Many people suffer from chronic pain without an identifiable physical cause. People suffering from migraines, tension headaches, fibromyalgia or nerve pain have often tried countless regular and alternative therapies, with varying degrees of success. What many do not realize is that people themselves can control their chronic pain to some extent by stimulating the concentrations of certain substances in the brain. Dopamine, serotonin and endorphins are substances that positively influence the body’s self-healing capacity and can also reduce the experience of pain. The great thing is that we can stimulate the production of these substances through our behavior.
How do we manage our own chemical factory?
Dopamine is a substance that is produced when we are in “joyful anticipation”, in other words when we are planning new, fun things. This substance makes us feel motivated, optimistic and full of self-confidence. During these fun activities we produce serotonin and endorphins. Serotonin provides a good feeling and endorphins provide the buzz aspect of intense emotions. When we set goals focused on things we like and are good at, we can stimulate the production of those “feel good” substances ourselves. These substances in themselves will reduce the experience of pain. For more lasting results, we need to break the old patterns in our brains that have set up pain as an automatic mechanism.
Has pain become a habit?
During our youth, connections are made between the many brain cells in our brain. We largely control the production of these compounds and we can still change them in adulthood. The connections are created through the activities we perform and the thoughts we internalize. The connections are strengthened by repetition of the activity or thought. The same goes for the experience of pain. If you have experienced pain in a certain situation, your brain expects that pain to occur again when you are in the same situation. When this happens effectively, that belief is strengthened and the connection is made more solid. The same situation will therefore evoke that pain again and again. Ultimately, the pain becomes an expectation, a habit that appears more and more and you suffer from chronic pain. The key is to transform as many of the connections that are made in your brain towards pain into a new, positive experience. For example, if you always get a headache when you go shopping, experience shopping in a different way. Make sure you are not in a hurry, choose a quiet moment when there are not too many people in the store, go by bike, and have a drink on a cozy terrace afterwards. In short, make it a fun activity!
The role of movement in the fight against pain
Just like for so many other things, exercise is also an excellent medicine for pain. The production of new cells and connections in our brains is promoted by the aforementioned serotonin. This substance is released during pleasant experiences and to an even greater extent when we also exercise. It is important that you do not set unattainable goals for yourself and always listen to your body. Above all, exercising should be enjoyable, something you look forward to. It doesn’t have to be intensive at all, a walk in the park during the lunch break is just as effective. Three things are important here, namely looking forward to it, enjoying the moment and the movement itself. Don’t set the bar too high, otherwise you will create stress.
A stressed rabbit is more likely to suffer from chronic pain
Your character largely determines whether you are susceptible to chronic pain. If you are overly conscientious or extremely perfectionistic, your body will produce more cortisol, the stress hormone, which is partly responsible for chronic pain for a long time. Optimists and erroneous people are exposed to cortisol less often and for a shorter period of time and produce more serotonin and endorphins. They generally feel better and are less sensitive to stressors that can cause pain.
Your character is partly innate, partly learned. What you learn can be unlearned with the necessary effort. You can call on a therapist for this or you can surround yourself with as many positive people as possible . Positivism is contagious!