Thank Your Headache

In Victor Wooten’s 2008 novel, The Music Lesson, the student wakes up one morning with a headache. The teacher, after appearing, mysteriously tells him that he should thank his headache, rather than fight it. The student does, and the pain subsides.

It’s a wonderful book with bountiful wisdom, but that chapter has always stuck with me. The idea is that, rather than tense up when we feel pain, we should be mindful of what our bodies are trying to tell us. We should be grateful for the pain because it’s usually a warning about something that could turn into a more serious problem if ignored. Hence, thank you, headache.

I was reminded of that story as I drove home tonight with a dull pain behind my eyes. Rather than resist the headache, I acknowledged it and thanked my body for telling me something was wrong. In my case, I could tell I had stayed up too late and needed some sleep. I also noticed my shoulders were hunched and my jaw was clenched, so I breathed and let go of the tension that had creeped its way up my neck. When I did that, the pain didn’t go away completely, but it did subside quite a bit. The pain was my body’s way of getting my attention, and when I noticed and acknowledged what was wrong, it was as if my headache said, “OK, good. Just letting you know” and calmed down. Thank you, headache.

I know it sounds cheesy, but it works. The next time you have a headache, try thanking it instead of getting frustrated or annoyed by it. Listen to what it’s telling you. It might be saying, “Hey, you haven’t had any water today”, or “You should probably take a break from staring at this computer screen”, or “Don’t worry so much about this presentation”.

I like to think our bodies don’t just cause us pain for no reason. It’s more likely that they’re trying to tell us something. Of course, if you’re bleeding profusely, by all means get to a hospital. Otherwise, try taking a moment to listen and see if you can’t hear what the headache is saying.

Your mind and body work best when they’re on the same team.

Now, I’m off to bed. Have a great weekend!

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