Meditation has long been known to ease pain in those who practice it. Now the Big Wigs say that it isn’t that the pain goes away, it’s just that those who are meditating don’t dwell on it. As a result, the pain doesn’t affect them as profoundly as those who don’t meditate.
“We think that [meditators] feel the sensations, but cut the process short, refraining from interpretation or labeling of the stimuli as painful,” said Pierre Rainville, Ph.D., researcher at the Université de Montréal. Through functional magnetic resonance imaging researchers could see the that those practicing Zen meditation were aware of the pain, but unlike others, they didn’t process that pain in the parts of the brain responsible for evaluation, memory, or reasoning.
Zen meditation is a practice of sitting quietly with an focus on the breath. When thoughts enter the mind, they are observed, and then focus is returned to the breath. There are lots of meditation styles. Most require sitting mindfully while focusing on your breath or a mantra.
It doesn’t have to be hard. Just the act of sitting quietly can help alleviate stress and foster well being. But, with practice, meditation can be a powerful antidote to some of life’s biggest challenges. And now we know, it’s also a pain reliever.
Ready to meditate? Here are some tips to get you started.
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