If you will be in the hospital for any length of time, this article will help make your stay much more pleasant. Few people naturally enjoy a stay in the hospital. For most of us, boredom and aggravation are more fitting words to describe the experience. A holistic look at the hospital stay reveals some interesting observations. Instead of being a source of stress or irritation, your stay in the hospital can be quite enlightening—if you are willing to look at the hidden causes to what makes a hospital stay unpleasant.
To ensure a better stay in the hospital, let go of negativity. Negativity is the mind's way of being in conflict with "what is" when it doesn't get what it wants. Negativity generates stress, suffering, and resistance in oneself and the environment. The Buddha taught that "It is your resistance to what is that causes your suffering." Whereas pain is an unpleasant physical condition, suffering is generated on the mental and emotional levels of self. It slows the body's ability to heal and recover from injury, illness, or disease. Assuming you are in the hospital to heal and get better, you can begin right now to move into a proactive position in your mind that supports the health and healing of your body. Perception is key. If you perceive your time spent in the hospital as unpleasant downtime, something to be upset or feel sorry about, you are setting yourself up for misery and end up making a difficult situation worse for yourself and others.
Being in the hospital isn't a summertime stroll through a meadow of green grass and colorful wildflowers, far from it. However, even though we can't always choose what happens to us in life, we have incredible power in deciding how we are going to respond to what happens to us. If you're in the hospital, that's what is. Any situation you find yourself in is always neutral. What you add to it determines your experience of it. Instead of your hospital stay being a source of anger, irritation, or depression, get into your power and get creative in your response to what is. Know that you will be tested and challenged. Things won't go the way you want or think they should. There will be delays. You will have interrupted sleep, and the cafeteria serving you food will probably never earn a Michelin Star for culinary excellence. You may also be dealing with pain and discomfort in your body, which will further test your ability to remain calm, cool, and collected. And, despite all these unfavorable circumstances, you can still bring the presence of inner peace and acceptance to your stay in the hospital, but only if you choose. At the very least, the challenges you encounter will probably help you develop patience and mental detachment through forced acceptance of what is—being in the hospital and dealing with the unpleasant circumstances you encounter during your stay.
Helpful things to consider to make your hospital stay more pleasant
1.) Hospital Time. Perhaps you've read somewhere that quantum physics says time is flexible; it can slow down and speed up, turn back on itself, and the past and future are enfolded, existing simultaneously in the present moment. If you ever want to check these ideas out for yourself, go spend some time in the hospital. Hospital time is vastly different than what we are normally accustomed to. Minutes, hours, and days seem to blur; time slows to a crawl refusing to speed up. Ask for a cup of pudding or make a special request and you'll likely discover just how slowly time can pass. An anticipated 5-minute wait turns into a 55-minute test in patience.
If you're going into the hospital or you already find yourself there, let go of your attachment to time. Let it pass. Don't expect anything to happen quickly, even though you think it should. If it does, you'll be pleasantly surprised. When it doesn't, you'll be unaffected. You may even find yourself a little amused instead of angry when things take ten times longer than they would in ordinary time. By letting go of your need to be in control of time, you free yourself to enter more easily into the moment you are in and move with the situation you find yourself in. Instead of wasting your energy in a futile attempt to row your boat upstream against the current, relax and surrender to time. Turn your boat around and it becomes much easier to go with the flow, so to speak. In return, you get to remain free of the annoyance, anger, drama, and irritation that would normally arise within yourself, much to the ego's chagrin. When things are taking too long and you start feeling upset, remind yourself that in the bigger picture, "And this too shall pass." For extra credit, use the time you spend waiting to practice present-moment awareness. Let go of your attachment to past or future, and hold in your mind a state of inner transparency that allows you to be fully present regardless of whatever the outer circumstances are. Where else can you possibly be except in the moment you are in anyway?
2.) Dealing with Boredom. As a hospital patient, it's a good idea to take a few moments right now to get clear on how you define and respond to boredom. We live in a society that doesn't want anything to do with boredom. For good or bad, being in the hospital will put you in touch with your relationship to the state called boredom. If your mind seeks or needs constant stimulation and distraction nearly every waking moment, your stay in the hospital is going to bring this up. Use your time in the hospital to decide what boredom means to you. As you do, aim for balance between being and doing. Read a book, play a game, do something mentally stimulating. And allow yourself time for being, doing nothing (no-thing). Nothingness is an expression of being. You're aware but not holding on to any one thing within yourself, inlcuding thought and the ego's need to be right. It is a state of detachment that frees you inwardly of expectations and the attachment to outcome. It is a powerful healing state, if you enter into it without your mind generating useless resistance and stress by refusing to let go of doing. It is OK and even healthy to allow yourself time to simply be.
The way to solve boredom in the hospital is simple: stop looking to outer distractions to occupy all of your time. This is the ego's way of trapping you in thinking and keeping you from awareness. Instead, use the time you have in the hospital to your advantage. There is an entire inner universe within yourself awaiting your discovery. It is well recognized that we only use about 5% of our mind's potential. Viewing the mind as a 100-story office building, this means the lights are lit up on only 5 floors. Enter into your imagination during times of boredom while you are in the hospital. Take the time to relax, close your eyes, imagine an inner elevator, and go explore the other 95 floors of your mind that were existing in darkness. One floor might contain your future, your vision, your inspirations and aspirations upon which to build the rest of your life. Another floor might offer you all of the unrecognized potential you have to heal yourself and your life at the deepest levels, including your past, present, and future. Use your time in the hospital to know and empower yourself more deeply by turning hospital boredom into opportunities for healing and self-discovery.
3.) Fear. When fear is present, anger and stress are sure to be close at hand. The hospital can be a frightening place, especially when something serious is going on with your body. One of the most frightening situations is not knowing what's going to happen next. You've been experiencing symptoms, have had tests, maybe even a surgery, and now you must wait to find out the prognosis and treatment options and what it all means. If you're in the hospital while this is going on, you don't have the familiar comfort of your home to give you a sense of safety and security. In a state of fear, the logical thought centers of the brain are overridden. The ability to think and respond clearly to the situation at hand is clouded by reactionary anger and stress. Your energy decreases and it's easy to feel overwhelmed by everything happening to you.
When it comes to fear, try to stay with the information and the facts you have as much as possible. Stay with what you currently know about the situation you are in. This will keep you centered in the present moment. Fear and stress are future oriented. They arise from the egoic mind pulling you out and away from the present and into worriment over an event that may or may not take place. And because it exists in the "future," which is nothing but a thought you are having in the present, there isn't anything you can do about it. That's where the fear and stress come in. There is a sense that something bad is going to happen but there's nothing you can do about it. Keep in mind that the future is nothing more than a thought you are having in the present moment. Sometimes thoughts appear to be objective and very real, but thoughts only become real when we lose ourselves in thinking. Instead, make it a practice to simply observe your thoughts; move out of thinking and into awareness. Awareness will center you in the present and put you in touch with whom you ultimately are. You will find yourself free of stress and the effects of fear. Furthermore, you will experience a much clearer state of consciousness from which to make decisions and a healthy response to what your particular situation calls for.
There are many effective techniques for working through fear, and they all start by noticing and recognizing fear when it is present. From there you can inwardly objectify the fear, giving it form, shape, and structure in your mind so you can work through it consciously and transform it. The inspiring words of Franklin D. Roosevelt given at his first inaugural address are fitting here, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Be strong and keep your awareness anchored in the moment you are in. Don't let the fear determine and control your mental and emotional state.
4.) Resistance. Anger, stress, resentment, pity, blame, negativity, and feeling sorry for oneself are all forms of resistance. Resistance comes from the ego's attempt to get what it wants by generating suffering for itself and others. As Eckhart Tolle points out, it is a temporary form of insanity. Don't let your mind possess you and take you down this unpleasant path. It's not healthy for you or your body, and it won't get you what you think you need. You may get to be right, but you end up losing the game. You end up stuck having to carry the suffering your mind generated. Instead of dealing with it, the negative energy gets repressed and will need to be worked through at a later time. In some cases it can later show up in the body as imbalance or dis-ease. As pointed out earlier, your stay in the hospital will give you all sorts of reasons to get upset and be in resistance. But remember why you are there—to heal. Resistance and negativity are not supportive to your health and healing.
Choose peace over needing to be right, especially when it comes to trivial matters. Being at peace and remaining out of resistance will strengthen your health, increase your energy, and make your hospital stay much less difficult. You'll even discover that things work out in your favor without effort or struggle. Choosing peace over resistance is not passive resignation. You are simply taking responsibility for your state of mind while directing your mental energy in conscious ways that support health and healing. If something comes up during your stay in the hospital and you need to be assertive, you assert yourself, but without the ego's need to be right getting in the way. You're coming from a place of true empowerment, rather than egoic weakness. And you will discover that your effectiveness in all matters exponentially increases when you come from empowerment. It takes a mature person to resist getting upset and lashing out when things don't go the way they want them to. This is especially true when you know you are right and can justify being upset because someone or life didn't treat you fairly. And again, be aware and stay in awareness! You can still be right and stand up for yourself, but you're no longer investing excessive mental or emotional energy into the situation. This frees you up inwardly and gives you considerable energy that you can use to heal your body.
12 Creative Ideas for a Better Hospital Stay
1.) Inner Explorations. Undiscovered worlds and an entire inner universe exist within awaiting your discovery. Use your time in the hospital to reconnect with your imagination. Enter the imaginal realm; let it take you someplace far away. Take inner journeys to exotic and otherworldly destinations. As your body lies restfully on your hospital bed, project your mind to any place you'd like to be in. Relax, trust, and allow the images to come to you. Create a calm, safe place to go to in your mind, such as a healing sanctuary that offers healing pools of water for you to bathe in. If your rational mind resists, recall that a vividly imagined experience can be just as real as waking life. If you have ever had the experience of waking up from a powerful dream that you knew was more real than your waking life, then you have experienced just how real and powerful the imagination can be.
2.) Inspirational Reading. Read books or listen to audio-books that speak to the heart and soul while you are in the hospital. This will help ease the burden you are under and will support you in developing and maintaining a positive mindset that aligns you to health, healing, and even miracles. Spiritual texts, inspiring stories, inspirational books, and uplifting autobiographies are like healthy organic food for the mind. Minimize time spent watching TV, especially the news, which is fear-based and programs the mind with negativity. It distorts your perception of the world in which you live. For every act of violence you see in the news, there are thousands more acts of kindness that weren't reported. To accelerate healing and recovery, keep your mental space clear, calm, inspired, and tranquil.
3.) Journaling. If you never done journaling before, or if it has been awhile since you last spent quality time writing out your thoughts, give yourself the space to enjoy personal, self-reflective writing. Writing out your thoughts and feelings helps you objectify and get in touch with the inner experience you are having. It's also a great way to reduce worry and stress as well. By writing things out, your mind will be less inclined to go back over the same thoughts again and again. This frees up mental energy which you can focus and direct in more self-supportive ways. The method you use for journaling comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer typing; others do not. If you're indifferent, you will probably get more benefit out of writing. When you use handwriting, you end up processing your thoughts more directly through the physiological mind–body system.
4.) Breath Awareness. Breathing is one of your best friends when it comes to stress release and the development of self-awareness, not to mention the importance breath has to your body! Remind yourself that no matter what's happening, as long as your're breathing, you're going to be all right. Practice being aware of your breath, especially when your mind is idle or you start feeling upset or anxious about your situation. Put your attention on the lightness of air; notice how it brings mental detachment and increased objectivity. If you're in a particularly negative state that you can't think your way out of, change your breathing pattern and breathe your way into a clearer, calmer state of mind. As you get in touch with your breath, you may notice your breathing pattern is habitually shallow. If so, practice moving your focal point of awareness from your head down into the center of your chest to your heart area and begin breathing (living) from there. You will soon feel more whole and relaxed. As you breathe, hold the idea "breath of life" in your mind. Affirm life and imagine breathing the essence of life into yourself, your body, mind, and emotions. And breathe out the heaviness, fear, worry, and stress of daily living.
5.) Body Awareness. Many people have unknowingly lost touch with their ability to really feel and experience their body. This largely stems from the disconnect in Western society between mind and body. What is important here is to know that you can experience your body in different ways than you are accustomed to. By shifting your consciousness and moving your awareness out of your head and into your body, you can develop a closer, healthier, and more appreciative relationship to your body. Moving into closer relationship with your body in this way can enhance and accelerate healing. During your stay in the hospital, take time to reconnect with your body; heal the split that separates mind and body. Feel and get to know the life energy moving through your body. Focus your attention into an area of your body that is free of pain and enter fully into that pain-free place. Hold thoughts of appreciation for your body. Review everything you like and appreciate about your body. Give your body supportive attention and listen inwardly to what your body has to say. Reflect on the incredible complexity of your body and how millions of processes take place at any given moment in time without you having to do anything. In your consciousness, go into the place inside yourself that allows you to know and experience your body and mind in wholeness, as an interconnected living system.
6.) Create High-Energy Thought Forms. Thought is energy. Likewise, your body and all physical matter in the universe is energy, according to Einstein's famous equation E=MC2. Thoughts can uplift, heal, inspire, and expand health and well-being, or they can limit, confine, and restrict life energy. Not all thoughts are created equally and not all thoughts deserve your equal attention. In considering thought as a form of energy, it's excellent advice for you to create and focus your attention on high-energy thoughts that naturally support health, healing, and wholeness. When you're in the hospital, make it regular practice to think and hold beautiful, uplifting, and inspiring thoughts in your mind. Think of beautiful places in your mind. Think or picture images, scenes, and settings that represent the beauty of life and all that is good in the world. Spend time going over in your mind everything you are thankful for in your life, both present and past. Develop a list of everything you can come up with that you are grateful for. Give negative thoughts minimal attention and practice replacing them with inspired thoughts. Regularly focusing your mind on powerful life-affirming thoughts in this way will bring more energy into the system that your body can use to empower the healing process. You can equate the quality of your thinking to the brightness of a light bulb. Negative and destructive thoughts produce darkness (unconsciousness). It's like having your consciousness lit with a 5-watt bulb. Thoughts of appreciation, beauty, love, kindness, acceptance, etc., produce more light, more consciousness, more awareness, more energy. Instead of running your mind at 5 watts you're now operating at 250+ watts of brightness, more than enough to keep negativity and resistance in check. Be responsible and proactive with your thoughts and thinking.
7.) Meditation, Visualization, Guided Imagery. Many benefits are available to you through the use of meditation, visualization, and guided imagery for health and healing purposes. When you are in the hospital, you have a rather unique opportunity to make use of these powerful healing and self-discovery techniques. One of the biggest difficulties people have with these techniques is simply finding the time to practice them. When you're at home, you have more distractions to deal with. Laundry needs to be folded, dishes need to put away, the bathroom should be cleaned, the living room needs a good once over, and the cat's litter pan needs your attention. It's easy to fall prey to the pattern of, "Once I get my work caught up, then I'll take time for myself to practice meditation." The problem is that stuff always comes up! At least when you're in the hospital, you have far fewer mundane distractions to keep you from making use of these inner healing techniques.
8.) Time Travel. If you really want to make your hospital stay interesting, become a time traveler. A good deal of mystery surrounds time. To the rational mind, time marches on in an orderly fashion. Seconds gives rise to minutes which become hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, and on down the line. Subjectively, however, time isn't nearly so rigid. To the subconscious, things that happened 20 years ago are closer and more real than things that happened yesterday. You can get real creative with time when it comes to health and healing. You can travel back in time to uncover and heal the original cause to a problem or difficulty in your life today. You can project forward in time to see and have the experience of your body healed. Maybe you'd like to meet up with your future self to get some helpful advice and needed direction on the things going on in your life today. If you like history, find a particularly interesting period of time you'd like to visit and imagine yourself back in that era. Create mental movies of yourself living in that time. Explore who you would be and see how that relates and speaks to what's happening in your present-day life. Another creative use of time is to conduct your own life review. It can be quite illuminating to look back and review your life as an observer. People who have had a near death experience (NDE) nearly always report having had a life review—an honest, sincere, and nonjudgmental overview of their life lived up to the present. Socrates is very clear on the value of examining one's life, proclaiming that "The unexamined life is not worth living." It's a strong statement; a statement that is becoming more important today than perhaps ever before.
9.) Healing Music. Healing music has come a long way in the last 20 years. As a sub-genre of New Age music, you can now find healing music that supports very specific healing objectives. When you're in the hospital, make use of the excellent music that is now widely available. With headphones and the right music to listen to, you can close your eyes and enter into a relaxed healing state that will help strengthen and restore balance and harmony to your mind, body, and emotions.
Portable CD players, although still common, are giving way to the added ease and convenience of MP3 players. For less than $40 you can get a good-sounding 4GB MP3 player that is compatible with music subscription services, such as Rhapsody. You can also download your healing music onto your iPhone, Android, iPad, or Kindle Fire. Regardless of the device, it's advisable to spend a little extra money, about $30 or so, for a good pair of headphones. There is a big difference between stock headphones and a pair of quality headphones. You'll appreciate and enjoy the difference each time you listen to your music. Simply listening to environmental sounds, such as ocean waves or a mountain stream, is also quite healing and is known to help reduce stress.
10.) Healing with Color. Color is used in energy healing and energy medicine as a way to enhance and accelerate healing. Different colors correspond to different energies which are focused and directed to target specific areas of the body that are in need of healing. In addition to healing the body, color can also be used to help restore emotional balance and mental clarity. You can work with color in many different ways to help restore health to your body, mind, and emotions. Physical uses of color would include the intentional use of a specific color in dress and the environment that represents the type of healing you are interested in. For example, if you are in the process of healing your body, you would emphasize the color green in your environment. You might even consider making the color green more a part of your wardrobe, especially if you never wear green. While it's questionable if wearing green speeds up physical healing, when worn with intention, wearing green reminds you of your intention to heal on a regular basis throughout the day. It serves as a visible expression of what it is you are for. It also programs and conditions your subconscious mind to support healing. You can also simply think or visualize various colors in your mind, which you use as a focal point to concentrate healing energy. Think or see a healthy, vibrant, and beautiful shade of green in your mind and then imagine your body and every cell in your body absorbing the life-giving energy that the color green represents.
11.) CD / MP3 Sessions. Using visualization, hypnotherapy, and guided imagery sessions on CD or MP3 that are designed to support health and healing are an excellent way to make use of your time in the hospital. They give you a nice break from your immediate circumstances and allow you to escape the monotonous routine of hospital life. The most effective sessions are ones that have been custom-made for you. This allows the session material to speak directly to you and your condition. The will and motivation to heal can be strengthened by applying specific content that speaks to you and your life, including your future dreams and desires, and all the reasons that are important to you to heal and return to health and well-being. Individual fears and doubts can be addressed, released, and resolved to further accelerate the healing process. If you are highly visual person, your sessions can include a lot of visualization content in them. If you are not a "visualizer," your session can be based on other techniques that are just as effective but don't require you to visualize.
12.) Symbol Therapy and Transformative Art. Another self-empowering way to use your time in the hospital is by working with symbols, images, pictures, and art that embody health and the healing process. Even though you probably won't have access to an artist's studio in the hospital, you can still be an artist and use your time in the hospital to bring art and imagery into your healing process. Art, images, and symbols are powerful healing tools because they speak directly to the unconscious mind and its close relationship to the archetypes. You can use art to invoke the healing archetypes of your psyche. If you are feeling weak and overwhelmed, use art to connect to and bring the warrior part of yourself into clearer focus and presence. Symbol therapy can be quite powerful in its effects at bringing the power of your unconscious mind into support for healing your body. Working with symbols, such as the house, vehicle, landscape, or mandala allows the unconscious to reveal what's going on deep inside yourself. You are then in a much stronger position to heal and transform yourself and your body and get back into health. And don't worry if you're not an artist. Transformative art is not graded on composition and technique. In fact, some of the most powerful transformative art comes from both artists and non-artists alike. A sketchbook, pencils, crayons, and pastels are hospital friendly and can be used to deepen and accelerate your healing process during your hospital stay.
Mark Bancroft, MA, is a holistic practitioner specializing in holistic health and healing. Mark offers the holistic-based program Hospital Stay that helps hospital patients reduce hospital related boredom and stress while moving into a strong, proactive role in healng their body. Mark provides hospital visits free of charge to patients at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley, CA, and other local treatment centers. Mark also offers custom healing sessions on CD and MP3 format for patients to listen to during their stay in the hospital and during their recovery at home.
Mark Bancroft, MA
Nevada City, CA