How Meditation Can Manage Chronic Pain and Stress | Daniel Goleman


One of the stunning findings that showed up
in long-term meditators—and these other scientists were quite skeptical about [it],
but Richard Davidson my co-author and his group went ahead and tried it—they had people
who had done 1,000 to 10,000 lifetime hours of meditation come in and simply do a retreat
for one day in the lab. And they did a measure of the genes for inflammation,
and they found that there was a down-regulation of inflammatory genes from one day of meditation. What this means is that inflammation, which
is a cause, it’s a risk factor for a wide range of diseases, diabetes, arthritis, cancer,
cardiovascular disease, you name it, inflammation almost always plays a role in disease. And what this says is that intensive retreats
in meditation, even for a day, help you lower the level of those genes. We don’t yet know if this is clinically
important; that’s another study that needs to be done. But we do know that it’s so remarkable that
people in genomic science were amazed that a simple mental exercise could have such a
profound impact on this array of genes. Pretty eye-opening. There was a remarkable finding when it comes
to how the Olympic level meditators experience pain. Ordinarily if you bring someone into the lab
and you tell them “We’re going to give you a burn in ten seconds, it won’t cause
blisters on your skin but you’re going to feel it, it’s going to hurt,” the moment
you tell them that the emotional circuitry for feeling pain goes ballistic. It’s as though they’re feeling the pain
already. And then you get them the touch of the hot
test tube—whatever it is, and it stays ballistic, and then for ten seconds more it stays ballistic;
they don’t recover emotionally. The “Olympic-level” meditators had quite
a different response. You tell them “You’re going to feel this
pain in ten seconds,” their emotional centers don’t do anything. They’re completely equanimous. The pain comes and they feel it, you see it
register physiologically, but there’s no emotional reaction, and there’s no emotional
reaction afterward, so in other words, they’re totally equanimous, they’re unflappable. Even though they experience the pain physiologically
they don’t have the emotional reaction. And what we find is that calming the emotional
reaction is one of the most powerful benefits of meditation. And I’m not talking about the Olympic level,
I’m talking about beginners. There’s a wonderful method called Mindfulness-Based
Stress Reduction; it was developed by a friend of ours John Kabat-Zinn years ago. And it’s for people in hospitals, people
in clinics—although anyone could benefit—but one of the strongest findings on this has
been that it helps with people who have chronic pain. And I’m talking about pain that medication
is not going to help you with, there’s nothing medicine knows what to do about this except
give you horrible narcotics that are addictive. And here is a very positive alternative, because
what happens when you do MBSR if you have chronic pain is: the emotional component changes. You shift your relationship to the pain. It no longer is “My pain, oh my God I can’t
stand it,” instead it’s “Oh, there’s that sensation again.” So the physiology of the pain continues, but
the emotional component, which is really where the hurt is, disappears or is much reduced
because you no longer have that same relationship to the pain that we do ordinarily.

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Comments

  1. Meditation is awesome but when you have Chronic pain you just don't say; oh there is that sensation again. Its a tiny small better but the only thing keeping them alive and kind of mentally sane is the drugs.

  2. Actually the whole meditation trend is completely overblown. The medical effects said to be associated with the practice are not being replicated in well formed studies. Some decent relaxation and a quiet mind for half an hour will do the same thing.
    And this is coming from a scientist Buddhist.

  3. Makes me wonder what they would see if they compared the meditation group to other groups that have been 'taught' to deal with pain differently than the average person – a group of Navy Seals, perhaps…

  4. i think people in comments "say" about meditation more than do it actually and this is the most dumb thing in the world when we judge everything without "focus what is it and just do it" (i am that person sometimes)

  5. The people in these comments don't hear "Meditation helps with pain".They hear "Don't take medication."lol

  6. Yes it can. Helped for 3 years of chronic neck nerve pain. Nothing is a perfect end all solution, you can't expect that. However this practice helped me immensely.

  7. I was very stressed and anxious a while ago and a finished my practice of meditation and mindfulness of the day and I can say that yes meditation and mindfulness really slow down my anxiety and stress

  8. Meditation can do much more than allow for the control of pain and inflamation. It can also be used to expand the one's awareness and perception of sensations throught the body and anable control or those feelings and their related physiological processes. There is truth to the saying 'Mind over Matter'.

  9. This video is giving me a sever smug greeny yuppy pain. I'm taking my Mr. prescription wizard oxy's and forgetting about it. Hey meditate this middle finger and die! Smug scum bag. He's probably giving himself some sort of twisted toe foo enema this very second. He shall recycle it for butt fermented lunch no doubt. These is some twisted motherfucker's I tell ya.

  10. If someone no longer experienced emotional trauma from experiencing (or the anticipation of) pain, would it still be considered unethical to inflict pain on them? One of the main arguments against animals feeling pain from our treatment is that they don't experience pain in the same way we do (i.e. emotional suffering). By that logic, inflicting pain on an "emotionally removed" person would be equally ethical.

  11. One of the interpretations I notice is when the feelings follow thought; wherever the thoughts arise from in the conscious mind or other level, the meditation can help calm all the rubbish that slows and confuses a clearer thinking process by stabilizing and helping calm unwanted imaginative processes in the brain functions. Even if temporarily because of participation levels, there is benefit to the mind from this neutral position inwardly that helps manifest outwardly in a more optimistic manner.

  12. I would say that I meditate every day, and I use cannabis as well for back pain and for my glaucoma. I have been do this for a year and it seems to be working great for me.

  13. stress is a mental apparation, not thinking about the problem reduces the mental stress, but it does not take the problem away.

  14. Emotional relationship with the pain is a recent acceptance for me. Along with Meditation and rest my matra is listen to the body but without emotions, it'll pass soon.

  15. May not completely get rid of pain but might help to get off opiods faster before addiction kicks in.

    Also, wasn't there a dentist somewhere that uses hypnosis instead of anesthetics?

  16. Sounds like Mind over Matter. So we've proven that the Placebo effect works, even if you know it's a Placebo, so with my Crohn's disease, I'll just take some deep breaths if I'm feeling pain, and tell myself that'll help, so it feels like it helps. I don't meditate, but my thoughts are always going.

  17. Does it require the rigor of meditation (surprisingly hard to do, to "clear" ones mind or focus on nothing), or do you get similar benefits if you just get stoned? Marijuana definitely calms the mind, but is that calm similar to that created by meditation?

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