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Meditation. Part Two. By Our October Student Pharmacist, Andrea Lee.


In part one of this meditation series, we defined and discussed meditation.

Hopefully, you have acquired a basic way to begin your meditation practice. To encourage you, in this part of the series, we will talk about tips to help you further develop your basic technique and address some common issues that you might run in to. These ideas will help you start meditating with greater ease.

Then, we will discuss the evidence that is available that supports the effectiveness of this activity.

Tips while starting out:

  • Your mind may wander to other thoughts during meditation and that is okay. Allow your thoughts to wander, but bring your mind back to your breath and think “in” and “out” when appropriate.
  • Start meditating by being aware of five breaths.  You can use your fingers to keep count.
  • If five breaths are difficult and, you find your mind wandering more than you would like, you can reduce this to three breaths.
  • Slowly increase the number of breaths to beyond ten and see if you can meditate for one minute or more.
  • Slowly increase your time from one minute to five minutes with a goal of 10-15 minutes.
  • You can reflect on your experience and write down what you noticed while you meditated in a journal or log book.
  • It is important to not feel guilty if your mind wanders a lot, or you feel sleepy.  If this happens, allow it to happen and guide the mind back to the breath.

Here are some practical places to meditate so that you can incorporate meditation into your daily activities:

  • Right before you go to bed
  • Right after you wake up
  • In a quiet room
  • In the restroom behind a closed and locked stall
  • On public transit or on a bus
  • In an office behind a closed door where you will not be disturbed for 30 minutes
  • In your car in a quiet area
  • At the park
  • Right after yoga class on your yoga mat
  • In a comfortable chair or on your couch

In a three day experiment where patients were monitored for their anxiety and mindfulness levels, patients were told to just follow their breath for the first day. On the second day, they extended their focus to follow their breath for longer periods of time. By the third day, participants were encouraged to scan their body and focus on all the sensations they experienced throughout their whole body. As you can see, this experiment gradually progressed each participant to more advanced levels of mindfulness.

You might ask how does meditation do all this? A recent study evaluated the use of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and how it relates to short and long term improvement in pain relief. The degree of back pain, and its impact on functionality, as well as pain bothersomeness were measured. With a commitment of two hours a week, patients in the study participated in relaxation, yoga, and meditation. As a result, “high[er] levels of mindfulness [were] linked to decreased pain perception and overall better functioning.

Mindfulness can uncouple the body’s sensing of pain and the emotional stress that comes along with chronic pain and thus reduce suffering caused by pain overall. Benefits were seen as soon as three days with pain almost halved on a 0 to 10 pain scale.  

How meditation eases pain:

  • Physically uncouples the sensation of pain and the emotional effect of experiencing pain
  • Lowers stress levels has an analgesic effect
  • Produces less depressive symptoms
  • Causes an acceptance of pain and lowered avoidance
  • Allows more focus towards goals that are reasonable to achieve

How meditation and mindfulness can directly benefit you and your overall health:

  • Lower anxiety
  • Improve symptoms of depression and hopelessness
  • Foster a greater sense of relaxation
  • Lower your stress levels
  • Increase your quality of life
  • Improve self-regulation

Having a meditation practice will definitely help you. It is additionally optimal to make it part of your regular pain management regimen. Hopefully, you will find yourself reaching less for the pain medication on the countertop, but rather returning to mindfulness found through your own breath.


Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Balderson BH, et. al. Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction vs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Usual Care on Back Pain and Functional Limitations in Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2016 Mar 22-29;315(12):1240-9. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.2323. http://jamanetwork.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/journals/jama/fullarticle/2504811. Accessed October 11 2017.

Chiesa A, Serretti A. Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE
Volume 17, Number 1, 2011, pp. 83–93 DOI: 10.1089/acm.2009.0546

Morone NE, Greco CM, Moore CG. A Mind-Body Program for Older Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Mar;176(3):329-37. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.8033. http://jamanetwork.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2495275. Accessed October 12 2017.

Zeidan F, Emerson NM, Farris SR, .Mindfulness Meditation-Based Pain Relief Employs Different Neural Mechanisms Than Placebo and Sham Mindfulness Meditation-Induced Analgesia. J Neurosci. 2015 Nov 18;35(46):15307-25. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2542-15.2015. http://www.jneurosci.org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/content/35/46/15307.long. Accessed October 10 2017.

Zeidan F, Gordon NS, Merchant J, Goolkasian P. The effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on experimentally induced pain. J Pain. 2010 Mar;11(3):199-209. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.07.015. Epub 2009 Oct 22.
http://www.sciencedirect.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/science/article/pii/S1526590009006919 Accessed October 11 2017

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