By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
The religious practice thats more powerful than morphine
A new study has found that mindfulness a common practice among some Buddhists may actually be better than drugs. - photo by Herb Scribner
The most effective painkiller may be something some religious believers have practiced for years.

A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that mindfulness the practice of being aware of and embracing the experiences of the present can actually be more helpful with reducing pain than some painkillers, including morphine, Time magazine reported.

The study was headed by Dr. Fadel Zeiden, whos been studying mindfulness for 15 years, according to Time. His team performed MRI scans on 75 healthy, pain-free participants, who were probed by painful hot temperatures and sorted into four different groups for treatment. Most thought they were getting the right treatment for the hot temperatures, but most of them were getting a sham treatment, Time reported.

One group received a placebo cream that was said to reduce the pain of the hot temperatures, when in reality the researchers were turning down the rooms heat, Time reported.

Another group was taught a sham mindfulness meditation, in which they had to breathe deeply for 20 minutes but were given no instructions on how to do it mindfully, according to Time.

A third group had people sit for 20 minutes and were taught how to focus their attention on the moment, or to practice mindfulness, according to Time.

Our subjects are taught to focus on the changing sensations of breath and to follow the breath with the minds eye as it goes down the chest and abdomen, Zeidan told Time.

That third group had the most success in reducing pain pain intensity dropped by 27 percent and emotional pain fell by 44 percent. Research says morphine reduces pain by 22 percent, according to Time.

There was something more active, we believe, going on with the genuine mindfulness meditation group, Zeidan told Time.

The cream placebo group saw an 11 percent drop in intensity of pain and a 13 percent drop in emotional pain, where as the fake mindfulness group saw a 9 and 24 percent drop in pain intensity and emotional stress, according to Time.

Mindfulness has been a popular practice in recent years and has been linked to a variety of health benefits, according to a Buddhist health study form Northern Arizona University.

The study found those who meditated and practiced mindfulness had better immune systems and responses to stress than others, better relationships with families and friends, reduced depression and stress, and better awareness of what was going on around them, according to the studys press release.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University also found that mindfulness can reduce anxiety, according to Harvard Health Publications. Researchers reviewed more than 19,000 meditation studies and found ones psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain lessen with mindfulness.

Mindfulness has long been a practice of some Buddhist believers, according to the Insight Meditation Center, a community-based meditation center that offers information about Buddhist teachings.

Mindfulness helps believers discover more about themselves and the world around them. It also helps believers identity the Self, a central aspect of the religion that, once found, allows believers to achieve true enlightenment, according to the IMC.

This is why mindfulness can be so vital to the faith, IMC explained.

While mindfulness can be practiced quite well without Buddhism, Buddhism cannot be practiced without mindfulness, according to the IMC. In its Buddhist context, mindfulness meditation has three overarching purposes: knowing the mind; training the mind; and freeing the mind."

Still, not every Buddhist engages in the meditation practice, according to CNNs Jeff Wilson. Though it was a popular behavior among Buddhists from ancient eras, more modern Buddhists dont always engage in meditation.

Mindfulness and similar forms of meditation were traditionally the domain of ordained monks and nuns, not the average people who make up the great bulk of Buddhist societies, Wilson wrote. Even for the monks and nuns, meditation was often a peripheral activity, with the greatest honors reserved for scholars and ritual specialists, not meditation masters.

In fact, the traditional Buddhists have stories about the dangers of mindfulness, Wilson said. For example, some meditators were believed to be taken over by evil spirits, and more recent research has found meditators experienced hallucinations and mental trauma, Wilson wrote.

Practicing under the guidance of a trained instructor can help reduce these risks, and careful screening by leaders before extended retreats is also necessary, Wilson wrote.

But people often embrace mindfulness for its ability to put people in the present moment and make them fully aware of their life challenges, Sarah Rudell Beach wrote for The Huffington Post.

This meditation practice allows people to understand their own emotions and way of thinking better, and offers them the opportunity to better handle stressful situations, conflict and lifes challenges, according to Beach.

Mindfulness is a way of meeting our experience with the presence of mind to respond skillfully to life's challenges, rather than reacting based on intense emotions, Beach wrote. It teaches us an awareness of the habits of our minds and allows us to catch ourselves in negative patterns of rumination. We may see that a good deal of our suffering comes from the stories we tell ourselves about the events in our lives, rather than from the events themselves. This human practice of compassionate and intentional awareness requires no dogmatic or spiritual beliefs.
Sign up for our E-Newsletters