Meditation is the act of focusing your attention on the present moment with an open mindset. Meditation and other mindfulness practices can be used as a tool to help the improvement of pain levels, frequency of migraine attacks and relief from stress which is a common migraine trigger.
Meditation is an alternative treatment to medication as some medication indues unwanted side effects and contributes to Medication Overuse Headache. It may be beneficial to combine mindfulness practices with other treatments prescribed to you by your medical team.
Mindfulness practices is an umbrella term under which many different types of meditation fall. Mindfulness is a psychological process, and this practice draws your attention to your current thoughts, emotions, sensations, and current environmental surroundings.
Some studies have found that mindfulness practices might help as an alternative treatment for migraine by:
- Reducing stress levels
- Improve your quality of life
- reduce the frequency of migraine attacks
- lessen the intensity of migraine symptoms
- improve pain tolerance
General benefits of meditation
Meditation, in general, is very beneficial for one's well-being and improve other aspects of you health and could make managing migraine easier. These include:
- a boost to your immune system
- sleep quality
- increase memory, attention span and decision making skills
- boost self-esteem
- help with stress and depression
- increases positive emotions
- can create a more empathetic mindset towards others
How to get started
There are many different ways to practice meditation and mindfulness in your daily or weekly routines, such as:
These apps provide guided meditations and meditative exercises that can help you keep to a daily routine of the practices. Some of these apps offer a free service or are trail-based, and some have paid features:
This practice is a way to build resilience to stress, anxiety, and anger. It is a daily 15-minute breathing exercise, but it can also help practice it when you're feeling particularly stressed or anxious. Experts believe a regular practice of mindful breathing can make it easier to do in difficult situations.
The most basic way to do this is to focus your attention on your breath. You can do this by standing, sitting or lying down in a comfortable position with your eyes close or opened without concentrating on anything in particular.
If you find yourself in a stressful situation, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath:
- A deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds)
- Hold your breath (2 seconds)
- Take a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds).
- Alternatively, you can observe each breath without trying to adjust it; it may help focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils.
- As you do so, you may find that your mind wanders if you can notice that this is happening and try to bring your attention back to your breath gently.
For the full short guided meditation, you can listen to it here.
Not only is walking a tremendously beneficial exercise, but a meditative walk is excellent for the mind. A meditative walk is about focusing on all parts of your body in sections as you walk. This can be a daily activity:
- First, wear a supportive pair of shoes and your sun protection.
- find a good clear path and go for a leisurely walk
- as you start to walk, focus on the sensations in your feet to ankles
- while paying attention to your heels and the feeling of them hitting the ground, focus on the weight transfer from your heels to your toes
- tune your awareness into all the movements of your muscles
- Repeat this process with all the parts of your body, moving from your toes to your head. Focusing on how your muscles move and how they relax and contract.
- For around a minute, do each body part, pay attention to your soundings, and how the wind, sun, and other environmental elements feel on your skin.
These are just a few examples of the many other mediative and mindfulness exercises; this is a list of more resources to find out more:
- Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley
- The mindful word
- Movement with migraine