A variety of exercises are offered within Reducept. From digital exercises to doing exercises and audio exercises. Although some exercises can have a direct effect on your pain, repetition is the key to success. How does that work, and how can you pick this up yourself?
Elephant shortcuts in the brain
When you feel pain for an extended period of time, your nervous system slowly adapts. Pain is an important warning. Your brain tries to make you as aware as possible of this threat. Each time you feel pain, your nervous system gets a little better at it. It is as if pathways develop in your brain that are getting better at doing their job - making pain in this case. You can compare this to paths that elephants make in the jungle. The more often the path is taken, the more the path begins to wear out. This makes it easier to walk on and makes the elephants more likely to choose the same path again.
The "wearing down" of these paths is something the brain does all the time. If you play a lot of chess, you get better at chess. After many driving lessons, you driving a car becomes easy. And if you have a lot of pain, you feel pain more easily. If you often have negative thoughts, you get them again and again more quickly. So this system works for both positive and negative activities. The brain tries to handle everything we do regularly as quickly and efficiently as possible, making no distinction whether it helps us further or not. The fact that we do something regularly is a signal to the brain that it is important, and should be available even more quickly and easily in the future.
The power of repetition
Just as these negative patterns wear in, you could say that new and helpful patterns must also wear in. Suppose you have found an exercise that you really enjoy doing, where you become aware of your body and can let go of the pain. What does the new path with this exercise look like compared to the old path?
Old path: You feel pain, try not to pay attention to it, go on with what you are doing. The pain increases, you get frustrated and notice that your negative thoughts take over. Tension increases, you feel more pain, and so on.
New path: You feel pain, try not to pay attention to it, and continue what you are doing. The pain increases, and you think to yourself that it may be time to do an exercise. You take a break and do your exercise. During the exercise you notice how the negative thoughts almost take over, but you manage to finish the exercise more relaxed and less negative. The pain is less present, you continue what you were doing.
The new path is really a new path. When you decide that you are going to do something different than usual, you create a new path in the brain. The more often you walk the new path, the more this new path becomes embedded. The old path remains. The less you use the old path, the more it fades away over time. Often old paths remain accessible for a long time, or perhaps forever.
This is what ultimately makes repetition of the new path so important. It takes effort, but continuing to immerse yourself in a new path is necessary to experience less pain in daily life as well.
Tips to make repetition easier
Fortunately, there are a few things that can help remind yourself to walk these new paths.
- Fun: The more fun and appealing the new path is, the easier it is to walk it yourself more often. Want to move more? Then choose a form of exercise that you enjoy, without forcing yourself to do something that gives you little pleasure.
- Reminders: You can set reminders on your phone. More old-fashioned are the post-its you can hang around the house. Or set a fixed alarm, just to stop and think about yourself and what you need at the moment.
- Fixed habits: Sometimes it can help to link a new path to an existing one. Doing an exercise after doing the dishes is an example.
- Diary: By writing down in a diary what went well that day, and what could be better, you are extra focused on the change you would like to see. The more often you reflect on something, the more it will sink in!