We have invited local MBCT company Paron Mindfulness to run a workshop at our Marlow Tinnitus Support Group on October 15th. To give you an insight into the benefits of mindfulness, Costas Lambropoulos and Dr Charlotte Morris have written this exclusive guest editorial especially for our clients.
Can mindfulness help your tinnitus?
Living with a condition such as tinnitus can be challenging. The experience of tinnitus and how it affects your daily life and wellbeing will be different for everyone. You may feel upset about the changes it has brought into your life, you may feel frustrated or angry, disheartened about the future or feel that others don’t understand or appreciate what it is like living with tinnitus.
There may be times when you feel like you have turned a corner and other times when it feels like you cannot bear it for another moment. At these times it might be that you end up withdrawing from activities, become preoccupied with the sound or negative thoughts, or just run around keeping busy in order to hold the difficult feelings at bay and trying to ignore them. Either way, it is very easy to lose perspective and lose touch with the richness of the life that is possible. In this article we look at whether mindfulness can help with your tinnitus symptoms.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a meditation practice which seeks to cultivate awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness is not new and is rooted in ancient wisdom and practices. In the last 40 years, there has been a growing interest in whether Mindfulness can help with some of the challenges of modern life, including how to live well whatever difficulties we face.
Through meditation practice, mindfulness enables us to be sensitive to the way we react to what appears in our lives moment by moment. We can begin to become aware of the way in which we tend to get caught up in trying to escape or avoid what we don’t like and hang on to pleasant experiences. Of course, it is natural to want to do this, but it does mean that most of the time we are not conscious of how quickly and habitually we react to our experience, sometimes in ways that are very unhelpful. We can train ourselves to develop an accurate awareness of what our experience actually is, rather than the story that pops into our mind immediately. This can give us the space to choose how we would like to respond rather than be pulled into an automatic stream of reactions.
How mindfulness can help
Mindfulness is not a quick fix and it is not an approach that will appeal to, or suit, everyone. However, it can help us to change how we relate to our experience of tinnitus and the distress that it can cause. There is an old Buddhist analogy that seeks to help us understand our experience of suffering:
“When an ordinary person experiences pain (either physical or emotional pain) they worry, agonise and feel distraught. Then they feel two types of pain, one physical and one mental. It’s as if this person was pierced by an arrow, and then immediately afterwards by a second arrow, and they experience the pain of two arrows.”
Based on this understanding of suffering, our distress is not only related to the discomfort we might experience with tinnitus or the actual sensations or pitch of the sound that are present. It is our interpretation of what is taking place and the meaning we give to this that can either help us cope or intensify our distress and our tendency to react. It is as if the sound or high pitch might be the first arrow and our thoughts and reactions are a second arrow that penetrates even further and can make us feel helpless, angry or anxious. Sometimes the “noise” of our minds can create more distress than just the noise and symptoms of tinnitus.
Fresh and friendly curiosity
In his book “Full Catastrophe Living” Jon Kabat-Zinn refers to certain attitudes that can aid us in our mindfulness practice and allow us to relate to our moment-to-moment experience in a more helpful way. These attitudes can be particularly beneficial and support us at times when we feel overwhelmed by our experience or wish it wasn’t there.
For example, approaching the present with a fresh and friendly curiosity and a non-judgemental attitude can make a significant difference to how we experience things in everyday life. This applies to any experiences, whether the mind tends to label them as pleasant or unpleasant. So rather than immediately striving to fix what we don’t like, we have a new path that, through practice, can minimise the levels of distress we experience and possibly maximise the pleasure of any given moment.
Mindfulness is often taught in an eight-week programme. These courses start very simply, for example with some eating practices, that help us to become aware how often we are not with our present moment experience. Building on this foundation, we can begin to explore what it is like to intentionally bring ourselves into the present. Through practice, we may begin to appreciate that tinnitus is only one part of our experience – there are also may other sensations and experiences that are here in any moment. A mindfulness course can help us to discover a new way of approaching our body, senses, thoughts and feelings. The practice can gradually help us not just notice discomfort and difficulty but also ease and joy in our everyday life.
About Paron Mindfulness
Paron Mindfulness is a partnership between Dr Charlotte Morris and Costas Lambropoulos. They have trained as Mindfulness Teachers at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and have been teaching Mindfulness in the NHS and in private practice. Charlotte and Costas have been delivering mindfulness courses for people with long-term conditions for the last five years. They are particularly interested in exploring how mindfulness practice can enhance our sense of wellbeing. Charlotte and Costas deliver workshops, courses and retreats with the intention of practicing mindfulness meditations and encouraging participants to explore how mindfulness can help them in their own lives. For more information on upcoming events please visit our website or email us.
Can mindfulness help tinnitus? – Where to find out more
To discuss your symptoms of tinnitus or have a full hearing check, please get in touch.
You can also read more about tinnitus on our Tinnitus Explained page.
Head over to our Tinnitus Management page to find out the various options available for management of your symptoms.
We hold regular Tinnitus Support Group events for people living in the Marlow and Farnham Common areas of Buckinghamshire. Find out the date of our next events and topics to be covered by visiting our Tinnitus Support Group page.