KEY POINTS

  • >1.5 billion Individuals suffer from chronic pain worldwide
  • Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide
  • Even a little dose of mindfulness can ease people's perception of pain and unpleasant emotions

About 1 in 5 adults or about 1.5 billion individuals suffer from chronic pain worldwide. A new study suggested that even a little dose of mindfulness can ease a person’s perception of pain and unpleasant emotions.

The researchers pointed out that when people practiced a brief thought exercise prior to any painful experiences such as seeing negative images or touching something hot, it affected them very less compared to those who weren’t practicing mindfulness.

Both meditation and mindfulness which involve focusing one’s thoughts on a specific thing (one’s current surroundings or the way their body felt at the moment) have gathered plenty of attention in the past few decades.

Advocates of mindfulness have claimed that regular meditation or practicing thought exercises can help with everything from stress to clinical depression. But there has been no evidence for such claims since most of them were self-reported feedback from individuals who practiced mindfulness or meditation.

The new study published in the Journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience which included individuals without any prior meditation experience found that even brief meditation helped people cope up with pain.

The study included 17 healthy volunteers whose brains were scanned while they were asked to go through two different scenarios. In one of the tests, the participants were asked to stare at images taken from a long-established database of images selected to make a person feel neutral or negative. A neutral image might be that of just a piece of furniture and a negative image might be a mutilated body. In the second test, the participants were made to feel warm or a painfully hot sensation via a device connected to their forearms.

They were asked to either react naturally or to practice mindfulness exercises that they were taught prior to the experiment. For the temperature test, they were asked to attend to their feelings without being judgmental of the sensation.

The findings revealed that the participants felt less pain and negative emotions while they practiced mindfulness than when they reacted normally. They also found no increase in brain activity in areas responsible for conscious thinking and decision-making.

“The ability to stay in the moment when experiencing pain or negative emotions suggests there may be clinical benefits to mindfulness practice in chronic conditions as well—even without long meditation practice,” Gizmodo quoted the study’s lead author Hedy Kober, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at Yale University.

meditation-3480815_1280 Many people practice meditation and mindfulness for its supposed many benefits. Photo: https://pixabay.com/photos/meditation-mindfulness-nature-3480815/