Meditation makes people more relaxed and able to withstand pain if it has a spiritual basis, say scientists.
Student volunteers were put into three groups, one asked to concentrate on a phrase such as “God is love” or “God is peace” as they meditated, another to focus on messages such as “I am happy” or “I am joyful” and a third were simply told to relax.
They were instructed to practise their technique for 20 minutes a day for two weeks. The researchers used psychological profiling to assess their mood at the beginning and end of each week.
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They also tested pain tolerance by measuring the amount of time the volunteers could keep their hands in water cooled to 2C.
Those practising spiritual meditation showed greater reductions in anxiety than the other groups, and were able to hold their hands in cold water for nearly twice as long.
Amy Wachholtz, a Phd student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, US, who conducted the study, told New Scientist magazine that spiritual medication delivered more than deep relaxation.
“It is also likely that there is something unique inherent in the practice of spiritual meditation that cannot be completely conveyed through secular meditation and relaxation.”