The concept that the mind is important in health and illness dates back to ancient times. In the West, the notion that mind and body were separate began during the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras. Increasing numbers of scientific and technological discoveries furthered this split and led to an emphasis on disease-based models, pathological changes, and external cures. The role of mind and belief in health and illness began to re-enter Western health care in the 20th century, led by discoveries about pain control via the placebo effect and effects of stress on the body.
Mind-body medicine focuses on the interaction among the brain, the rest of the body, the mind, and behavior.
At Integrative Medical Institute we offer various mind – body therapy techniques including:
- Mindfulness Techniques
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Guided imagery
What are mind-body therapies?
Mind-body therapies use the body to affect the mind, such as yoga, progressive relaxation, meditations mindfulness and hypnosis.
What is meant by the word “mind?”
The “mind” is not synonymous with brain. The mind consists of mental states such as thoughts, emotions, beliefs, attitudes, and images. The brain is the hardware that allows us to experience these cognitive states.
Mental states can be fully conscious or unconscious. We can have emotional reactions to situations without being aware of why we are reacting. Each mental state has a physiology associated with an effect felt in the physical body. For example, the mental state of anxiety causes you to produce stress hormones and can lead to heart palpitations, nausea, pain amongst other symptoms.
What is the history of mind-body connection?
Awareness of the mind-body connection is by no means new. Until approximately 300 years ago, virtually every system of medicine throughout the world treated the mind and body as a whole. But during the 17th century, the Western world started to see the mind and body as two distinct entities. In this view, the body was kind of like a machine, complete with replaceable, independent parts, with no connection whatsoever to the mind.
This Western viewpoint has definite benefits, acting as the foundation for advances in surgery, trauma care, pharmaceuticals, and other areas of allopathic medicine. However, it also greatly reduces scientific inquiry into humans’ emotional and spiritual life, and downplays the innate ability to heal.
In the 20th century, this view has gradually started to change. Researchers have begun to study the mind-body connection and scientifically demonstrate complex links between the body and mind.
What is the mind-body connection?
This means that our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. In other words, our minds can affect how healthy our bodies are!
On the other hand, what we do with our physical body (what we eat, how much we exercise, even our posture) can impact our mental state (again positively or negatively). This results in a complex interrelationship between our minds and bodies.
At the Integrative Medical Institute (IMI) and as mind-body specialists we believe that the mind and body are essentially inseparable: “the brain and peripheral nervous system, the endocrine and immune systems, and indeed, all the organs of our body and all the emotional responses we have, share a common chemical language and are constantly communicating with one another health.
The ways in which emotional, mental, social, spiritual, experiential, and behavioral factors can directly affect health.
- The 2007 National Health Interview Survey found that 19.2% of American adults and 4.3% of children aged 17 and younger had used at least one form of mind-body therapy in the year prior to the survey.
- Pain was the most common reason for its use in this survey.
- Many studies document that psychological stress is linked to a variety of health problems, such as increased heart disease, compromised immune system functioning, and premature cellular and cognitive aging. Some evidence suggests that mind-body therapies could reduce psychological stress.
- Recent results from NIH-funded studies on mind-body therapies include:
- Pain sufferers often seek relief though mind-body therapies. A review of the evidence on various mind-body therapies to help treat certain neurological diseases involving pain found some evidence for positive effects from some therapies–including biofeedback for migraine headache, yoga for fatigue from multiple sclerosis, and relaxation therapy as a part of comprehensive programs to help control epileptic seizures.
- In a study of 60 breast cancer survivors, women who used hypnosis reduced the number and severity of hot flashes and also reported improvements in mood and sleep.
- A small preliminary trial suggests that meditation may be a strategy to help prevent and/or reduce the cognitive decline of normal aging.
- A study of 63 people with rheumatoid arthritis found that stress reduction helped to improve quality of life and reduce psychological distress.
- A study of 298 college students found that meditations helped students reduce stress and improve coping strategies.
- In a study of 50 women, regular practice of yoga benefited mood and physiological response to stress.
- People with fibromyalgia may benefit from practicing yoga/mindfulness according to a study in 66 people. Study participants who practiced tai chi had a significantly greater decrease in total score on the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire. In addition, the yoga group demonstrated greater improvement in sleep quality, mood, and quality of life.
- Yoga may also be a safe alternative to conventional exercise for maintaining bone mineral density in postmenopausal women, thus helping to prevent or slow osteoporosis, increase musculoskeletal strength, and improve balance.
In the Future
- A research collaborative is examining how patient expectations and other factors in patient-provider interactions may produce biological effects that play a role in health outcomes. Results from this research will inform how health care providers relate to their patients, and will also help to explain the biological mechanisms underlying mind-body medicine.
- Obesity and metabolic syndrome are increasingly common conditions that increase risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. An experimental program that combines mindfulness meditation, “mindful eating,” and diet/exercise may help to control these conditions. Researchers are testing whether the program improves hormonal responses to stress and aids weight control.
- A study of loving-kindness/compassion meditation and mindfulness meditation is looking at effects on the brain/body—especially regulation of emotions. Can meditation train the mind to change the brain? Findings may have applications for conditions linked with emotions and stress, such as recurrent depression.
Interested in Mind-Body Therapies?
We can provide these techniques separately, as individual sessions, group consultation, training and/or include them as part of our other forms of treatment such as part of psychotherapy, medical consultation, yoga, IV or osteopathic treatments.