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Could Mindfulness Be the Missing Link?

iStock-1176660377Mindfulness helps people regulate their emotions, reducing pain and negative thinking, concludes a new study, even after very basic training in mindfulness.

As well as being important in social, family and workplace settings, emotional dysregulation has been linked to depression, anxiety, addiction, and chronic pain. Behavioral studies have shown that mindfulness can improve these conditions and improve quality of life, and brain imaging studies have reported reduced pain sensitivity. However, there have been few scientific studies exploring whether mindfully noticing and accepting the body and mind’s reactions is an effective strategy to regulate the emotions related to pain and negative thoughts. 

Rooted in the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness can be used in the modern scientific context by an individual being aware of their present experience, whether positive or negative and having an accepting and non-judgemental attitude to that experience. 

The new study examined the effects of mindful acceptance on neural responses in adults that had not used mindfulness before. After only basic training in mindful acceptance, the participants were exposed to aversive images, as well as painful heat on their forearms, while practicing mindful acceptance. Their brains responded as if they were experiencing a non-elevated temperature thanks to the training. The study shows promise in a world where stress and pain are increasingly common.

 

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