How to Use Your Mind to Help You Heal Faster
Four big factors linked to good rehabilitation outcomes are motivation; an ability to engage with your rehab. Locus of control; feeling as if you have control over your healing. Self efficacy; the knowledge that you are a competent and capable person despite your limitations. And, self esteem; still having a high sense of self worth despite your injury.
This blog gives you eight mindset approaches to help boost each of these areas while you heal. If they are good enough for professional athletes and top business people then they are good enough for us.
The first area is Motivation. Your rehab is essential your recovery and the more motivated you are the better your outcomes will be. Here are two tips to get you actively participating in your recovery
Sit and notice how you are feeling. Now, (modifying your movement to accommodate your injury) - curl forward, arch back, bend from side to side and twist in each direction, circle your shoulders and circle your arms. This sequence of movements will have taken you less than a minute.
How do you feel now?
If I were to guess, I would say: better.
Moving lubricates the joint surfaces, flushes old fluid from the muscles, makes blood thinner, nourishes and awakens brain cells and pushes oxygen deep into the lungs. These are all good for healing.
Start by just aiming to do 1 minute of movement and you might find you do more. Or you might find that you do many increments of 1 minute throughout the day. One minute is better than nothing and usually leads to more.
if you enjoy your rehab you will do it more often than if it is a chore. The trick is figuring out how to make your rehab enjoyable. There are a few things that you can try.
The most obvious is to shape your rehab around your hobbies.
But if that doesn’t work you could structure your rehab around things you enjoy, you might do 5 squats before watching TV, if you get up for a cup of tea do 5 more squats.
You could visualise something that brings you joy and while doing your exercises and imbue your movement with that happy thought.
Perhaps you can make your movement more fun by incorporating your favourite music into your rehab?
And of course give yourself a reward each time you complete your exercises. Take time to breathe the fresh air, call a friend, have a celebratory cup of tea, or just give yourself a pat on the back. These techniques will help you link the idea of rehab with positive feelings and a sense of joy. We need to make your exercises much more appealing than yet another task on your to-do-list.
Beliefs that hamper recovery are things like dealing with loss whilst building motivation and hope; feeling out of control over your recovery; and lack of knowledge of what you can do for yourself. These limiting beliefs are linked to an Internal locus of control or a sense of power and influence over what happens next. Two techniques that bring control back into your body and protect you from feeling overwhelmed with it all are:
While you are doing your exercises you can try saying
I am unstoppable.
I am strong.
I am powerful.
and see if you manage to do more than you thought you could. These cues can also be used when you are out and about navigating the world with your less able body.
Using positive self talk distracts the mind from confusion and upset; pulls you into your body; and creates new neural paths in our mind. This goes with the saying “cells that fire together wire together” which is that idea that when you do an exercise and say the words “smooth, fluid and easy” if you do it enough your brain will create a connection with the idea of smooth fluid and easy with the exercise. I’m not saying that the exercise feels smooth fluid and easy (yet). I am saying that you will do it more often if you associate the movement with those positive qualities than if you did the opposite. I encourage you to try with the words “stiff, heavy and difficult” which option would you prefer to use?
We can’t always change the situation we are in but we can change our perspective after all.
When the skies flood the earth we seek higher ground. When emotion overtakes us it feels like our mind is flooded with all circuits firing and we are unable to access higher reasoning. When you flood - get some distance, move away from the situation, take a moment to breathe and get some perspective. Revisit the issue when you are more calm and collected.
Try taking 5 breaths with a hand on the belly. As you inhale let your belly come into your hands, as you exhale feel it move away. Count the number of breaths to yourself to distract your brain as you focus on your body. Five breaths should be enough to tell your mind that you are no longer in fight or flight mode - you can’t be - your breathing is far too relaxed. Each time you start to feel overwhelmed go back to your breath.
Let’s now move onto your belief in your skills and abilities to adapt, to use reminders and tools to enable yourself to be self sufficient
This is your sense of self efficacy, or the knowledge that you are incredibly capable and have fantastic coping mechanisms.
Fear is a projection into the future where we imagine things going wrong rather than going right. I encourage you to change your outlook from one of caution to one of adventure.
You are tough and can push your limits. At the same time you are sensible. You know how much is too much - or, you will learn through trial and error. A rule of thumb is that if you are feeling 50% better do 50% of what able-bodied-you could do if this feels too easy - go a little harder and nudge yourself out of your comfort zone.
See a “threatening” situation as an opportunity. A busy crowd could be seen as a chance to work on your balance. Anxiety and nerves keep us alive and help us realise that something important is about to happen. They are useful cortisol running through our veins.
What is important to you? What do you stand for? What do you want your life to be about?
Remember your why. Remember why you are doing your rehab and why you are here on earth.
Our values are our internal compass and we use them to guide our choices and know our priorities in advance. Our values are our touchstone when we feel adrift.
You might not want to do your lying heel slides but you do want to be able to run around after your grandchildren - which is more important? The inconvenience and boredom of the exercise or the resulting strength and freedom it will give you?
You are going to be on this earth until you are at least 90 so how do you want to feel physically and mentally going into your old age? You can train this mindset while you are doing your rehab. It is one that boosts your self esteem and feelings of self worth. Because you are worth the effort.
The first one is easy but it is strongly linked to feelings of well being
Think of three people or things that you are grateful for. Imbue your movement with this gratitude. Gratitude helps me let go of comparison, boosts my mood, makes me more relaxed, generates happy memories and keeps me healthier.
and the next one. That’s a bit harder. Marissa Peer uses the example of holding an imaginary lemon, smell it, imagine its weight in your hand, feel the texture of its skin and then cut it and drink the juice. Does your mouth water from this visualisation, do your tastebuds tingle? This is because our words can create an experience in our mind - what we say to ourself matters. and so we need to show ourselves:
Choose to speak to yourself as you would a friend. Be kind to yourself because you deserve it. Let go of your inner critic and accept all that is good about yourself. Focus on what you have and what feels good instead of what you don’t have and what hurts. You are enough. There is a saying “yesterday is heavy: put it down” the injury happened and you can’t change that, you can only look forward, focusing on what you can do and not what you’ve lost. There will be times when improvement is speedy, times when it slows down and sometimes it has to go backward to go forwards, but in the bigger picture, you are constantly moving forwards.
Pat yourself on the back and tell yourself “good job, you’re doing great.”
Those are 8 mindset training tools that you can use to help you in your healing. You could just do your physical exercises - that might be all that your physio has told you to do - but just think how much faster you will progress if you use your body and your mind for your rehabilitation.