The Top 5 Reasons Guided Meditation Can Ease Your Suffering
It is difficult living with chronic pain, here's a few ways guided meditation can help
Living with an illness or chronic pain can be a heavy burden. You would desperately like to do something to stop the pain, but everything hurts. Even your mind can start to suffer as you look for ways to cope.
It's only natural to want to fight back against a body that has caused you so much pain. Our body's natural instinct is to avoid pain at all cost - run away from pain. While this has served us well as an evolving species, it's actually the opposite of what the latest medical research tells us we should do.
If you're looking for ways to ease your suffering, here's the Top 5 reasons guided meditation can help.
Meditation can change your brain
A team of neuroscience researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany examined 300 participants in a nine-month meditation program. This was one of the largest studies on meditation and the human brain to date. What they found is that focusing on a specific kind of meditation could change certain parts of your brain.
For instance, participants in this mindfulness meditation study experienced a thickening of the prefrontal cortex of the brain - the area of the brain that is involved in complex thinking, decision-making and attention. Meanwhile, people that participated in meditation designed to reduce stress and anxiety experienced a 51 percent drop in the stress hormone cortisol
It helps with pain
It may seem obvious that focusing mentally can help with mental pain, however, there has been an increasing amount of research to support this.
Research from decades of Jon-Kabat Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program has given us a firm understanding of how mindfulness can help people cope with the pain, anxiety, depression and stress that accompanies illness and chronic pain.
We know that psychological stress has been tied to everything from heart health and immune response to telomere length. Because of this, we shouldn't downplay the effect guided meditation and mindfulness can have on emotional health.
Focusing on the pain, reduces the pain
It may feel counterintuitive to focus on the pain. Our bodies are trained from millions of years of evolution to avoid pain both mentally and physically. In fact, previous therapy techniques included various kinds of distraction therapy to "take our mind off of it."
What we now know is brain studies have shown that when people trained in meditation focus on their painful sensations, the pain sensing parts of the brain light up with activity where-as the parts of the brain associated with pain are less active.
It's more than just focusing on the pain. Some people can develop hyper-sensitivity to their pain and will notice every shift in their body. This doesn't alleviate pain and can, in fact, make it worse. Meditation and mindfulness techniques foster a specific kind of focus that is centered around acceptance. Through focus and acceptance can come a reduction in pain.
It decreases inflammation at the cellular level
Recent research has shown that mindfulness meditation not only reduces psychological stress but can actually reduce inflammation at the cellular level. These studies concluded that mindfulness meditation should be used as a low-cost self-directed complimentary strategy to decreasing inflammation in patients.
Meditation can help with a number of medical conditions
Mindfulness meditation has been clinically shown to help with a number of conditions including:
If you're suffering from anxiety, depression, grief, chronic pain or even a recent cancer diagnosis there is increasing evidence to suggest meditation can help you as a compliment to your current treatments. Getting started with mindful meditation can be as simple as taking a few minutes each day.
Our Medical Meditation app has been developed by physician and cancer survivor, Dr. Nikhil Joshi. With nine, self-guided meditation modules, Medical Meditation has been created to help improve the lives of people suffering with chronic pain or illnesses.
Photos are courtesy of Robert Conway