If you practice meditation on a daily basis, your brain does actually change.
A new study has confirmed what yoga practitioners have been claiming for centuries – meditation is the cure for (almost) everything.
So step aside chocolate and cakes, there’s a healthier way to ease up that heartache.
A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that meditation increases your pain threshold by helping the brain control discomfort and emotions.
Mindfulness expert, Dr Fadel Zeidan, who has been studying the scientific benefits of meditation for 15 years, wanted to be sure that these findings weren’t just thanks to the hype around meditation. So he put the claim to test.
The Science of Pain Relief
Dr Zeidan enrolled 75 healthy, pain-free people and scanned their brains via MRI while they were given painful heat treatment with a 120-degree thermal probe (don’t freak out, that’s hot enough to feel the pain, but not enough to burn the body).
The researchers put people in four groups and three of them were given various placebos and one was put on meditation. Everyone assumed they were getting the real intervention, but most of them were getting a sham treatment.
Every group reported a reduction in pain, even those using placebos. However, for those who had actually practised mindful meditation, pain intensity was reduced by nearly a third and emotional pain dropped by a whopping 44 per cent.
Emotional pain dipped by almost half just by meditating for 20 minutes for four days in a row. True story.
And all the participants had to do was, sit with their eyes shut, focus on specifically designed music, clear their thoughts and listen to their heart beat.
Not too hard, right?
So What Worked?
The results shocked the researcher himself.
Previous studies have found that opioid morphine reduces physical pain by only 22 per cent. So meditation is twice as effective as morphine.
That’s not all, MRI scans showed meditators had more activity in the regions of the brain connected to attention and cognitive control. They also reported less activity in the thalamus – a structure that acts as the gatekeeper for the brain to recognise pain.
Surprisingly, these results have never been achieved with any technique before.
This is an important ‘preliminary’ study. Scientists will have to do more to be able to use it medically for palliative care patients. But for the time being, if you’re heartbroken, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and let the chaotic world melt away.
Doesn’t it feel better?