Written By Sally Phillips
Nearly one in five people in America are thought to be living with a disability, and over half of disabled people regard their disability to be severe, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. Living life with restricted mobility, or disability, can pose a number of physical, mental, and emotional challenges. Mindfulness, a secular practice adapted from Buddhism, works to bring attention to the present moment without judgement. Along with physical therapy, psychotherapy, and medication, it can have a greatly positive effect on physical and mental health in those mobility challenged.
Mindfulness Helps Manage Depression and Anxiety
Mindfulness can be used as part of a holistic treatment program for the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Essentially, the practice of mindfulness allows you to manage your emotions. It teaches you how to detach yourself from overwhelming or destructive emotions, identify them as they occur, and accept them without being judgmental — rather than resisting or ignoring them. Being mindful of your emotions will ultimately allow you to manage them better. This leads to the alleviation of feelings of depression and anxiety, and brings greater feelings of balance and peace.
Mindfulness Gives Relief to Chronic Pain
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at patients with chronic low back pain who participated in a mindfulness program. 64% were more likely to see improvements in their pain compared to those who received only regular care (with medication and physical therapy). So, although mindfulness can’t put a complete end to chronic pain, it can help alleviate the symptoms. Pain management will also make it easier for people with a disability to stay active.
When we experience pain, the first thing our minds tend to do is launch into a slew of negative judgments, as well as futile and frustrating attempts to resist or avoid it. Practicing deep breathing techniques can help shift your mindset and take your focus off the pain. It’s a way of taking back control of the situation: you recognize and accept the feelings you’re experiencing, and decide how to deal with them.
Learning mindfulness techniques can greatly improve both your mental and physical health when living with restricted mobility or a disability. With regular mindfulness practice, you’ll find it easier to deal with those negative feelings and emotions, and they’ll soon pass. You’ll also eventually find yourself staying in the present moment more often as you go about your everyday life.
“Practicing deep breathing techniques can help shift your mindset and take your focus off the pain.” I suggest that this is a misleading description of mindfulness – as if it is a distraction technique, or a breathing technique.