important discoveries: repeated practice helps us untether from emotional cues that keep us mired in distraction — specifically, rumination.
Deep breathing is an essential part of Pilates exercise. And not just a big inhale, but also when you make a conscious effort to exhale fully, getting rid of every bit of stale air and allowing fresh, invigorating air to rush in. Joseph Pilates was adamant about deep breathing. Consider this quote from his book Return to Life Through Contrology: “Lazy breathing converts the lungs, literally and figuratively speaking, into a cemetery for the deposition of diseased, dying and dead germs as well as supplying an ideal haven for the multiplication of other harmful germs.” Is that not scary?
We’re all carrying a load, including tasks, challenges, worries, inner criticism, mistreatment from others, physical and emotional pain, loss and illness now or later, and everyday stresses and frustrations.
Take a moment to get a sense of your own load. It’s very real, isn’t it? Recognizing it is just honesty and self-compassion, not exaggeration or self-pity.
There’s a fundamental model in the health sciences that how you feel and function is based on just three factors: your load, the personal vulnerabilities it wears upon – such as health problems, a sensitive temperament, or a history of trauma – and the resources you have. As a law of nature, if your load or vulnerabilities increase – over a day, a year, or a lifetime – so must your resources. Otherwise, inevitably, you will get strained, depleted, and ground down. I’ve had times like this myself, and I’ve seen it in loved ones.
People who have good emotional health are aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They have learned healthy ways to cope with the stress and problems that are a normal part of life. They feel good about themselves and have healthy relationships.
However, many things that happen in your life can disrupt your emotional health. These can lead to strong feelings of sadness, stress, or anxiety. Even good or wanted changes can be as stressful as unwanted changes.
Want to be compassionate of others? Direct some of those feelings towards yourself first. Observing with unshaded eyes how we respond to ourselves, we lay the groundwork for building a relationship with ourselves—and others—steeped in trust and acceptance, as opposed to constant dodging or denial.