How Does Mind-Body Healing Work?
When someone uses the phrase “mind-body healing” – do you react with cynicism or fascination? The practice involves using the power of your thoughts and emotions to affect your physical self – to soothe stress, calm your heart rate, or even make you well if you’re sick.
"The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well." ~ Hippocrates
Some of the oldest known forms of medicine have utilized the natural connection between your mind and your body to aid in treating all manner of illness and disease for thousands of years.
Native American shamans and Ayurvedic practitioners as well as those still skilled in the arts of Traditional Chinese Medicine believe that the power of the mind can be focused specifically on an area of your body to assist external means of healing.
Over the last century, skeptics dismissed mind-body healing as “fluff” without a scientific foundation. The medical and scientific community in the Western world felt that the mind was completely separate from the body and that one did nothing to influence the other.
Those skeptics are now eating their words.
Prominent medical universities across the United States now offer mind-body studies to their students.
They are studying and proving the links between mental and physical health in various areas of specialization.
The University of Maryland Medical Center notes when the tide slowly began to turn:
- Psychiatrist George Solomon (1964) – Discovered that those who suffer with rheumatoid arthritis experience an increase in inflammation response when their mood is depressed or stressed.
- Physician Herbert Benson (1970) – Notices that patients with high blood pressure experience a dramatic drop when they begin to use meditation.
- Psychologist Robert Adler (1975) – Proves that your immune system is directly affected by signals from your mental and emotional state.
Though there is still doubt throughout the medical community, some “mainstream” practices – such as yoga and meditation – are beginning to make their way into complementary treatment. Complementary medicine is the blend of “alternative” and “traditional” methods of healing. It has proven to be particularly effective with serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.
Taking Mind-Body Healing to the Next Level
The phenomenon known as the “placebo effect” is when a patient is told they are receiving a beneficial treatment or drug (but actually are not) and their belief in the supposed “cure” causes them to get better.
This particular side effect of drug trials has fascinated scientists for many years and now the singularity of the placebo effect is being actively used to treat illness and disease.
Some conditions show improvement even when the patient knows they are receiving a placebo – a zero efficacy version – instead of the study drug.
Researchers now know that this is due to the mind-body connection. A patient believes in the drug and has expectations of getting better…then their mind influences body chemistry to create those results.
“We can no longer pretend that the patient’s perceptions don’t matter. Your mind is in every cell of your body.” ~ David Felten, PhD, University of Rochester School of Medicine
Physical, measurable changes within the patient’s body that mimic the “benefit” of the drug so closely that it can be difficult for studies to determine the control group (those receiving the placebo) from the test group (those receiving the drug trial).
These methods are being used in current medicine and the results are astounding. Thus far, the conditions that have responded most notably to mind-body healing are:
- Cancer and the side effects of cancer treatment
- High blood pressure
- Chronic pain and fibromyalgia
- Depression or other emotional conditions
- Insomnia (lack of sleep) or hypersomnia (too much sleep)
- Digestive issues
- Symptoms of menopause
- Chronic fatigue
- Physical indicators of stress or anxiety
Though mind-body healing should not take the place of current medical treatment, the power of your own mind to help you get better should never be discounted. The key is taking your potential and training your brain to affect change within your physical self. Focusing without distraction on your desired outcome.
Most Common Forms of Mind-Body Techniques
- Biofeedback – Influencing your involuntary physical responses such as heart rate, pain response, and stress hormones.
- Relaxation – Using visualization, tensing and then easing muscles in your body, hypnosis, your personal spirituality and faith, or a type of meditation to purposefully calm the mind and body using a specific set of steps
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Recognizing the presence of negative or harmful thought patterns, stopping them, and reversing them to positive thoughts.
Start your personal journey in mind-body healing right now!