Mindfulness meditation is a state of awareness in which one remains non-judgmental and non-reactive towards one’s own thoughts and emotions from moment to moment. Research indicates it may lead to changes in the brain that provide health benefits, particularly for people suffering from fibromyalgia (chronic pain syndrome). These patients live with musculoskeletal pain and fatigue on a daily basis. As a result, they often avoid pain-related threats and dwell on thoughts of pain, making it harder to cope with their illness.
In a study of female fibromyalgia patients who practiced mindfulness meditation, Dr. David Vago, a cognitive neuroscientist in the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), found that after eight weeks of mindfulness meditation training, patients were less likely to avoid pain-related words and were less distracted by such words when performing attention-demanding tasks. In other words, they were more likely to engage with their pain and had fewer tendencies to dwell on such thoughts after completion of the study. While fibromyalgia patients who meditated still sensed their pain, they were able to manage their emotional responses more effectively.