This is Why Meditation Makes You Feel Better


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Usually, “do nothing” is poor advice to follow if you want to feel better. Yet a strong body of literature now shows that meditation—the mindful art of doing nothing but sitting still—effectively relieves pain.

Now, a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that meditation accomplishes this differently from other pain-relievers, like opiates. “This ancient technique that’s been around for thousands of years is reducing pain through novel mechanisms, ways we’ve never seen before,” says study co-author Fadel Zeidan, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

In the study, Zeidan and his colleagues took 78 healthy, pain-free people and randomly assigned them to an intervention. One group was trained in mindfulness meditation—a seated practice in which one focuses on the breath and lets thoughts and feelings pass without judgment—for 20 minutes a day over four days. The control group spent the same amount of time listening to a book read aloud.

The scientists then brought everyone to the lab for a painful stimulus: a hot probe placed on the back of the leg. They expected that people who meditated during the pain would report feeling less of it, as has been shown before. But they were more curious to see what happened to the meditators if they were injected with naloxone, a drug that blocks the body’s opiate receptors. “If meditation works through opiates, and we’re blocking opiates through in the body, then the pain-relieving effects of meditation will go away,” Zeidan explains.

Much to the scientists’ surprise, that’s not what happened.

The meditators who were injected with a placebo shot of saline reported feeling 21% less pain (compared to their ratings on the same pain test before the intervention began). Similarly, the meditators who received naloxone reported feeling 24% less pain—suggesting that meditation eases pain in a way that has nothing to do with opiates.

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How, exactly, is not yet known. But Zeidan’s past research has shown that meditation activates higher-order brain regions associated with emotion regulation, focus and cognitive control, while tamping down activity in the thalamus, which transmits painful information from the body. That helps prevent painful information from being spread throughout the brain, he explains.

Meditation may prove especially useful for people who take painkillers, among the most commonly prescribed drugs in America. “If meditation did work through opiates, and someone is addicted to opiates for pain, you would have to meditate like the Dalai Lama for decades to produce enough opiates in your body to match that tolerance,” Zeidan says. “This is a very attractive technique for the millions of chronic pain sufferers who are seeking a non-opiate pain therapy.”

Zeidan is now testing the intervention on people with chronic pain. “This is just yet another study finding that you don’t have to be a monk to reap the benefits of meditation,” he says. “With only 80 minutes of practice, we’re seeing dramatic reductions in pain.”

Source: Time Magazine

10 comments on "This is Why Meditation Makes You Feel Better"

  1. Pramila Lall says:

    Meditation is part and parcel of the complete system of Yoga given to the World by Rishi Patanjali in India thousands of years back.

  2. Srinivas says:

    The body has a natural healing mechanism . When the act of doing nothing happens as in the article , what actually happens is that the mind goes into a state of rest or the origination of thoughts reduces. As one approaches a thoughtless state , his connection with the supreme or universal consciousness or energy becomes more profound . People will experience the flow of energy into them. This will actually energizes all the chakras and their ability to sustain pain increases . As the research shows that people with meditation have more tolerance to pain.

    Fundamentally the concept of chakras or aura is not accepted by today’s medical world , as a result most of these phenomenon are not explained by them. A meditator would have experienced it , but he cannot prove it.

  3. Niraj Singh says:

    Good evening ! I would like to know what required initially for thoughts & feeling arising while staring stage of Meditation. I had tried several times to Meditate but no luck, Repeatedly unwanted thoughts are keep arising it never allows mind to be concentrate, I never get concentration in any positions. Please help me by letting know what I can do in such cases, I am heavily suffering from many problems while consulting for solution many of them told to meditate but unfortunately I can’t replied them on How to meditate, is this problem is common for start up or I am exceptional,
    Please help me by guiding what I can do, is there any suitable solution which will not allow any thoughts or feelings to come or whatever.
    Please help me by suggesting on the same really I’m always obliged & thankful to you.

  4. yoginder says:

    Highly informative and interesting. It validates the experiential / intuitive wisdom with scientific knowledge.

  5. Suresh B V says:

    This is very true that meditation cure many ills. This is a Indian method to cure diseases.
    But our doctors are made to realise that this is one of the best medicines to cure and our doctors prescribe only medicines, injections and surgery. We are influenced more by western medicines.

  6. Ambalavanar Somaskanda says:

    I have from time to time seen articles with purported validation of many aspects of Sanadhana Dharma. While it is somewhat gratifying to see these so called scientific studies, we should never lose site of the fact that our validation is at a deep experiential level,while these studies are based on the materialistic paradigm which is by nature illusory. You shouldn’t be surprised if some other “scientific’ study completely invalidates the previous findings. This is the nature of the Science which relies on the senses completely for its empiricism.

  7. dr mayur m kahate says:

    excellent

  8. roni says:

    Even if meditation were to work through opiates it would still be a boon. Do you know what opiates cost on the market?

  9. shilpi banerjee says:

    @Niraj Singh–
    the point of meditation is non-doing, it is simply awareness of what is already there. when focussing on breathing, for instance, when your mind goes to some thought, simply notice where it was that your mind went and then gently bring it back to rest on the awareness of your breathing. there is no force applied, there is no “being good at meditation” or “being bad at meditation” there is simply “meditation”. Each time you bring your mind back to the focal point (example breathing or the chosen mantra) you are meditating. That’s all there is to it.

  10. Ramesh says:

    It is very easy to learn how to Meditate however what is the reason why some people cannot meditate. Could this be the sudden emotional pain that they feel when trying to meditate?

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