7 Reasons to Practice Mindfulness for Neuropathy
Neuropathy is a disruption in the communication between the nerves in the extremities and the brain leading to abnormal sensations or pain and difficulty with muscle control or balance. A mindfulness practice offers benefits beyond what is conventionally offered as treatment for neuropathy.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the state of active, open attention to the present.
It is a state of observing one’s thoughts, feelings and surroundings without judging them as good or bad.
Why practice mindfulness?
Twelve weeks of mindfulness meditation showed these benefits in clinical trials: (1,2)
Reduction in chronic pain
Improved mood (anxiety and depression)
Reduced need for pain medications
Decrease in perceived stress
Improved daily function
Improved perceived quality of life
Increased brain mass and improved cognition and memory (3,4)
How to practice mindfulness?
There are many ways to practice mindfulness:
In stillness: breathing exercises, prayer, chanting, meditation, mindful journaling
In movement: yoga, tai chi, nature walking meditation
“Mindful meditation is not about reaching some mystical state. It is actually not about doing anything. It is about realizing what your mind is already doing and dropping it. “
What is your mind doing?
According to the National Science Foundation, the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% were negative, and 95% were exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.
85% of what we worry about never happens
It is common to experience a fear of being alone with one's thoughts, especially as a beginner to mindfulness practice.
Sit comfortably on a chair with your back straight and your feet on the floor.
Set the timer for 2 minutes
Focus your attention on your breath. Don’t try to change it. When your mind wanders away from the breath, gently bring it back to focus on the breath.
Witness whatever arises without reaction. The practice is not trying to get rid of the thoughts, feelings or sensations that arise, but to form the correct relationship to them. By being present and aware to the thoughts, feelings and sensations that arise, but not reacting to them, i.e. not putting your energy into them, the brain begins to rewire naturally.
Accept what is. Sometimes a pain or discomfort will draw your attention away from the breath. Acknowledge this.
Remember that mindfulness meditation is a lifetime practice. You will gain benefits from the process itself. It is not about reaching some goal or achieving something.
Making the time to meditate is another common obstacle.
Just 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation per day has been shown to:
increase brain grey matter and improve cognitive functioning
Improve anxiety, depression and pain
decrease emotional reactivity
improve immune function
improve memory and attention
Choose a mindfulness-based practice that is right for you and do it at least 10 minutes every day. You CAN do it. It’s all in the practice.
Hussain N, Said ASA. Mindfulness-Based Meditation Versus Progressive Relaxation Meditation: Impact on Chronic Pain in Older Female Patients With Diabetic Neuropathy. J Evid Based Integr Med. 2019;24:2515690X19876599.
Nathan HJ, Poulin P, Wozny D, et al. Randomized Trial of the Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Pain-Related Disability, Pain Intensity, Health-Related Quality of Life, and A1C in Patients With Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy. Clin Diabetes. 2017;35(5):294-304.
Holzel BK, Ott U, Gard T, et al. Investigation of mindfulness meditation practitioners with voxel-based morphometry. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2008;3(1):55-61.
Greenberg J, Romero VL, Elkin-Frankston S, Bezdek MA, Schumacher EH, Lazar SW. Reduced interference in working memory following mindfulness training is associated with increases in hippocampal volume. Brain Imaging Behav. 2019;13(2):366-376.