AN OVERVIEW OF THE MIND BODY CONNECTION
Chinese medicine and Ayurveda are traditionally founded on the basis that good health lies in balance. In Chinese medicine it is the proper balance of the body’s vital energy (qi or chi), and in Ayurveda the three physiological principles called doshas need to be in balance for optimum health. The Greek physician, Hippocrates, wrote about the humors, or four properties, which must be in balance for a person to be healthy. Across these systems, we find that the balance between the mind and body is a key factor. There is a strong belief that the state of mind can influence the state of the body, or the other way round.
The Power of the Mind
Many traditional medical systems make use of the interconnectedness of the mind and body, and their ability to affect each other. There has been a growing scientific movement during the past 30 years, to explore the mind’s capacity to affect the body. Clinically, this is called mind-body medicine.
The power of the mind’s ability to influence bodily response has now become more apparent in the medical studies. The discovery of the complex interactions between the mind and the neurological and immune systems has stimulated much medical interest, and resulted in a rapid expansion in the area of psychoneuroimmunology.
Mind-body interventions are increasingly being incorporated as part the treatment process. These include psychotherapy, support groups, meditative activities such as yoga or Taijiquan, imagery, hypnosis, biofeedback, dance therapy, music therapy, art therapy, prayer and mental healing. We explore below, some of these methods.
Psychotherapy encompasses a wide range of treatments from combining medication with discussion, to simply listening to the concerns of a patient, to using more active behavioral and emotive approaches. Conventionally, psychotherapy is done primarily through psychologic methods such as suggestion, persuasion, psychoanalysis, and reeducation. All of the therapies can be undertaken either individually or in groups. Research indicates that psychotherapeutic treatment can hasten a recovery from a medical crisis and is in some cases the best treatment for it. Psychotherapy also appears to be valuable in the treatment of somatic illnesses in which physical symptoms appear to have no medical cause. These symptoms are often improved markedly with psychotherapy. In addition, psychotherapy has been shown to speed patients’ recovery time from illness.
There is a widely documented success with Support groups, which are proven to have a powerful, positive effect in a wide variety of physical illnesses, from heart disease to cancer, from asthma to strokes. The success rate could be related to 2 major advantages. One, that these groups help members form bonds with each other, thus empowering the rest of their lives; Two, they are low cost or even "no cost" (for example, Alcoholics Anonymous).
Meditative activities are self-directed practices for relaxing the body, strengthening it, and calming the mind. Most meditative exercises were brought to the West from the Far East, particularly India, China, and Japan. The health benefits have long been recognized, especially in Taijiquan. It has not only been explored as a means of reducing stress on both mind and body, it is often recommend as a way of reducing high blood pressure.
Some studies have found that regular practise of such exercises may result in lower healthcare cost. In fact, persistent practise increases longevity, quality of life, reduces chronic pain, reduces anxiety, reduces high blood pressure, reduces serum cholesterol level, reduces substance abuse, increases intelligence-related measures, reduces blood pressure, and lowers blood cortisol levels initially brought on by stress.
Imagery combines both mental process (as in imagining) and a wide variety of behavioural approaches to encourage changes in attitudes, behavior, or physiological reactions. It has proven to be effective in the treatment of cancer to help patients mobilize their immune systems. It also forms part of a multidisciplinary approach to cardiac rehabilitation and in many settings that specialize in treating chronic pain.
Healing by Hypnosis is the induction of trance states, through the use of therapeutic suggestion. Today, it is widely used for addictions, such as smoking and drug use, for pain controls, and for phobias, such as the fear of flying.
Biofeedback is a treatment method using instruments to feed back physiological information to patients themselves. By monitoring the device, patients can learn to adjust, by trial and error, their thinking in order to control bodily processes; previously thought to be involuntary–such as blood pressure, temperature, gastrointestinal functioning, and brain wave activity.
Dance therapy has been demonstrated to be clinically effective in the following: developing body image, improving self-concept and increasing self-esteem; facilitating attention; ameliorating depression, decreasing fears and anxieties, expressing anger; decreasing isolation, increasing communication skills and fostering solidarity; decreasing bodily tension, reducing chronic pain, and enhancing circulatory and respiratory functions; reducing suicidal ideas, increasing feelings of well-being, and promoting healing; and increasing verbalization.
Music therapy is used for people with developmental disabilities, community mental health centers, drug and alcohol programs, senior centers, nursing homes, hospice programs, correctional facilities, halfway houses, schools, and private practice. It has been found that music therapy is effective as an analgesic, as a relaxant and anxiety reducer for infants and children, and as an adjunctive treatment with burn patients, cancer patients, cerebral palsy patients, and stroke, brain injury, or ParkinsonÆs disease patients.
Art therapy is used to reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, and express unspoken and frequently unconscious concerns about a disease. Besides its use in treatment, it can be used to assess individuals, couples, families, and groups.
Prayer and Mental Healing
Generally, there are 2 main types of Prayer and mental healing techniques. In one, the healer enters into an altered state of consciousness in which he views himself and the patient as a single entity. There is usually no physical contact and no attempt to "do anything" or "give something" to the person in need, only the desire to unite and "become one" with him or her and with the Universe, God, or Cosmos. The other type, uses the sense of touch to transmit an energy flow from their hands to the patients’ affected areas. Both Healer and patient claim a feeling of heat arises. Most studies in this area are not conclusive.
Such therapies or activities offer people the chance to be actively involved in their own health care. These are alternative approaches where our medical system nowadays is too technical, impersonal, remote, and "uncaring". The mind-body approach is a reminder of the importance of human connection that releases our own powers of belief that we can control the directions of our life.
Adapted from an article by James Adams.
Reference Source : Alternative Medicine – Expanding Medical Horizons, a report prepared under the auspices of the Workshop on Alternative Medicine, held in Chantilly VA on September 14-16, 1992. National Institutes of Health.