Stuck in Therapy? 3 Ways to Make the Progress You Want

How to Make Progress in Therapy

Therapy has the power to transform our lives. So why does research shows that it’s effective only 50 percent of the time? Author Jon Frederickson explains in his article “Stuck in Therapy?”[1] that although therapist effectiveness varies, the main variable in successful therapy is the patient. That’s right, if you’re feeling stuck in therapy, it might be time to consider these ideas:

First, decide on a clear internal problem to resolve in therapy.

If you want to fix a problem, it helps to be clear with yourself and your therapist about the nature of the problem you want to resolve. It’s crucial to make sure that it’s a problem you have and not someone else. No therapist can fix a problem for someone she’s not seen … besides, blaming others doesn’t help you to grow.

Second, face what you usually avoid.

Talking alone doesn’t resolve problems. Facing the truths we’ve avoided and discussing them with a skilled therapist does. When your therapist points out something that’s painful, try not to argue or dismiss the concept. Be present to the idea and consider that the therapist may be helping you face what’s difficult. That’s where change and healing begin.

Finally, go toward what makes you anxious.

It can be hard, but therapy is the best place to face the things that make us anxious so they can stop taking control of our lives. By facing them, we take charge. As Mr. Frederickson so aptly states,

“If we avoid what makes us anxious, we don’t become stronger; we just get better at avoiding. Meanwhile, life goes by and our therapy money goes down the drain. If you are not somewhat anxious in therapy, chances are you are not facing what you need to face.”[2]

I’ve seen these truths with so many patients over the years. I agree that you’ll reach your goals and get the most out of therapy if you’re clear about the problem you want to resolve, you’re willing to face what you usually avoid, and you move toward what makes you anxious. Trust the process – it works!

Peace,

 

Dr. Pamm


[1] Jon Frederickson, “Stuck in Therapy?”, LinkedIn, Jan. 11, 2017

[2] Ibid.

Self Love Is Key to Getting the Love We Want

Lack of Self Love Sabotages Relationships

Many relationship problems come from our subconscious belief that we aren’t worthy of love. If self-love is a problem for us, we’ll seek love, respect, and acceptance from others, but feel disappointed when they don’t provide the kind we want. Even more frustrating, we’ll sabotage a potentially loving relationship because our inner voice tells us we don’t deserve love and happiness.

Marriage counselors Katie and Gay Hendricks have analyzed this common problem and share excellent advice on their Hearts in Harmony website. I encourage you to learn the telltale behaviors caused by this subconscious problem. They also explain that

Loving yourself isn’t about being conceited. It’s about accepting yourself and your feelings and not needing to look to outside sources to feel like you’re worthy of love and consideration.[1]

What Does Self-Love Feel Like?

Once we understand where this lack of self love comes from, we can begin to heal and welcome love into our lives. How do we know what self love feels like if we’ve never had it? The Hendricks offer this helpful list:

  • Loving yourself means you don’t hide who you really are. You share your feelings – even the messy ones – and own up the truth of your life and your mistakes.
  • You don’t need to prove anything to anyone, because you know the only opinion that matters about your self-worth is your own.
  • You don’t accept bad treatment, or social pressure, or feel compelled to do things you don’t want to do just because you are “supposed to.”
  • You can fully accept and enjoy being loved by someone else. You aren’t doubtful of their feelings. You never worry if their love will end, or if you aren’t good enough, or unworthy.
  • You aren’t afraid of getting hurt. You don’t push love away, or run away, or subconsciously create reasons why your relationship will let you down.
  • You are at peace with yourself, and can channel your energy into CREATING what you want, not PROTECTING what you don’t want to lose.
  • You feel giddy, light… free.[2]

Peace,

 

Dr. Pamm

[1] Katie and Gay Hendricks, “Why Constantly Complaining About How Others Treat You Could Be A Sign Of A Much Deeper Truth… About Yourself,” Hearts in Harmony,

[2] Ibid.

America Has Problems Dealing with Chronic Pain

Robert Bonakdar, MD, is Director of Pain Management at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine. In a recent editorial published in USA Today, he courageously disagrees with the United States Surgeon General’s campaign to reduce opioid drug dependencies through education and addiction awareness. The real problem, Dr. Bonkadar argues, is that there are other ways to manage chronic pain, but insurance companies won’t pay for them.

Chronic pain is a complex scenario that not only affects the back or shoulder, but one that over time can shrink the brain while creating or worsening fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxietyobesity and risk of suicide. The pain transformation called for by the IOM and most recently the National Pain Strategy requires not just a campaign, but an integrative, patient-centered approach to support someone whose entire existence is affected. – Dr. Robert Bonkadar[1]

The doctor does see signs of hope, however, that decision makers are beginning to understand the human benefits and corporate cost savings of pain management methods such as exercise and diet, biofeedback and nutrition, Tai Chi, yoga, acupuncture, CBT and mindfulness.

After focus groups with chronic pain patients found that ‘fix-it’ strategies were failing while also bankrupting the state, Rhode Island created the Ease the Pain Program, which uses case management and treatments like acupuncture, massage and manipulation. Similarly, starting this year, the Oregon state insurance program will cover acupuncture, CBT and more, based on findings that ‘lack of support for and knowledge of biopsychosocial pain self-management treatments are serious public health problems.’ [2]

If you are one of the 100 million Americans who suffer with chronic pain, I urge you to consider mindfulness meditation and other non-drug treatments as part of your pain management program.

 

Peace,

 

Dr. Pamm

[1] Robert Bonkadar, M.D., “Docs Need Help to Ease Opioid Epidemic,” USA Today, September 28, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

Deep Relaxation Changes Our Bodies on a Genetic Level

For many years now, scientific studies have shown that mindfulness meditation has a profound effect on our health and wellbeing. Still, new clients routinely express skepticism about meditation—they assume it’s just a timeout from the stress of everyday living with no long-term health benefits.

An article I keep handy to encourage these doubters appeared in the January 2012 SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, titled “7 Health Benefits of Meditation.” It’s worth reading the full article, but here’s my synopsis in case you’d rather spend your time meditating than reading.

7 Health Benefits of Deep Relaxation 

  1. Increased Immunity
  2. Emotional Balance
  3. Increased Fertility
  4. Relieves Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  5. Lowers Blood Pressure
  6. Anti-Inflammatory
  7. Calmness

Somehow we all know that relaxation is good for us, right? When we pause, take a deep breath, and let it out, it helps us to relax our bodies and clear our minds so that we can refocus with more clarity and energy. But is that all? What does science say about why intentional meditation for 10-15 minutes a day is so beneficial?

Meditation Changes Our Bodies on a Genetic Level

Researchers at Harvard Medical School did a comprehensive scientific study showing that deep relaxation changes our bodies on a genetic level and in long-term practitioners of relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation, far more ”disease-fighting genes” were active, compared to those who practiced no form of relaxation.

The study showed that regular meditation practice turned on genes that protect from disorders such as

  • Pain
  • Infertility
  • High blood pressure
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Inflammation
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Cancer
  • Immune system deficiencies

How can relaxation have such wide-ranging and powerful effects?

On a biological level, stress is linked to fight-flight and danger. In survival mode, heart rate rises and blood pressure shoots up. Meanwhile muscles, preparing for danger, contract and tighten. And non-essential functions such as immunity and digestion go by the wayside.” Relaxation, on the other hand, is a state of rest, enjoyment and physical renewal. Free of danger, muscles can relax and food can be digested. The heart can slow and blood circulation flows freely to the body’s tissues, feeding it with nutrients and oxygen. This restful state is good for fertility, as the body is able to conserve the resources it needs to generate new life. – Dr. Jane Flemming [1]

How to switch off stress 

The researchers found that yoga, meditation and even repetitive prayer and mantras all induced the relaxation effect. Try one or more of these techniques for 15 minutes once or twice a day:

  • Mental Body Scan
  • Breath Focus
  • Mantra Repetition
  • Guided Imagery

I hope you’ll learn more about those methods by reading the full article, or explore the Mindfulness section of this website.

Peace,

Dr. Pamm

[1]7 Health Benefits of Meditation,” SYDNEY MORNING HERALD,
republished on Food Matters, Jan. 26, 2012.

Four Ways to Overcome Negative Feelings and Self-Defeating Thoughts

Feelings Affect Our Thoughts and Behaviors

In a recent article in Mindful magazine, Tchiki Davis describes how self-criticism and low self-worth can hold us back. Her well-being survey revealed that feelings of positive self-worth were the best predictor of happiness–even more so than feelings of gratitude or having strong personal relationships.[1]

Simply put, feelings affect our thoughts and behaviors. When we feel bad about ourselves, we unconsciously act in ways that end up confirming our beliefs and can end up in a negative cycle.

I encourage you to read the full article, because Ms. Davis explains in detail why these four things will help you to start to promote positive self-views and begin to change the patterns of your life. Meanwhile, I hope my summary will pique your interest:

1. Figure out your needs

People tend to feel badly about themselves when they feel powerless to get their needs met—so you can start this process by figuring out what your needs are. If you’re having a hard time figuring out your needs, just reflect on times in your life when you weren’t thriving. What was missing?

2. Live authentically

If your needs are being met, this step is easy. Just keep them in mind, and don’t stray too far from living a life that is authentically yours. You’ll find that you now have more positive views of yourself because you decided what matters to you and are willing to stand up for yourself.

3. Forgive yourself

Almost everyone has said something hurtful, forgotten an important event, or betrayed someone they love. It helps to remember that our mistakes do not define us. Forgive yourself, and give yourself credit for trying not to make the same mistakes again.

4. Celebrate your quirks

When we cherish our eccentricities and celebrate our flaws, we begin to develop a deep love for ourselves just as we are. Don’t forget to keep growing, though! Keep your eyes and ears open to the people you trust. Listen when they tell you that you have work to do on yourself. Feeling positively about ourselves takes effort. But by changing our views, we can change our lives.[2]

 


[1] Tchiki Davis, “Four Ways to Overcome Self-Defeating Thoughts, Mindful, Oct. 24, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

18 Science-Based Reasons to Try Loving-Kindness Meditation

Emerging Science Examines Benefits of Mindfulness Practice

This month’s issue of Mindful magazine has an excellent article by Emma Seppälä, who looks at the emerging science around the benefits of loving-kindness meditation.

Start with Kindness

First, the author notes the confusion and possible misconceptions—or even biases—that some people have about meditation. As she notes, there are many forms of meditation practice that we may have tried once or twice, before concluding they weren’t helpful for us.

I agree with Dr. Seppälä that a great place to start or renew a meditation practice is with Loving Kindness Meditation—or Mindfulness Practice, as I refer to it. It’s an easy one to begin with, because it evokes a very natural state in us: kindness.[1] As the author explains,

Loving-kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others … compassion, kindness and empathy are very basic emotions to us. Research shows that loving-kindness meditation has a tremendous amount of benefits [including] relief from illness and improving emotional intelligence.[2]

For the scientific evidence that supports the author’s 18 Reasons below, I urge you to read Dr. Seppälä’s full article. If these reasons intrigue you, then you may also enjoy the author’s TEDx talk—a recording of the loving-kindness meditation she uses.

Scientific Studies Reveal Benefits of Mindfulness Practice

  1. Increases Positive Emotions & Decreases Negative Emotions
  2. Increases vagal tone, which increases positive emotions & feelings of social connection
  3. Decreases migraines
  4. Decreases chronic pain
  5. Decreases PTSD
  6. Decreases schizophrenia-spectrum disorders
  7. Activates empathy & emotional processing in the brain
  8. Increases gray matter volume
  9. Increases respiratory Sinus Arrythmia (RSA)
  10. Increases telomere length—a biological marker of aging
  11. Makes you a more helpful person
  12. Increases compassion
  13. Increases empathy
  14. Decreases your bias towards others
  15. Increases social connection
  16. Curbs self-criticism
  17. Is effective even in small doses
  18. Has long-term impact[3]

The science is increasingly clear on the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Countless patients of mine—and I suspect some of your friends and acquaintances—will also attest to its helpfulness. May your own practice bring you peace, healing, and joy.

 

With gratitude,

 

Dr. Pamm


[1] Emma Seppälä, “18 Science-Based Reasons to Try Loving-Kindness Meditation,” Mindful, Oct. 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Mind Over Matter: Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Management

Recent research on the neurobiological mechanisms of pain is providing insights into the ways mindfulness practice can help with pain management. Researcher Sara Adaes’ article “Mind Over Matter: Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Management” is a fascinating digest of recent studies that I encourage you to read in full.

I’m a big proponent of mindfulness meditation to reduce pain and improve health. Research continues to support my view and I hope you’ll consider starting your own mindfulness practice. Here are a few key points of Adaes’ article that I hope will convince you to learn more.

  • Mindfulness meditation is not merely a placebo effect; a 2015 study in The Journal of Neurosciencecompared the effect of active mindfulness meditation with a fake technique – “one that would lead the participants to believe that they were practicing mindfulness meditation, but that would only engage relaxation mechanisms. The study found that mindfulness meditation decreased pain intensity and unpleasantness beyond the analgesic effects of placebo or sham mindfulness meditation.” [1]
  • In that 2015 study, “effective mindfulness meditation engaged brain mechanisms that were indeed distinct from those of placebo-induced analgesia.[2]
  • A follow up study in The Journal of Neuroscience explored the mechanisms that are affected by mindfulness meditation. “Using naloxone, a drug that blocks the effect of opioids, it was shown that the inhibition of the opioid system did not affect analgesia induced by mindfulness meditation. In the control group, on the other hand, the blockade of the opioid system induced an increase in pain perception, as expected … the fact that [the opiod system] apparently has no influence on the mechanisms of mindfulness meditation-induced analgesia is intriguing.”[3]
  • “Mindfulness meditation may be a complex, cognitive process that likely engages multiple brain networks and neurochemical mechanisms to attenuate pain.”[4]
  • A reduced activity of the thalamus has also been reported [as a result of effective mindfulness meditation, which] … indicates that it may somehow diminish sensory processing, or that it may prevent this sensory information from reaching conscious awareness.”[5]

I agree with Ms. Adaes’ conclusion that we have more research to do before we fully understand why mindfulness meditation is effective for pain management. I also know from my own experience and others that it works. Give it a try!

Peace,

Dr. Pamm

 


 

[1] Sara Adaes, “Mind Over Matter: Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Management” BrainBlogger, May 1, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

How to Make Mindfulness and Compassion Your Automatic Response to Stress

In “A Basic Meditation to Strengthen Neural Connections,”[1] Dr. Christopher Willard gives us a peek into his upcoming book Growing Up MindfulHe notes that just as we take care of our bodies with nutrition and exercise, we can also “change our brain, boosting concentration, flexibility, and intelligence and building new neural pathways and networks, by working out our brain” with mindfulness practice.

Are you skeptical that this could work? Why not try Dr. Willard’s simple exercise:

Before you begin, adopt a posture that is both comfortable and sustainable for a few minutes, and then set a timer for three minutes.

  • First, bring your awareness to an anchor: sensations or movement in your body, the breath, ambient sounds, counting, or even an image you found powerful or calming. Anything can be the anchor for your attention. Just invite your mind to rest there.
  • Pretty soon, you will notice your mind begin to wander. That is completely normal. Each time you notice it wandering, notice where it goes and then gently guide your awareness back to your anchor.

Pretty simple, right? So simple, in fact, that it might seem like you’re not doing very much. But don’t be fooled. Every aspect of this practice is building the muscles of your mind. In fact, one of my patients even likes to use the image of his brain getting a little bit bigger with each moment of mindfulness.[2]

Dr. Willard explains why this simple mindfulness practice works:

  1. Each time you focus on or return to the anchor, you are building your concentration
  2. Each time you focus on the anchor, you detach from your thought stream. This is a practice of letting go in the moment, which translates to letting go in the rest of the world.
  3. Each time you notice that the mind is wandering, that is the moment of mindfulness—not a moment of failure.
  4. Each time you are kind to yourself when your mind wanders, instead of criticizing yourself, you are exercising and strengthening your self-compassion for challenging moments in the rest of your daily life.
  5. Each time you notice where the mind is wandering, that is an opportunity for insight into your mind’s habits and patterns—what we might call wisdom or self-understanding. ?[3]

I hope you will try mindfulness practice and discover its benefits! Over time, you’ll find it becomes almost second nature. As Dr. Willard states so well, “each of the mental actions in this practice strengthens neural connections that, with practice, rewire your brain, over time making mindfulness and compassion the automatic response to stress.”[4]

Peace,

 

Dr. Pamm

[1] Christopher Willard, “A Basic Meditation to Strengthen Neural Connections,” Mindful, May 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Return to Happiness with Mindfulness

Elisha Goldstein’s good article in this month’s Mindful magazine reminds us to avoid 5 common traps that can get us stuck in a depression loop and keep us from attaining happiness:

  1. Doubt
  2. Emptiness
  3. Irritation
  4. Sluggishness
  5. Restlessness[1]

It’s natural to feel these things occasionally, but when they keep us from enjoying life, mindfulness practice can get us back on track.

Do you struggle with voices of doubt that prevent you from trying new experiences? Do you feel that you can’t do enough or be enough? Do minor irritations grow into resentments? Are you too tired, busy, or distracted to do the things you like to do or to be with the people you’d like to spend time with?

If you answered yes to these questions, I encourage you to read Mr. Goldstein’s article “The 5 Major Mind Traps that Hinder Happiness” and consider mindfulness practice.

Peace,

 

Dr. Pamm

[1] Elisha Goldstein, “The 5 Major Mind Traps that Hinder Happiness,” Mindful, March 18, 2016

Eight Weeks to a Better Brain

Meditation changes brain regions associated with memory and stress

Mindfulness meditation practitioners have long reported a greater sense of relaxation, peace, and wellbeing—that alone is reason to try it. But some people need reassurance that mindfulness is not simply a “mind over matter” placebo. We now have reason to believe that meditation produces changes over time in the brain’s gray matter to improve brain health.

Research findings in the Harvard Gazette report that an an eight-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress.[1]

This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing. [2] —Sara Lazar, MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program

The researchers used magnetic resonance (MR) images of the brains of 16 study participants two weeks before and after they took part in the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program. They compared those images to a set of MR brain images of a control group of non-meditators.Bottom of Form Analysis of the meditators’ images found increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. They also observed decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. [3]

The importance of these findings is well stated by neuroscientist Amishi Jha:

These results shed light on the mechanisms of action of mindfulness-based training. They demonstrate that the first-person experience of stress can not only be reduced with an eight-week mindfulness training program but that this experiential change corresponds with structural changes in the amygdala, a finding that opens doors to many possibilities for further research on MBSR’s potential to protect against stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. [4]

 

Peace,

 

Dr. Pamm

 

[1] Sue McGreevey, “Eight Weeks to a Better Brain,” Harvard Gazette, January 21, 2011.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Kindness Curriculum Improves Students’ Grades

What if we taught kindness in schools?

Researchers recently tested a 12-week curriculum in six schools in the Midwest where pre-kindergarten kids were introduced to stories and practices for paying attention, regulating their emotions, and cultivating kindness. Results of the study suggest that this program can improve kids’ grades, cognitive abilities, and relationship skills.[1]

Described in detail in the February 2016 issue of Mindful magazine, the curriculum used creative methods to teach the students the “ABCs” of mindfulness and kindness:

  • Attention
  • Breath and Body
  • Caring
  • Depending on other people
  • Emotions
  • Forgiveness
  • Gratitude

The researchers found that

“Students who went through the curriculum showed more empathy and kindness and a greater ability to calm themselves down when they felt upset, according to teachers’ ratings … They earned higher grades at the end of the year in certain areas (notably for social and emotional development), and they showed improvement in the ability to think flexibly and delay gratification, skills that have been linked to health and success later in life.[2]

Mindfulness and kindness practice isn’t just for adults, but can clearly benefit all of us from a very young age.

Peace,

Dr. Pamm

[1] Laura Pinger and Lisa Flook, “What if Schools Taught Kindness,” Mindful, Feb. 9, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

A Healing Response to Pain

Mindfulness Practice and Pain

When you’re in emotional pain, do you resist it, ignore it, or try to push it away? Those are all very common reactions to pain, but as Cindy Ricardo explains in this month’s Good Therapy blog, there’s a more healing and compassionate way to respond to our pain.[1]

The author explains how the pain itself isn’t the worst thing?rather, it’s the way we react to the pain that can rob of us our energy and distract us from responding in ways that could actually help. Without mindfulness and compassion for ourselves and the pain we’re experiencing, we can blow it out of proportion, worry, obsess about what happened, and futilely try to figure out how to make it go away.

If these ineffective reactions to pain go unchecked, they can morph into more serious problems such as addictions, distractions, or unhealthy mind state, which will add to the pain and create deep suffering.[2]

I encourage you to read the article for yourself and learn to become aware of when and how you’re reacting to or resisting pain, which is the first step to responding to it. The author gives several good tips on using simple mindfulness techniques that can transform your relationship to pain, and help you stay present to the both the challenges of life and all of life’s joys and sorrows.

Peace,

Dr. Pamm

 

 

 

[1] Cindy Ricardo, “A Healing Response to Pain: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion,” GoodTherapy.org, Feb. 9, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

Manage Stress by Listening to Your Body

As Mark Bertin says in his excellent Mindful article, “Stress—it’s not all in your head. The body acts as an early warning system, and people who pick up on its signals are more resilient.”[1]

It’s true that people with better body awareness tend to feel less stressed. One way to have more body awareness is to practice mindfulness. The concept is simple, really: mindfulness practice develops our attention. For example, if we do a body scan, observing sensations from our toes and gradually moving up to our head, we take time and become focused on subtle physical shifts that occur in our bodies. We notice the beginning sensations of stress and can choose to step out of the cycle of anxious thoughts and emotions before they escalate.

I encourage you to read Mr. Bertin’s article and to consider beginning a mindfulness practice. As the author notes, “catching the cycle of stress early, we can more easily adapt and redirect it.”[2]

Peace,

Dr. Pamm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Mark Bertin, “Manage Stress by Listening to Your Body,” Mindful, Jan. 20, 2016

[2] Ibid.

Speaking Up Is Good Medicine

In her women’s health blog, Dr. Christiane Northrup focuses on some women’s hesitancy to speak up for themselves. She calls this a “silent disease,” because it can have serious consequences—intensifying symptoms or manifesting new ones. As she notes, “If you don’t speak up for yourself, your body needs to speak louder to you so that you will!”[1]

Reasons Why Women Keep Quiet about Health Concerns

  • being shamed by doctors who don’t want to hear how the standard protocols don’t help them
  • being referred to a psychiatrist instead of having their physical symptoms validated
  • being labeled “difficult” because they spoke up to their doctor
  • having a lack of role models to demonstrate healthy communication
  • being raised to keep silent, never voicing opinions or feelings
  • being told to stay quiet because of a family secret, such as alcoholism or sexual abuse [2]

As Dr. Northrup explains, “There may be many reasons that contribute to your code of silence. An important step in relieving any symptoms in your body is to shift the pattern of being a silent victim and speak your truth.”[3] She goes on to suggest 8 tips for learning to speak your truth and I urge you to read them in further detail on her blog:

8 Tips for How YOU Can Learn to Speak Up

  1. Find a doctor you can partner with.
  2. Surround yourself with friends who want you to be healthy.
  3. Speak kindly about your body.
  4. Know that the act of speaking up is enough.
  5. Practice having your say.
  6. Know that the act of speaking up is enough.
  7. Write a truth letter.
  8. Re-establish the link between your head and your heart.[4]

 

Wishing You Peace and Good Health,

 

Dr. Pamm


 

[1] Dr. Christiane Northrup, 8 Tips for How YOU Can Learn to Speak Up

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

How Meditation Reduces Pain

Time magazine this month previewed the results of an exciting study on the efficacy of mindfulness practice in pain management. The study by Dr. Fadel Zeidan, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, will soon be published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Dr. Zeidan has studied mindfulness for 15 years and has observed improved health outcomes as a result.

“But what if this is all just a placebo?” he wondered. “What if people are reporting improvements in health and reductions in pain just because of meditation’s reputation as a health-promoting practice?” He wanted to find out, so he designed a trial that included a placebo group.[1]

In the study, one group was the control, one group received a placebo pain cream, one group learned a fake mindfulness practice, and the fourth group learned real mindfulness techniques.

“People in all of the groups had greater pain reductions than the control group. The placebo cream reduced the sensation of pain by an average of 11% and emotional unpleasantness of pain by 13%. For the sham mindfulness group, those numbers were 9% and 24% respectively. But mindfulness meditation outperformed them all. In this group, pain intensity was cut by 27% and emotional pain reduced by 44%.”[2]

Considering that opioid morphine reduces physical pain by 22%, the mindfulness numbers are impressive, indeed. But Dr. Zeidan was even more surprised by the MRI results, which showed that the mindfulness practitioners appeared to be using different brain regions than the other groups to reduce pain.

“There was something more active, we believe, going on with the genuine mindfulness meditation group,” Zeidan says. This group had increased activation in higher-order brain regions associated with attention control and enhanced cognitive control, he says, while exhibiting a deactivation of the thalamus—a structure that acts as the gatekeeper for pain to enter the brain, he explains. “We haven’t seen that with any other technique before.”[3]

As a mindfulness practitioner, I’m not surprised to hear this news, but I’m delighted to see good studies supporting what many of us have experienced. I look forward to upcoming studies that will help us to understand more about the process and under what circumstances mindfulness practice can be of most benefit to pain sufferers.

Peace,

Dr. Pamm

 

[1] Mandy Oaklander, “Meditation Reduces Emotional Pain by 44%: Study,” Time, Nov. 12, 2015.

 

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.