For people with arthritis, pain and accompanying stress and anxiety can often be a part of daily life. Research has shown that mindfulness meditation can help reduce the intensity and unpleasantness of pain, as well as improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Mindfulness meditation is a particular type of meditation which asks us to pay attention to our body and our sensory experiences, thoughts, and emotions, moment by moment.
Mindfulness meditation can be practiced either formal or informally. Formal practice is done through guided meditations, such as listening to a recording or joining a group meditation in which a leader provides direction. Informal meditations are self-directed and occur when we incorporate being mindful into our routine activities using all of our senses.
This article outlines a Mindful Moving practice you can use almost anytime, anywhere, to bring your attention to the present moment and increase your sense of well-being, while intentionally directing your focus away from negative thinking patterns.
- Take a break outside. If you are walking or rolling, notice the sensations in your body. Start with taking 10 deep, mindful breaths. Focus on your breathing. Feel your body connect to the ground or the chair underneath it. Notice the air around you and how it feels on your face, on your hands.
- Next, notice the sensation and movement in your muscles. Bring awareness to your feet and toes. How do they feel? If you can, wiggle your toes and notice the way they feel in your shoes.
- Moving upwards, draw your focus to your legs. Notice what the muscles and bones are doing. Experience the feeling of clothing against your skin.
- Take a deep breath and feel your ribcage, back and abdomen expand as you breath in, and contract as you breath out. Take two more deep breaths, keeping your awareness in your trunk.
- Next, notice the sensation in your arms and fingers. Feel your muscles working. If you can, wiggle your fingers and bring awareness to them.
- Slowly move your attention up to your head and neck. How do your face muscles feel? Is your jaw tense or relaxed? What about the muscles around your eyes? Taking a deep breath, try to relax these muscles.
- Take another deep breath. Feel the air fill up your lungs as you inhale and leave your body as you exhale. What do you smell? How many different things can you smell?
- Turn your attention now towards sounds. What are the different sounds you can hear? Take a moment to listen to what is going on around you. How many sounds can you hear? Are they near or far?
- Next, looking around you, notice all the different colours. What colours can you see? Pay attention to the different shapes and textures of objects around you. Look up and notice what you can see above you. Look down and notice what’s on the ground.
- Lastly, bring awareness to your taste and tongue. Do you notice any sensations on your tongue? If you don’t taste anything, what does your tongue feel like against the roof of your mouth? Continue to bring your awareness to your different senses as you move.
Taking the time to move mindfully can draw our focus away from pain and worrying thoughts as we practice immersing ourselves in the present moment. If you don’t have much time, even 5 minutes of mindful moving can help you re-center and relax.
To learn more about Mindfulness Meditation and other strategies to help you cope with arthritis, visit our Mental Health & Well-Being page.
This article was reviewed by:
Margaret Smit-Vandezande, MSW, RSW
Social Worker, Arthritis Rehabilitation and Education Program
- D'arcy-Sharpe, A.M. (2020, January 6). Mindfulness for Chronic Pain: A Comprehensive Guide. Pathways. https://www.pathways.health/mindfulness-for-chronic-pain/
- Hanh, T. N. (2015). How to Walk. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. Rev. and updated edition, Bantam Books trade paperback edition. New York: Bantam Books.
- Milovani, C. (2016, September 1). A Mindful Eating Script. https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTHLIBRARY/docs/Script-Mindful-Eating.pdf