In 2001, 46 percent of disease worldwide stemmed from chronic illness. By 2020, that number is estimated to go as high as 57 percent. A goodly number of the people who suffer from chronic illness, also suffer from depression; 50% of those with Parkinson's Disease, 25% of those with diabetes, and 41% of those with cancer.
Researchers think that mindfulness can also improve pain. An eight-week course in mindfulness-based stress reduction helped reduce chronic pain in patients; people with arthritis saw the largest improvement in pain and psychological distress, while those with migraine headaches saw the least. But those who also engaged in an at-home meditation practice, no matter what the illness was, experienced the most pain relief. People who with multiple sclerosis (MS) also suffer from chronic pain. A study showed that a mindfulness practice - which includes observing the pain without judgment - decreased the experience of pain in patients with MS.
And here's another alternative for pain relief. Cognitive behavioral therapy strategies, like relaxation and guided exercise, may lessen the need for opioid painkillers in non-cancer pain. Patients frequently believe that if they move less, they will have less pain. But a therapist can show the patient/client that movement can actually be helpful and show them ways to gradually introduce movement into their routine. The patient/client will begin to see that movement, ie light exercise can make them feel better both physically and mentally. The therapist can also help their patient/client get back into social activities which can eliminate the feeling of isolation that often accompanies a chronic illness. A good therapist can help the patient/client reframe their view on pain and their illness, thus making the patient/client feel more positive about their life as a whole.
When active adults exercise, they feel better. Stopping can bring on symptoms of depression. If your health allows it, it is advised to keep up with your regular exercise routine. You benefit from it both physically and emotionally. In one study, it was discovered that people with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis saw an improvement in their mental and physical well-being after eight weeks of yoga classes. Aquatic exercise coupled with yoga helped MS patients fight their depression and fatigue in another study.
Humans who suffer from chronic illness also tend to be depressed. And those who are depressed are less likely to take the medication for their chronic illness and thus will suffer more of its side-effects.
Family members and spouses can contribute to a patient's wellness by supporting lifestyle and dietary changes, including better eating habits and getting more exercise. Patients who suffer from insomnia can often benefit from a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavior therapy, as well as mindfulness-based stress reduction.
The degree to which a chronic disease disrupts daily functioning has a big impact on how much happiness the patient has. it makes sense, then, that the more a patient can keep up their daily activities, the happier they will be. And being happy is one of the best medicines out there. research shows that keeping a daily gratitude journal also increases well-being; the more we are grateful for, the more we find we have to be grateful for. it's as easy as that.
Living with chronic illness and pain is never easy, but there are plenty of drug-free ways to help make life more pleasurable. After all, putting your well-being at the top of your "to do list" is the most important step you can take to feeling better.
I invite you back here tomorrow for another wise lesson from The Dharma Frog. Until then, I wish you all much happiness and much