Coming from both complementary medicine and the philosophy of mind, the term “mind-body” has become increasingly popular in various scientific fields in the past few decades. Generally lying outside conventional medical models, “mind-body” refers to a category of interventions or modalities based on the premise that the mind and body are inextricably interconnected and invariably influence each other in health and in illness alike. That is, mental states affect physical health and physiological factors affect the mind as well. Ironically, for a perspective that sees the mind and the body and essentially one and the same, discussing the mind and body as “linked” seems to imply that they are somehow separate. Nevertheless, as much as a misnomer as it may be, what has come to be called mind-body medicine seeks to help people be well through the lens of holism –that our consciousness and our biology are not two, but one.
With the growing utilization by Americans of Alternative and Complimentary medicine, there is a growing segment of the population seeking out mind-body interventions (Ernst, 2000). Sometimes people seek this type of help for so-called mind-body disorders (such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and irritable bowel syndrome); and sometimes for more common issues such as chronic pain, diabetes, or anxiety. Often considered an essential part of any integrative or holistic approach to health, mind-body interventions may include yoga, tai chi, aromatherapy, acupuncture, movement therapies, and relaxation techniques (NCCAM). In the context of mental health treatment, some commonly used mind-body techniques include mindfulness meditation, hypnosis, EMDR, yoga therapy, guided imagery, neurofeedback, and biofeedback.
Research into mind-body medicine has made headway in demonstrating the mind-body connection through replicable scientific studies (Damasio, 1994). Whether we look at recent neuropsychiatric discoveries demonstrating the impact of mental states on overall health or studies on the impact of yoga on mental health symptoms, we can see how modern science is trying to catch up (in its way of understanding) with what healers from ancient traditions, such as Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, have known for thousands of years. And progress it has made. While there is an urgent need for more research on the effectiveness of mind-body interventions, enough is known to demonstrate that overall, many of them can be helpful for a variety of physical and mental challenges (D’Silva et al, 2012).
Mind-body interventions influence one’s physical and emotional wellbeing by harnessing the mind’s power to affect physiologicalresponses. For example, our fight-or-flight response to potential danger is involuntary (Goleman, 1996), but we can enter the relaxation response voluntarily by practicing self-regulation, as is learned during a bio-feedback session (Schnieder et al, 1993) or mindfulness meditation. Mind-body medicine holds a bright future in the mental health field, as ancient healing wisdom and modern science become increasingly integrated and more research emerges pointing us towards the most effective treatments.
Stephen F. Lewis, LMHC has expertise in a variety of mind-body techniques to enhance the integrative mental health care he offers. When he creates your individualized wellness strategy with you, he selects appropriate mind-body approaches depending on which are proven to be effective while carefully considering your comfort level and readiness.
Damasio, A. (2005) Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain.
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D’Silva, S., Poscablo, C., Habousha, R., Kogan, M.,Kligler, B. (2012) Mind-body
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Goleman, D. (1996) Emotional Intelligence. Bloomsbury Publishing: London.
Mind Body Practices. Accessed July 30, 2013. Retrieved from the National Center for Complimetary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) website. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/mindbody?nav=gsa
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