Mind-body medicine refers to a range of therapies that use the healing power of the mind to benefit physical well-being. Some of these therapies are being used more and more frequently to help patients overcome or cope with health problems. They work very well as a form of complementary medicine, sometimes yielding a tremendous response and other times simply promoting relaxation and allowing an individual to better deal with a disease or other treatments for disease.
The following are some of the many mind-body techniques that are being used today. Some, such as meditation can be practiced by the individual, while others, such as biofeedback, require the help of a medical professional. Other techniques can be learned from a therapist and then practiced at home as needed.
Meditation has been practiced in different parts of the world for thousands of years, not only as a form of healing but as a way of life. The beauty of this mind-body technique is that anyone has access to meditation at any time. No lessons are required, no money has to be spent — to meditate one only needs to set aside time to clear the mind and breathe. (You can of course choose to pay to learn some forms of meditation).
There are many different types of meditation, from mindfulness to transcendental meditation. While not a replacement for regular medical care, meditation offers every individual the ability to improve well-being by integrating this technique into their daily life.
Biofeedback involves the use of electronic equipment to monitor mostly involuntary bodily processes. Some form of relaxation therapy or technique, such as meditation, guided imagery or exposure to sound is used to create a response, such as a change in blood pressure or skin temperature, which can be viewed on a monitor. The intention of biofeedback sessions is to teach a patient to have some control over unhealthy or erratic biological functions. This technique can be used for a variety of issues and conditions, including hypertension, anxiety, tension headaches and asthma.
Guided imagery is a helpful technique for helping patients cope with medical treatments, for psychological issues such as grief and depression and for improving overall well-being. With this therapy a person mentally follows a series of images and thoughts that evoke awareness in one’s imagination. This is meant to set off a positive response with the nervous and endocrine system. Guided imagery therapy is not for everyone, but many people benefit from working with a trained therapist or even listening to pre-recorded tapes made by a therapist.
Hypnotherapy is another form of mind-body medicine that requires a qualified therapist. In a session a patient is brought to a state of deep relaxation, yet heightened receptivity. This allows the mind to listen to verbal suggestions and the body to respond. Hypnotherapy is very helpful as a form of complementary medicine for pain-related conditions. As with guided imagery, hypnotherapy can be learned to some extent by a trained therapist, allowing the patient to practice self-care at home.
The Power of the Mind
These and other mind-body techniques offer something unique to the field of medicine. They are a source of non-invasive therapy but they also supply us a clue as to how powerful the mind is and the potential we have to heal ourselves. Mind-body medicine is not a substitute for other forms of treatment, nor is it a cure for disease, but it is a powerful healing tool.
University of Maryland Medical Center. Mind-body medicine. https://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/mind-body-000355.htm
Balch, Phyllis A. “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).
Page, Linda “Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone” 11th Edition (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).
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