A short read on how pain can be a pleasure...

Whilst having some great things happen over the last fortnight (Wimbledon visit, balls, lots of fun clients) I've also had to endure an infected leg and a fairly severe bout of neck pain, which is still hanging around (flowers, cards, chocolates are welcome).

A few years ago, this would have knocked me for six. I would have complained endlessly, got very down and thwarted my luck. In short, I would have been a bit of a pessimist.

Now, much psychological theory suggests that changing from being a pessimist to an optimist is very rare. However, it is one of those theories I happily ignore because - well, I like hope!

Over the past few years somethings have not changed:

  • I still get pessimistic/negative thoughts and emotions

  • I still endure setbacks (as we all do)

However, what I have learned has really helped. My golden rule in a setback now is to ask two questions...

How does this setback enrich my skills, values or goals?
What is the best that could happen from here (however likely or not) and what steps can I take to work towards that?

The first question is interesting. Whilst I would love my neck pain to go, I am really interested in studies on the effects of mindfulness on pain. Without this pain I could not have practised mindfulness for pain and I could not have learned how to endure pain better. Furthermore, I generally want to be a more resilient person. I can't learn resilience without setbacks. So the pain helps me practice.

The second question is also helpful, as it moves me from a mindset of 'struggling' with the pain, to a mindset of what I can do next. It allows me to move on from what I can't control (that I have pain) and move onto getting better (drugs, physio etc).

I want to make clear here - I have not eliminated negative thoughts or some low mood about my setback. However, I have allowed myself to move on and find the good.

The key mental skills I am applying here are: 'reframing,' 'acceptance,' and 'value-led response'. If you'd like to learn them - get in touch.

James Newman is a Sport Psychologist & Mental Skills Coach offering online support by phone or Skype. Online booking is available here.