Get started with meditation and mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness can be helpful in feeling better. The fundamental objective is to learn how to direct your attention. It can help you to take stock, relax and let go of negative thoughts and feelings about pain, for example.
What is meditation?
Meditation is largely about concentrating the mind on something and letting go of what is happening around you, listening inward and devoting our full attention for a moment to what is happening inside us. Many associate meditation with sitting quietly and shutting your eyes, but it doesn't have to be like that. You can meditate while you are sitting, standing, lying down or moving around.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a meditation technique that strives for conscious presence. You train yourself to observe your thoughts and feelings without evaluating, judging or trying to change them. The goal of mindfulness is to learn to live in the present, which is the only thing we can actually influence. What has happened in the past or will happen in the future is beyond our control. Self-awareness and self-compassion are also central concepts in mindfulness to increase understanding of oneself and to learn to accept oneself as one is.
There has long been research on the effect of mindfulness, including studies on people with fibromyalgia, depression and fatigue syndrome. A study conducted at Lund University Hospital showed that mindfulness in group therapy had as good an effect as other treatment on people with depression, anxiety and stress. (1) In everyday life, mindfulness can be about simply stopping and taking things in, listening to oneself and breathing.
Some things you can try:
Think of how it feels when you walk. How do you move your feet?
Eat your breakfast in silence and tranquility. How does it taste?
Make a list of things that you feel grateful for. Try writing a new one every month!
Put away your phone and just take in the silence. What thoughts come and go?
Keep it short. Start with a five- or ten-minute workout per day. It doesn't have to be longer than that!
Be consistent. If the idea of meditating every day seems overwhelming, try every other day instead. The important thing is to get a routine into your everyday life that works for you.
Focus your focus. Concentrate on something specific, perhaps a point on the wall, the edge of the carpet or the table surface. Note when your attention drifts away and without judgment, bring it back. It doesn't matter how many times you have to bring your focus back.
Two techniques that work
Actually, there is no difference between mindfulness and meditation; mindfulness is a form of meditation. What distinguishes mindfulness and what makes it different from most other meditation techniques is that part of the mindfulness practice is to create a consciousness of what is going on during everything one does in life, while other meditation involves letting go of everything around you and focusing on the interior.
Both meditation and mindfulness involve limiting one's attention on things you cannot change and instead of present in the present, which may be useful when dealing with a chronic diagnosis.
Remember that meditation is about progress, not perfection: there is no right or wrong. Nothing can completely remove the pain or symptoms you may experience from your diagnosis, but regular meditation can help you find strategies to manage your disease more effectively.
One tip might be to use the Elsa app and "Personal logging" to log meditation. It can be a great way to keep a new habit going.
Sundquist J, Lilja Å, Palmér K, et al. Mindfulness group therapy in primary care patients with depression, anxiety and stress and adjustment disorders: randomised controlled trial. Br J Psychiatry. 2015;206(2).