If you thought you were the only one who’d rather get a bikini wax than meditate for 15 minutes, you’re not alone: New research in Science reveals some people hate the idea so much, they’d rather shock themselves. Seriously.
When given the opportunity to simply sit by themselves and daydream, participants in 11 studies ranging in age from 18 to 77 generally did not enjoy their quiet time. In fact, they found it so unpleasant that 67% of the men and 25% of the women opted to self-administer an electric shock in order to cut their 15 minutes of alone time short.
Enjoyment wasn’t the only issue. Study author David Reinhard, a doctoral student at the University of Virginia, was surprised participants found the “thinking period” not only miserable, but difficult. “We tried different kinds of interventions: We tried giving a variety of topics to think about, suggestions for how they should try to control (or not control) their thoughts, as well as giving them an object to fiddle with,” he explains.
If you guessed that this discomfort with stillness is a result of our dependence upon technology, you’re partly right. But what’s really happening, says Reinhard, is an evolutionary trait at work. “The human mind evolved to engage with the world to be vigilant for dangers as well as seek out opportunities,” he says. And while we possess the ability to mentally disengage from the world, it’s not something we get to do often. “Participants chose to engage with the outside world, even if that engagement involves pain,” he says.
If you can empathize with the electric shock group, there’s no reason to feel badly or fear you’re missing out on anything, says Reinhard. “Meditation involves training and consistent practice, which highlights some of the difficulties people face when trying to entertain themselves with only their thoughts.” But if you’d like to give some alone time a whirl and aren’t sure where to start, these meditations that match your personality can help.