Increase Your Pain Threshold
"Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional," the saying goes. And it might just be mind over matter when it comes to how sensitive you are towards pain. In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers gave a group of healthy participants a pain test before and after a mindfulness meditation session to see if focusing the mind (on neutral, non-judging thoughts) might mitigate any subjective perceptions of physical pain by changing how their brains process the hit. What we feel with our senses has as much to do with our brain as with our bodies, the researchers hypothesized in the paper. And so it seemed: After 80 minutes of meditation, the individual's perception of their pain was cut nearly in half compared to what they felt before the session. And MRI images taken before and after meditation revealed changes in the areas of the brain known to be associated with pain processing, like the orbitofrontal cortex.
The study isn't alone: In 2010, Researchers at the University of Manchester also found that people who engaged in mindfulness meditation on a long-term, regular basis had a much better tolerance for pain because their brains anticipated the pain less: instead of worrying about the emotional impact of the hit, they were focused on the present moment, thereby dampening down the perception of hurt a few notches.