MED­I­TATE

Runner's World (UK) - - Body-Mind -

A grow­ing body of ev­i­dence sug­gests med­i­tat­ing for just eight weeks can ‘re­wire’ the part of the brain re­lated to self-reg­u­la­tion. This helps man­age our re­sponse to highly emo­tional stim­uli, such as pain. Ac­cord­ing to Bran­don Ren­nels, a mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion teacher at the Search In­side Your­self Lead­er­ship In­sti­tute in San Fran­cisco, med­i­ta­tion helps you dis­tin­guish be­tween phys­i­cal dis­com­fort and your emo­tional re­sponse to it. ‘Pain is bad enough, but the anx­i­ety at­tached to pain can some­times be even worse,’ he says.

Re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin scanned the brains of novice and ex­pert med­i­ta­tors while ap­ply­ing a pain sen­sa­tion to their legs. For both groups there was an ini­tial spike in ac­tiv­ity in the an­te­rior in­sula, a part of the brain linked to pain per­cep­tion. But whereas this re­mained height­ened in the novice med­i­ta­tors, it quickly sub­sided for the ex­perts. It was as if the ex­pert med­i­ta­tors chose not to en­gage in the pat­terns of anx­i­ety that of­ten make pain feel worse.

Ren­nels rec­om­mends med­i­ta­tion be­gin­ners start with one minute per day and grad­u­ally in­crease du­ra­tion, work­ing up to 15 to 20 min­utes per day or more. Tim­ing is less im­por­tant than con­sis­tency, so do this when­ever you can fit it in. To med­i­tate, sit com­fort­ably in a quiet place, set a timer for your de­sired du­ra­tion, and fo­cus on the sen­sa­tion of breath­ing. If thoughts arise, no­tice them, then di­rect your fo­cus back to your breath.

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