How Meditation and Tattoos Can Change Your Relationship to Pain

By Ruswedd

Practicing meditation and getting a tattoo might sound like two of the least-related activities you could engage in. But, spoiler alert: they’re not. Meditation and tattoos actually have a lot in common. Better yet, starting up a meditation practice can ease the process of getting your next ink. Here’s why.

Meditation can make you more comfortable when you get a tattoo

Meditation and Tattoos and Pain
Photo by Mor Shani

You may already know that meditation helps connect you to your body, and practicing meditation can help relieve anxiety. But why would someone going through pain, for instance, during a particularly painful tattoo (like their wrist, stomach, neck, or back of the knee), want to focus on their body? It may seem counterintuitive, but being fully present can help manage pain. Rather than trying to distract yourself from the pain, use mindfulness meditation to bring your attention to your body.

The reason meditation can relieve tattoo pain is that pain comes in two forms: what is happening to your body and how your mind perceives it. Surprisingly, your mind’s perception of pain can be quite a bit worse than the reality of what’s happening to your body. So, accomplished meditators can relieve the worst of their pain, but even beginners tend to see a forty percent improvement. When you meditate, you become an observer of the present moment, which can help put a little distance between your mind and the pain of a tattoo needle.

TL;DR, start meditating now, even if your tattoo appointment is in the distant future.

There’s no getting around it; tattoos are painful

Pain, Meditation and Tattoos
Photo by Janko Ferlič

The price of getting a beautiful piece is more than just the cost of a session with your artist; it’s also a few hours of pain. Suffering for your art sounds poetic until you sit down in the chair and someone starts digging into your skin with hot needles. The last thing you want to do is become overwhelmed and start wondering if you can make it through to the end. And then you’ll have a few days of sunburn-like pain, but afterward, your body will have a permanent piece that you (hopefully!) love. But sometimes, the pre-tattoo nerves about pain are the worst part, which is something meditation can alleviate. Meditation not only relieves pain, but it can help your anxiety—in general, not just when you’re getting a tattoo.

Meditation and tattoos go together like  tacos and Tuesday

Both meditation and tattoos change your relationship to pain. Meditation helps relieve pain because you focus on your breath, stay calm, release endorphins, and reduce resulting inflammation—sometimes even more effectively than a prescription.

Getting a tattoo is an experience where your mind connects to your body, and also your body connects to your mind. The pain brings you back to the present, and your goals help you commit to the pain. Your tattoo is a permanent reminder that you can handle discomfort. And the way you handle pain has a significant impact on how much pain you experience.

(And speaking of tacos and Tuesdays…Crush Your Tuesday with These Top-Rated Taco Recipes)

Where to find tattoo-specific meditations

Meditations specific to tattoos are still a little hard to find. On the bright side, free meditation apps abound. Find an app you like, and make sure they have an extensive section on pain management. You’ll be ready for your next appointment in no time.

Get inspired for your next piece in the Tattooed Women gallery!