New research conducted by Yale, Columbia and Dartmouth shows that even a very brief introduction to mindfulness helps with pain management and negative emotions.
The effect of mindfulness on pain management is so extreme that even when test participants were subjected to high heat on their arms they responded as though nothing at all was happening.
Yale’s Hedy Kober, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology and corresponding author of the paper, stated, “It’s as if the brain was responding to warm temperature, not very high heat.” The study was published in the journal Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience. On January 27th.
Mindfulness is simply the practice of focusing the mind on the present moment without judgment [READ: Getting Started With Mindfulness]. There are over 100 scientifically proven health benefits of mindfulness and meditation, including the fact that it helps with pain relief.
The study leads were interested in discovering whether you need advanced experience in mindfulness in order to get these pain-management benefits. Amazingly, the study revealed that you can get the benefits in as little as 20 minutes with proper instruction.
Yale University wrote: “Participants in the study were tested in two contexts while undergoing brain imaging scans — one for assessing response to physical pain induced by applying high heat to the forearm and another for gauging their response when presented with negative images. In both contexts, researchers found significant differences in brain signaling pathways when participants were asked to employ mindfulness techniques compared to when they were asked to respond as they normally would. Specifically, participants reported less pain and negative emotions when employing mindfulness techniques, and at the same time their brains showed significant reductions in activity associated with pain and negative emotions. These neurological changes did not occur in the prefrontal cortex, which regulates conscious or rational decision-making, and so were not the result of conscious willpower, the authors note.”
This study highlights the importance of accepting the present moment (which is the principal behind mindfulness). It also suggests that our sense of pain is amplified when we attempt to resist that pain. Acceptance, it seems, is healing in itself.
Because of the results of the test, the researchers state that mindfulness may be a beneficial yreatment for people who are experiencing negative mind states such as anxiety and depression, and for those with chronic diseases such as cancer.