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Episode 36: Pain and Your Brain: How to Increase Productivity and Decrease Pain

Video Highlights

- Recent neuroscience studies are proving that the areas of the brain that control focus and pain are directly related and by strengthening one, you can simultaneously strengthen the other.
- Quick, daily tricks to improve your focus (and productivity!) may improve your ability to feel LESS pain over the course of your life.
- 3 ways to strengthen focus: A candle, a dot, and even the right computer game. (I'll show you how in the video.)

Hi everybody.

Dr. Cobb back with you.

Hope you’re having a fantastic week.

Now, what I want to do this week is I want to talk about the power of a candle and a dot on pain.

Now, that may sound a little bit weird, but to kind of set the story in place, I want to tell you that I got to thinking today, just about some early practices from my martial arts career which has now spanned almost thirty nine years, and modern neuroscience. Let me talk to you a little bit about the study and what it means.

A study just came out and I found it really fascinating because as we’re delving deeper into the brain, we’re understanding more and more about how pain works. Now, what they found in this most recent study is that people with kind of a higher threshold of pain … in other words, an ability to withstand pain more readily … they actually have more of what’s called gray matter in different parts of the brain.

One of the areas where they have more gray matter, which shows that they have basically used that area of the brain a little bit more, is a spot that controls attention and focus. It’s in what’s called the parietal lobe. Now, that doesn’t matter. What really matters is what goes on there and once again, that area is designed to help us control our thoughts, to control our focus and attention.

As I was reading that study, and I thought, “You know, that’s really interesting,” because whenever I was a kid, one of the exercises that our martial arts instructor had us do … He said, “This is a focus exercise,” and so he would send us home and he’d say, “Okay, take a piece of paper. Draw a big dot on it. Put it up on the wall and then just sit and stare at the dot for as long as you can without losing focus.” Alternatively, he said, “You know, you can light a candle and just watch the candle flame from a distance away. Again, try not to lose focus.”

His goal for us was to actually obtain thirty minutes of just constant focus on that one point. Now, as a kid, that was really hard and to be honest, as an adult that’s still really hard because it requires training, but what I can distinctly remember is that when I began doing these really focused concentration practices, even when I was really young, not only did my body change but I can remember that as I was able to control my brain, I was able to control my pain more, and that is exactly what some of these new studies are starting to point to.

How does this all benefit you? How does knowing about this help you? Well, one of the things I would recommend is that part of your daily or weekly practices be something that causes you to concentrate. Now, it can be something as simple as what I just described. In some of our other courses, we talk about the visual system a lot. We call it ‘gaze fixation’, just looking at a spot for a prolonged period. You can, as I said, use a candle.

Alternatively, you can do almost anything that makes you focus intensely. You can get games on your phone or your iPad or your computer that are memory games where you’re having to see different things pop up. The point that I’m trying to make is that when you challenge your brain to focus, to maintain attention, there is a huge long term benefit, not only in a performance setting, but also potentially in decreasing the amount of pain that you feel throughout your life.

Think about that. Think about the added benefit that you might get from not only improving your memory, and like I said, your ability to concentrate at work or at school in terms of productivity. You also, as you’re improving your productivity, may improve your ability to feel less pain. I really want you to think about that this week. Simple easy ideas that I want you to continually figure out, “How can I incorporate this into my life?”

I hope you find this intriguing. I’ll talk more about that particular study and a couple of connected studies in future videos. Thanks.

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