Here is a past post that received considerable attention and I believe is worth revisiting. Enjoy!

I often say that there are two things that are unavoidable in life besides death and taxes and those are stress and pain. Pain is prevalent, be it physical pain and/or emotional pain. So we can all relate. But what if we could use our minds to change our brains and actually relieve our perception of pain this way?

Jeffrey Schwartz is a psychiatrist and researcher in the field of neuroplasticity and has written on Mindfulness and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In a 2006 article titled “Plasticity in Brain Processing and Modulation in Pain” with Donald Price and Nicholas Verne, they said:

When sufficient attention is focused on the experience of pain relief, the associated brain circuitry becomes dynamically stable. This acute effect of focused attention can then enable the well-validated principle of Hebb (1955), namely that repeated patterns of neural activity can cause neuroplastic changes and new connectivities to form in well-established neural circuits (‘‘cells that fire together wire together’’). This type of attention-based mechanism of neuroplastic change has been termed self-directed neuroplasticity to emphasize that alterations in CNS function can be readily driven by and dynamically modified by willfully directed mental events (Schwartz and Begley, 2002; Schwartz et al., 2005). As was stated above, mental events change the activity of the brain in a dynamic manner. Basic principles of contemporary physics now enable us to place this empirically well-validated fact within theoretically coherent, scientifically grounded, and technically described context.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was first designed as a systematic program to work with Chronic Pain. Perhaps the people who have taken that course actually changed their brains so that their perception of their pain has changed. That would be truly amazing, and if that’s true, we can all take a step back, pause and sit in awe that we have the power to change our brains.

Here’s the rub: In a recent post Neuroplasticity: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, I discussed how we can also place our attention in ways that change our brains in the direction where we perceive greater pain. In other words, what and how we place our attention affects the growth of our brain, which then automatically shifts our minds and vice versa in a cycle.

So when it comes to our pain, it’s important to pay attention to how we’re paying attention to our pain. Are we damning it or trying to ignore it? Research has shown that bringing the attitudes of mindfulness (e.g. beginner’s mind, non-striving, letting be, etc. …), all serve to change our perception of pain. So can this then, in effect, change the way our neurons fire automatically so the perception of pain lessens? That’s what neuroscientists are saying.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.



View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 2 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.

    Last reviewed: 20 Aug 2010

APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2010). Change Your Brain, Change Your Pain. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 1, 2015, from


Mindfulness & Psychotherapy

Subscribe to this Blog:

Or Get a Single, Daily Email (enter email address):

via FeedBurner



Books and CDs by Dr. Elisha Goldstein:
Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind

The Now Effect: How This Moment Can Change The Rest of Your Life
A Mindfulness-Based
Stress Reduction Workbook

Subscribe to this Blog:

Or Get a Single, Daily Email (enter email address):

via FeedBurner

Recent Comments
  • Sara Jacobovici: Thank you so much Elisha for a beautifully written article. As an “integrator” I...
  • Kim Fredrickson, MFT: Thanks so much for all you have contributed in the area of self-compassion. I think that the...
  • jony: I m 26 years old girl. My childhood was very messy.tho i have my parents but i never lived with them. The...
  • Primus Hospital: I have enjoyed reading your blog. And am looking forward for more such blogs, Keep writing these...
  • John David Werner: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within...
Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code

Users Online: 12240
Join Us Now!