Nothing throws a wrench into the works of your health routine quite like a wounded, squeaky joint. The sudden imbalance and weakening of your body feels so dramatic, so debilitating, that the mental exercise of accepting this new state of your body might become even more of a struggle than the physical pain. But don’t give up! Kate O’Shea, in her book, Healing Hip, Joint, and Knee Pain, offers healthy recommendations for joining your mind and body to psychologically cope with your ailing joints after surgery or injury.
She reminds us that we always have a lot of life and activity bustling within our bodies–our nervous system, our blood vessels, our minds–and suggests that even just lying on the floor and “painting our bodies,” feeling our pulse roam around the skin-to-floor contact, can help us to mend the pained areas. Here are some ways to peacefully “return to your body” and keep from slipping into that downward spiral of hopeless injury:
1. Listen with your hands: Feel around your body, lightly touch and massage your injuries, and send them some love! Observe what emotions and sensations arise from your attentive touch. It will also awaken those voices buzzing throughout your body.
2. Give life to those inner voices: Relax and notice what voices or thoughts arise — don’t judge yourself; just let them play out and lead you to new places. Perhaps you’ll find little conflicts or ideas dwelling in those sore spots that surface with this new mindfulness. Be creative and inquisitive: investigate the roots of your thoughts and let them take their course.
3. Meditate: Notice those voices, and then detach yourself — let them drift on by. Meditation can help you get your hands on some peace of mind. Quiet your bustling brain, relax, and reconcile your meandering “monkey mind” with your body in any state.
4. Imagine that you are healing: Imagery enables you to visualize all of these different sensations and set a mental goal for your body to follow. Professional athletes use this exercise: it allows you to rouse your sense of perception and creativity with the idea of something physical, joining your inner life with your body.
5. Act compassionately towards yourself and others: O’Shea recommends self-care as a way of listening to your inner voices, too. One way is to “cradle yourself” – hug your body or heart at night and think about your strengths that you have welcomed and woven into your day, how your body is feeling, and how you interact with the people you care about.
If you practice some of these exercises to enhance your mindfulness and treat your body lovingly, you’re on your way to nurturing that achy joint back to health! Also maybe consider letting your joints stay home from work for a few days to drink tea, watch cartoons, and eat some noodle soup.