The Mind-Body Connection: Managing Migraine
The Mind-Body Connection: Managing Migraine
While some people may still consider the mind-body connection New Age theory, it’s emerged as a bonafide medical phenomenon with evidence-based science to support it. At the core of the mind-body connection, mindfulness has enjoyed a tremendous surge in popularity in the past decade, moving from a mostly obscure Buddhist concept founded about 2,600 years ago to mainstream psychotherapy.
Scientists have discovered that mindfulness techniques can help improve physical health in several ways, including relieving stress, treating heart disease, lowering blood pressure, reducing chronic pain, improving sleep, and alleviating gastrointestinal difficulties. While it’s not a panacea, mindfulness has also been found to decrease migraine attacks and pain.
What is Mindfulness?
The term mindfulness can be defined as a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. It can be promoted by certain practices or activities, such as meditation, but it is not equivalent to or synonymous with them. There are multiple ways to cultivate and practice mindfulness.
The goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation. That’s accomplished by deliberately paying attention to emotions, thoughts, and sensations (free of judgment) to enable the mind to refocus on the present moment. All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation.
Basic mindfulness meditation
Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or one other area of focus listed below. You will notice that your mind will wander into thinking since this is what our minds do. The practice is to notice when this happens and bring your awareness back to the breath or other focus choice.
- Body sensations
Notice body sensations, such as tingling, pulsing, or even no feeling, and allow some exploration of the sensation. Pay attention to each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
Detect sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches, and then let them stay in your awareness as long as you would like without judgment. When the mind begins to stray from the immediate sensation, bring your attention back to your choice of focus.
Allow emotions to be present. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept their presence and let them go.
- Urge surfing
Cope with cravings (for addictive substances or behaviors) and notice how that changes and eventually may pass. Observe how your body feels as the craving enters. Replace the wish for the craving to go away with the knowledge that it will subside as you continue to focus on the sensations, emotions, and thoughts brought forth from the craving.
Miles for Migraine is excited to offer a mindfulness series to enhance wellness and reduce stress, one of the known triggers for people living with migraine. You can also watch the series on YouTube so that you can access them at your convenience.
You can also conduct mindfulness practices on your own.
- Art Therapy
Remember how much fun it was to paint, draw, or mold things out of clay when you were a child? It turns out that making art can be a powerful therapeutic tool for adults, especially in the treatment and management of pain. Called art therapy, this type of psychotherapy can help modify your response to emotional and physical problems related to pain.
A study looked at almost 200 people hospitalized for a medical issue or surgery. The researchers found that participating in art therapy for an average of 50 minutes significantly improved their moods and lowered levels of pain and anxiety.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years to help deepen understanding of life’s sacred and mystical forces. Today, meditation is also commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction.
Meditation is an umbrella term for various ways to accomplish focused attention and may even lead to a relaxed state. There are many types of meditation and relaxation techniques that have meditation components. These practices have been shown to reduce stress, which may help cultivate better health outcomes.
A sense of calm, peace, and balance achieved through meditation can benefit your emotional well-being and overall health. The great news is that the benefits of meditation don’t end when the session ends. It can continue to bring tranquility to you throughout the day and help prevent over-reactive behaviors when the going gets rough.
- Tai chi
The ancient form of gentle Chinese martial arts called Tai chi (TIE-CHEE) is sometimes referred to as meditation in motion. It promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements. The self-paced series of postures or movements are done slowly and gracefully while practicing deep breathing.
There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren’t in top shape or the best of health. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched. Tai chi can be easily adapted for anyone, from the most physically fit to people who use wheelchairs or recovering from surgery.
Derived from the Sanskrit word “Yuji,” meaning yoke or union, yoga is an ancient Indian practice that brings the mind and body together. Multiple studies have confirmed that yoga offers many mental and physical benefits. Increasing evidence shows that yoga could be a useful adjunct therapy to help reduce migraine frequency. Research suggests that practicing yoga may help stimulate the vagus nerve, shown to be effective in relieving migraine symptoms.
While you’re checking out our Mindfulness Series, consider connecting with the migraine community through one of our events or programs. Connect with a Migraine Support and Community Groups or learn with our Education Events. There are also opportunities to participate in one of our Walk, Run or Relax events, design an event of your own, or join our Advocacy Connection Team to raise funds and awareness for migraine research.
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Jamie Valendy’s advocacy story is written and told by Jamie Valendy and edited by Miles for Migraine team. Miles for Migraine’s Advocacy Stories highlights the many different ways that health advocacy shows up as individuals advocate for themselves and others. This project is not limited to migraine and other headache disorders, nor is it limited…