When you come in for a session at Natural Balance Therapy, what do you mention to your therapist? When you start self-treatment at home, what do you look for in your body? If you’re like most of us, you probably talk about your symptom patterns, or whatever function or movement is still limited or restricted or painful. As you do a body scan at home, you’re probably tuning in to the tender or sore areas of your body. While this is useful information to be aware of, it’s not the only thing going on. We encourage our clients to take note of something else, too, something that’s often ignored or forgotten: the progress that has already been made.

It’s always easier to notice what still hurts than what doesn’t hurt anymore. Part of that is just how our neural networks work. If you think about it, the brain can only process a certain number of signals at a time: the ‘loudest’ one gets heard, while others get drowned out. As we receive treatment and resolve whatever is causing that major signal, it seems like new symptom patterns and pains come up. In most cases, these were already there, but the brain was so occupied by the big issue that there was no room left for the smaller ones. As the volume of that loudest pain signal gets turned down, the others seem louder in comparison. Because these are now ‘front and center’, when we come in for treatment it seems logical to focus on the symptoms that remain.

This focus, though, can become a pattern of always looking for what is wrong, rather than noticing the positive changes we’ve gone through. Sometimes, just switching the words we use can alter how we feel about what we’re saying. For example, imagine a client who begins treatment with a 50% limitation to range of motion in her shoulder. After several sessions, the client describes her current state as one of the following: 70% mobility, or 30% limitation. Although these two phrases show the same physical capacity, and each is a significant improvement from the starting place, describing it as ‘70% mobility’ focuses the attention on the positive change, while ‘30% limitation’ focuses on what is still wrong. A simple shift of language can make a change in our emotional attitude to our progress, which then encourages further change.

Many times, we only look at how far we still have to go — whether in our physical recovery or our emotional or mental growth. While we don’t want to ignore remaining symptoms or challenges, it is important for us to recognize and feel the progress that we have made, how far we have already come in our healing journey.

Before your next session (or your next self-treatment time), take a few minutes to reflect on where you were when you started your healing process, and what has changed since then. Acknowledging and embracing those positive changes, in addition to noting what remains unresolved, gives us a much more balanced perspective on our progress.