Mindfulness For Chronic Illness: 9 Ways It Helps You Cope

mindfulness for chronic illness

mindfulness for chronic illness

Mindfulness is a practice of paying attention to the current moment. If you’re suffering from the symptoms of a chronic illness, then you might think that the last thing you want to do is focus on the moment. However, there are surprising benefits of mindfulness for chronic illness. The practice can help you in a wide variety of ways.

What Is a Chronic Illness?

According to the official definition, an illness is considered “chronic” if it lasts three or more months. Some of the more common chronic physical illnesses include:

  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Obesity

Chronic illnesses (in general) are:

  • More frequent as we age
  • Not preventable via vaccine
  • Not cured by medication or surgery

How then do we make peace with the challenging reality of living with a chronic illness? Mindfulness for chronic illness is a proven technique.

Of course, you might also struggle with chronic mental health issues. The symptoms of these, too, benefit from mindfulness.

chronic illness

Photo by Mehrpouya H on Unsplash

Mindfulness Helps Us Be Present

There are many definitions for mindfulness. Here’s one useful and simple way to see it: “I’m paying close attention to the moment of experience.”

When dealing with chronic illness, you can become obsessed with plans. You may also find yourself dreading a future event. Mindfulness brings you back to the present. You observe what’s going on now. This means looking at both what’s inside you and what’s outside of you.

The waves are still there but you are more calmly riding them. Being in the moment gives you a deeper sense of balance. This presence, even in moments of pain, can help improve your overall wellbeing.

9 Ways Mindfulness Can Help You Cope with Chronic Illness

What does mindfulness for chronic illness really mean? It’s all about focusing on what’s happening for you right now, managing the negative parts of that, amplifying the positive, and using these tools to improve your daily experience. Here are nine ways it helps:

1. You practice self-love and self-care

To tackle a chronic illness, you must be the best you that you can be. Being mindful keeps you aware of how you feel and what you think. No longer do you only focus on the problem. Now, you can recognize solutions. It all begins with the act of taking care of yourself, identifying your needs, and finding ways to meet them

2. You stop letting your illness define you

When illness is your constant companion, you can lose sight of your gifts. You are not your illness. Stay present with ALL of the facets of yourself through mindfulness practice. You can reclaim your unique character and the things that give you joy by turning your focus to those things.

3. You embrace acceptance of your humanness

Here’s the lesson for all of us, chronic illness or not: We are human. Our bodies are amazing. And our bodies sometimes get sick. They age. They suffer injury. This is the human condition.

A chronic illness is a stark reminder of our fragility, and our mortality, but it’s also a great opportunity for a wake-up call. There is so much we cannot control. Surrender to that awareness and focus on your capabilities.

You are wonderfully, imperfectly human. Noticing all aspects of that, and allowing mindfulness to also assist you in recognizing that you are one tiny part of a huge, interconnected world, will go a long way towards improving your daily life.

4. You become more aware of and receptive to healing options

There are options you might miss because your mind is scattered and unfocused. Sometimes, you just want so badly for the pain and suffering to end that all you can think of is, “make this stop by any means necessary.” However, when you make choices out of pain and fear, they aren’t always the best choices.

Mindfulness for chronic illness can guide you to healing options that you previously could not see. By grounding yourself more in the present moment, you become increasingly capable of exploring the pros and cons of a variety of different treatment options. This helps you in the moment and may bring healing in the future as well.

5. You can better help those around you

When you bring your attention to the present, you see not only all that’s happening with you but also the things happening outside of you. Helping the people around you is a powerful source of healing and solace. As you embrace mindfulness for chronic illness, you’ll notice new ways to turn your leave, attention, and energy to helping others.

6. You mindfully surround yourself with love, support, and inspiration

When the moment is where you live, you will decorate that space with love. Mindfulness can guide you to find the support team you need. If you have toxic relationships in your life, then you’ll see opportunities to let them go. This will support your health.

7. You might let go of the life you had planned

What if?

You can ask the question over and over but your life has taken a new turn.

Be present with the shift and find ways to thrive. Mindfulness can help you do this. It can also help as you work through the grief of letting go.

8. Mindfulness aids in a life of gratitude.

You are where you are…right now. No matter what is going on, there are many small and large things to be thankful for. As you sit in the moment, you begin to see those things. You begin to experience more and more gratitude. And this shifts your total wellbeing.

9. Mindfulness helps you silence the inner critic and instead choose compassion

It’s been said that compassion is a verb. It is an action. You choose this action when you shut down your negative inner voice. To ease your suffering, you cannot be passive. To ease the suffering of others, you must be active. The fuel for all this positive energy is called compassion.

Sometimes it is so hard to feel compassion for yourself when coping with a chronic illness. You can’t do all that you want to in the way that you want to. Many people become disappointed in themselves. However, you have so many gifts to offer the world. When you find compassion for yourself through mindfulness practice, you improve your ability to see and share those gifts.

Therapy Helps with Mindfulness for Chronic Illness

Whenever you have a chronic illness, people expect you to see a doctor. However, they don’t always remind you about how crucial the support of a therapist can be at this time. Your therapist can support you in your journey, including the mindfulness aspect if you choose to include that. Find a therapist here.

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