Mindfulness for Pain Management

Mindfulness invites us to pay attention to pain, to look at it without judgment, and accept it without resistance. Discover how this attitude can improve your well-being and quality of life.
Mindfulness for Pain Management
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Pain is an unpleasant experience. We’ve all experienced it and it can affect us way beyond the physical plane. In fact, when a disease becomes chronic, anxiety, depression, anguish, and hopelessness appear. Although medicine is in charge of treating the disease, from the field of psychology, there are some interesting proposals that can help us deal with discomfort. Today, we’re going to talk about mindfulness for pain management.

There are other approaches, such as behavioral techniques, that offer good outcomes. However, current trends such as mindfulness are also gaining popularity due to promising results.

If you suffer from chronic pain and want to improve your quality of life, you may be interested in learning about them.


Mindfulness-based interventions are known as third-generation therapies. They seek to promote and develop the psychological ability of mindfulness, either in a specific way (state) or as a stable trait in the individual.

Mindfulness invites you to consciously pay attention to the present moment without judgment or expectations. In short, to become an external spectator of your own circumstances.

Paying attention to what happens with curiosity and openness and with an accepting disposition, totally changes your state and positively influences your cognitive and emotional processes. These effects occur at a psychological and neurobiological level. There are three ways in which mindfulness is effective:

Woman meditating at home
Mindfulness helps regulate emotions.

1. It improves your attentional control

Mindfulness helps you train your ability to focus your attention and sustain it. Since you’re accustomed to a mind that wanders, jumps from one thought to another, and constantly goes back to the past or anticipates the future, this is no easy task.

2. It gives you a greater capacity for emotional regulation

Interventions based on mindfulness invite you to practice non-reaction. As a rule, you analyze and judge every event in your life, qualifying it as positive or negative and responding emotionally to it. With mindfulness, you’re less likely to automatically activate these emotions and reach a state of equanimity.

Not only does mindfulness help you reduce negative feelings and minimize rumination and worry, but it also promotes your ability to re-evaluate events from a more positive perspective. Undoubtedly, this promotes a happier mood.

3. It increases your self-awareness

Most of us tend to over-identify with our minds. This means you take your thoughts as your own, as being real and immovable. When they’re negative, you let yourself be deeply carried away by them. However, mindfulness allows you to distance yourself and place yourself in the position of an external observer. Hence, you understand that these mental contents are transitory and don’t constitute an absolute truth.

In short, if you compare your mind to a TV, you start to understand that your thoughts are only programs that are broadcast, and you’re the viewer. You don’t necessarily have to agree with their content.

Mindfulness for pain management

How can mindfulness help you manage pain? In reality, it’s a total paradigm shift. That’s because when you feel pain, you naturally react intensely and negatively. You resist and fight against it, and get frustrated.

You might try and avoid it, since not only do you not want to feel it, but you’ll do anything to mitigate it or make it disappear. Alternatively, you might focus too much on its presence, but from a place of judgment, struggle, and despair.

Either of these two attitudes only increases your discomfort, generates anxiety, and negatively affects your quality of life. Mindfulness proposes another approach. It suggests you should attend to your pain with openness and curiosity, without judgment, and without resistance. In fact, with full acceptance.

Woman with eyes closed
Regular mindfulness practice improves your quality of life.

Benefits of mindfulness for pain management

Of course, achieving this requires practice and dedication, as it goes against what you’d intuitively tend to do. Nevertheless, it can be extremely beneficial.

  • Mindfulness helps you regulate your attention, which is closely linked to the perception of pain. By attending to the sensations with openness, you can discriminate any variations in their intensity and even verify that they’re not always present. This will reduce any anguish and feelings of hopelessness.
  • By accepting the pain, you stop fighting it and wanting to eradicate it. As this struggle ceases, you put an end to wearing yourself out and feeling frustrated and hopeless. This eliminates the really negative emotions that can lead to depression and despair.
  • It helps reduce anxiety, tension, stress, and insomnia. These are conditions that often aggravate pain and affect your emotional well-being.
  • It improves your functionality and your quality of life. In fact, it teaches you how to live with pain, be at peace, and even be able to still enjoy life when you’re in pain.

Finally, practicing mindfulness for pain management helps you avoid suffering and improve your quality of life and emotional health. You might not be able to eliminate your pain, but learning to live with it, avoiding anxiety and depression, and feeling at peace in the present moment can make a big difference.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Hervás, G., Cebolla, A., & Soler, J. (2016). Intervenciones psicológicas basadas en mindfulness y sus beneficios: estado actual de la cuestión. Clínica y salud27(3), 115-124.
  • Hilton, L., Hempel, S., Ewing, B. A., Apaydin, E., Xenakis, L., Newberry, S., … & Maglione, M. A. (2017). Mindfulness meditation for chronic pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine51(2), 199-213.
  • Moix, J., & Casado, M. (2011). Terapias psicológicas para el tratamiento del dolor crónico. Clínica y Salud22(1), 41-50.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.