Ahh! Meditation. It seems to be a cure to everything. No week goes by that some article proclaims magical abilities to this practice. Better sex, better health, better everything.
I guess it has some merit if you read scientific literature, but it won’t be the silver bullet to all of your problems. Life is more complicated than just noticing your breathing for ten minutes every day. But there is one situation where meditation can help – hangover!
My first hangover
I had my first hangover when I was 14. It is nothing to brag about, but this explains why I got to be so wise in my early 20s. At least in the matters of alcohol and its consumption. Anyway on with my story.
So in my early teens, I happened to be wasted more than on one occasion. This was partly because I had an older brother who had parties at our place when our parents weren’t at home. As a boy who was becoming a man, I saw alcohol the next logical thing to try out. I can’t deny that in some ways it was also a way to be part of the group. My brother and his friends were four years older than me. I wanted to belong to that group as well.
My very first time I drank a glass or two of really horrible red wine after which I drank a glass of white wine. A weird choice I know, but I presume that was the only stuff we got our hands on. At least this is the way I remember it.
I ended up so wasted that I passed out. When I woke up in the morning, I felt like shit. Can’t say that I relished the memory enough to remember it clearly but what I do remember is that I swore not to drink again until I was at least 18.
Did I keep my promise? Of course not! What kind of a lame story would it be otherwise?
In the spirit of science
In the following years, I had many encounters with different spirits. Sometimes, rarely, I woke up without any hangover. My head was clear. I could eat my breakfast and thought to myself – “finally I have figured this hangover thing out! I have to drink only vodka AND beer and snacking baby carrots in between”. To my dismay, this, of course, didn’t cure my hangovers.
I experimented a lot. I tried to drink only fermented drinks, then only distilled ones, then mixing them. Empty stomach, full stomach. Fatty foods and then just healthy vegetable while drinking. I even once tried to cure my hangover with vigorous exercise – didn’t end very well I can confess. One by one all my theories were crushed with the cruel morning nausea and headache. Instead of continuing like Thomas Edison with the electric lightbulb – I gave up.
I also came to realize that there are people out there who don’t get any symptoms after heavy drinking. One of my good friends can literally drink like a horse, and once he starts to sober up, he only grumbles about being a little bit tired. For me? I usually get the holy trinity: headache, nausea and self-loathing.
It wasn’t until I was 19 that I had an epiphany. After one of those nights when I had been drinking everything that burns with my friends, I woke up in the morning with a full-blown hangover. My girlfriend at the time was sleeping next to me. In this weird flash of ingenuity, I asked my girlfriend if she would like to have sex. I pleaded that her tender love is the only thing that could cure me. I don’t remember how I convinced her. But somehow we ended up doing it which cured my hangover… for 30 minutes!
Though I still ended up suffering most of the day, this made me think. How can one just forget that he has a hangover? Is hangover just a state of mind? What’s the biology behind hangovers? Is it really that more dominant sensation can depress the weaker?
Being turned on and having an orgasm outweighs the weaker sensations of heartburn and other symptoms of a hangover. This is accomplished by dopamine. From a biological point of view, orgasm is a release of dopamine – the so-called pleasure hormone.
While I knew this, I wasn’t fully convinced that it is the sole reason why my hangovers melted away during arousal. In those moments my mind turns towards the pleasure sensation. Everything else is back noise and melts away. So I started to ask myself, can hangover symptoms be ignored? Can I concentrate on some other feeling and ignore all else?
This hypothesis needed to be tested!
Over the next few years, I kept practicing meditation during hangovers. Slowly but steadily this carried its fruits. It wasn’t 100% success of course as a meditation during a severe headache is extremely hard. If you have practicing it before, you know that it can be challenging even if you are sober and otherwise well.
My depressive self-loathing bouts became less and less pronounced. The feeling of nausea eased, and it reduced the sense of fatigue. It didn’t do much against the pounding headache though. But overall my condition improved to the point that I wasn’t praying anymore to whoever was listening to cure me.
How meditation helps
So how does this work? Well, scientific literature has shown that during meditation our brain activity slows down. Including the flow of sensory data from our body. Simply put, meditation dulls the hangover symptoms.
It could be that in time once I master meditation, I will conquer the horrible condition once and for all. Or I will just quit drinking. But should you be in a deserted island figuratively speaking, without any other treatments available, then consider meditating. Concentrate on a sensation of being healthy, you being on a beach, or on your breathing. Try to keep at it. And you will notice that your hangover gets a lot more bearable.