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Attention and pain: Exercise

How you feel pain depends very much on where your attention is. How can you use attention in such a way that you suffer less from pain? Read that, and practice with it yourself, in this blog. 


Maybe you've been through this: You were so busy with an activity, you didn't notice any pain until later. Or that you discover a bruise where you don't know what you've hurt yourself with before. 

The less attention we pay to our pain, the less pain we feel. Our brains can't process everything at the same time, not even pain. When the brain is busy, it doesn't have enough space to process the danger stimuli from the body properly! The brain always has to make a choice about what it wants to process. If you manage to focus attention not on the possible danger, but on something positive, for example, that can change a lot! Attention and pain are very much related.

attention and pain

Attention and pain: the exercise

It is of course nicely described above, but how does it work? Let me start with the fact that it's not easy to direct your attention yourself. Often our attention has a 'will of its own', which makes it do something else than what you hope. 

But, practice makes art. The same goes for attention. The more often you practice holding on to something, the stronger your attention muscle becomes! 

Now the exercise. Put on some music. In addition, make sure that you have something interesting to watch. You can open a magazine for example, a book, or turn on the TV without sound. 

Sit down quietly and easily. What you are about to do is quite simple. You are always going to focus your attention on one thing for a while (about a minute). You alternate it all the time. You first focus your attention as much as possible on the music (you can close your eyes if you like). Then you focus on what you see, or read. Then you focus your attention on your pain. 

If your attention wanders, you kindly bring it back to where you want it. 

At the end of the exercise, dwell for a moment on what you have noticed. Was there any difference in how you felt your pain? What happens when you focus your attention completely on something else? Does that work well, or does your attention keep going back?

Next time...

In the next blog I'll tell you what kind of attention we have. There are also more tips to further train your attention!