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Day 4:

There is no question that pain changes how we relate to other people, society, and even ourselves. But is it possible that intentionally cultivating our inter- and intrapersonal connections can change our pain?


Read on to find out how our experience of pain is influenced by the social aspects of our lives.

Photo by Mododeolhar


Perhaps you've been following along easily with the ideas that what's happening in our bodies and minds can affect the pain we feel. But here's something that may seem less obvious: our connection with ourselves, other people, and something greater than ourselves can influence our pain.


It may be easier to see how pain changes our social lives and existential understanding of ourselves. Pain changes our ability to:

  • socialize and participate in groups and organizations we find meaningful

  • carry out our jobs

  • take part in our hobbies and other activities that bring us enjoyment

  • engage with and take care of our families


Our diminished ability to do these things can:

  • leave us feeling isolated and misunderstood

  • change our life goals and expectations

  • change the way we see ourselves

  • cause us to question our life's meaning and purpose

Research confirms that these changes are associated with negative health effects. Social isolation is associated with decreased physical function, greater disability, greater distress, more severe pain, and lower adjustment to chronic pain. A lower sense of meaning in life is associated with lower wellbeing and lower acceptance of the pain condition. It can seem like an endless cycle: pain leads to loss of connection, leading to social isolation and loss of meaning and purpose, which leads to negative health effects, which leads to more loss of connection...But what if we could interrupt this cycle? Fortunately, research shows that improving our social connections and existential concerns is worth the effort. Greater social support improves pain behavior, disease activity, and anxiety. A higher presence of meaning of life predicts higher wellbeing and higher functioning in those with pain conditions, and is associated with greater life satisfaction and decreased depressive symptoms, pain intensity, and pain medication use. It's important to note that negative health consequences are related to perceived isolation rather than objective isolation. This means that it's the feelings of isolation and lack of meaningful relationships that make a difference, rather than the number, proximity, or frequency of social interactions. So as we begin to cultivate greater social connection, it's wisest to focus on quality rather than quantity. Pursuing and maintaining interpersonal relationships that will be meaningful and supportive is energy well spent. *This essay borrows heavily from Marlysa Sullivan's work in Chapter 15, "Connection, Meaningful Relationship, and Purpose in Life: Social and Existential Concerns in Pain Care", of the book Yoga and Science in Pain Care, the book she edited with Neil Pearson and Shelly Prosko.


"Yoga and Science in Pain Care: Treating the Person in Pain"

by Neil Pearson (Editor), Shelly Prosko (Editor), Marlysa Sullivan


To immediately strengthen your sense of connectedness, follow along with today's guided video practice, a meditation on connection, led by Diane.


Today's worksheet helps you identify what relationships you already have that have the potential to be more meaningful, and it helps you brainstorm how you can realistically pursue those connections.

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Another Healing Connection

Connection with self, others, AND nature can all be powerful in changing pain. Learn more about nature's healing capacity in our blog post.

Want a refresher?

Click below to get back to Day 3 of the Free Gift.

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