In today’s column I want to write about how extraordinary change can come about through steadily taking small steps in the direction of healing. Never underestimate the power of seemingly ordinary acts.

I have lived with chronic pain for 40 years now, ever since my life as a sporty teenager was cut short with a spinal injury and two major operations. I have struggled with it, fought against it, hated it, almost been defeated by it. But, gradually, step by step, I have turned my life around and now, as a 57 year old, I have a better life than ever. Sure, I’m not particularly ‘able bodied’, but this doesn’t matter to me anymore as the quality of my life is better than ever.

How did this change come about? If I compare myself now to how I was 20 years ago, there has been a huge, almost unbelievable, change. And yet most of this change has come about very gradually, almost imperceptibly, through simply and steadily working away at developing new habits. Moment by moment, day by day, year by year.

I’d like to tell you about some of these new habits in the hope that you too can feel inspired to tread this journey of a thousand miles by valuing the steps along the way.

Become a routine lover – get your eating and sleeping in order

I try to go to bed, get up in the morning and eat my meals at regular times. This is a big change from the chaotic habits of earlier years. I’ve learned that the body loves routine and, far from being boring as I used to fear, it frees up time and energy for other things.

Regular exercise

I do my stretches every morning and I try to swim at least a couple of times a week. Again, I used to find these things boring and experience huge resistance. But I’ve got to the point now where I miss these simple activities if I miss them for a few days. I invariably feel better afterwards.

Seek help

I have had osteopathy for my back about once a month for the last 30 years. It has become a staple of my lifestyle and I know it has saved me from a lot of secondary degeneration. I know some of you won’t be able to afford it and I used to be on extremely low income when on benefits. But I always tried to scrape together the money for these treatments before other luxuries as I knew how much they helped me. Now I travel a lot teaching mindfulness and I make sure I have ‘an osteopath in every port!’. Likewise I try and have regular massage and for a time I had psychotherapy. I’ve learned there are people who can really help me and I’ve let go of pride in thinking I should be able to cope all on my own.

These are just a few tips on how to manage your pain as well as possible. I hope you’ve found them helpful. As I said at the start: never underestimate the power of simple steps. If you keep taking them steadily, over time you can turn your life around. 

Vidyamala Burch - Breathworks Founder and author of Mindfulness for Health