Mind-body therapies are a group of healing techniques that enhance the mind’s interactions with bodily function, to induce relaxation and to improve overall health and well-being. Daily practice is essential for deriving benefit from these therapies, which have become increasingly popular over the last two decades.
Mind – Body Therapy OR Integrative psychotherapy is an approach to healing and easing life’s problems by increasing one’s resilience and personal resources. It incorporates the fundamental principles of traditional psychotherapy and holistic medicine to promote healing on all levels: emotional physical, mental and spiritual. Integrative psychotherapy aims to create a healthy alliance between mind and body to enable patients to manage stress and create a healthy lifestyle.
Types of Mind-Body Therapies
Meditation practices involve using the mind to focus one’s attention, regulate breathing, and develop a non-judgmental awareness of thoughts and feelings to achieve inner calmness, physical relaxation, psychological balance, and improved vitality and coping.
A recent meta-analysis of meditation practices characterizes pure meditation practices such as mindfulness meditation and Transcendental Meditation as well as other mind–body practices that have a meditation component (yoga, tai chi, and qigong).
The central element of mindfulness is to acquire attentional control by focusing on events generated internally (bodily sensations, breath, thoughts, emotions) and externally (sights, sounds) at the current moment with nonjudgmental acceptance. Mindfulness meditation has been formalized for clinical interventions with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy.
Acupuncture is a therapeutic component of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It involves the use of very thin needles along with heat, pressure, or electricity to stimulate points on the body, promoting the flow and balance of internal energy. Acupuncture can help treat chronic pain and some symptoms associated with cancer and other chronic disease treatment.
Aromatherapy involves the use of concentrated plant oils, known as essential oils, to improve well-being. It is a popular complementary therapy used to relieve stress and produce other pleasant sensations.
4. Guided Imagery
Guided Imagery involves deliberate use of the power of imagination to recreate mental images, sounds, smells and even tastes, to ease anxiety and to facilitate mind-body healing.
5. Massage Therapy
Massage is effective in reducing symptoms associated with cancer such as pain and anxiety. Current oncology guidelines recommend using massage for depression and mood disorders. Massage is generally safe and increasingly used as a complementary therapy to provide relief from certain symptoms of cancer and other illnesses.
6. Music Therapy
Music therapy can promote relaxation, distract from pain associated with many illnesses, and relieve distress. It can also strengthen and enrich communications and provide support to loved ones.
Qigong, a practice developed in China, integrates body movement, muscle relaxation, and breathing exercises to improve physical, emotional, and psychological health.
8. Tai Chi (Tai Ji)
An ancient Chinese tradition, tai chi is an exercise program that uses a sequence of precise body movements, meditation, and synchronized breathing to improve health and well-being.
Yoga encompasses breathing exercises, moving through various postures, and meditation techniques that can help promote relaxation and health.
10. Relaxation and breathing techniques
Relaxation and breathing techniques utilize awareness of breathing rate, rhythm, and volume. Most often breathing techniques are used to minimize physiologic responses to stress, possibly by increasing parasympathetic response. A relatively simple respiration monitor that facilitates slowing one’s breathing rate has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the reduction of blood pressure.
Hypnosis involves attention and focused concentration with a relative suspension of peripheral awareness.
There are three aspects of hypnosis: absorption, dissociation, and suggestibility. Absorption is the tendency to become fully involved in a perceptual, imaginative, or ideational experience. Dissociation is the mental separation of experiential components that would ordinarily be processed together. Suggestibility is the heightened responsiveness to social cues leading to an enhanced compliance with hypnotic instructions.
Biofeedback is a medical treatment in which physiologic markers like heart rate, breathing rate, EMG, EEG, or electrodermal activity are measured and displayed back to the patient. The patient can then attempt to modulate physiology to achieve a certain feedback goal, such as slowing heart or breath rate, or relaxing certain muscles. The desired feedback goal is based on the specific condition being treated. Numerous psychophysiological studies have been conducted that examine the effect of biofeedback on physiology as well as various clinical conditions resulting in an extensive literature of varying quality.
13. Dance Or Movement Therapy
Dance/movement therapy aims to reconnect your mind and body through movement, and has been scientifically shown to help those in eating disorder recovery.
Benefits of Mind-Body Therapies
The most obvious benefit is that you get to relax and steer clear from the negative effects of stress. There are several aspects that can impact our health such as lifestyle, diet, or our overall mindset. The way we think can have a tremendous effect on our lives. The mind-body therapies aim to promote general healing by targeting your mind, your spirit and your body, and this can significantly reduce the risk for developing diseases such as diabetes, depression, heart attack, stroke, heart disease, etc.
- Mind-body therapies and practices can help prevent stress. This is extremely important because research clearly shows that prolonged stress contributes to serious diseases such as high blood pressure, heart irregularities, anxiety, insomnia, persistent fatigue, digestive disorders, mental health issues, diminished fertility, and diabetes. Stress also suppresses your immune system, which makes you more likely to get new diseases and experience reoccurrences of previous diseases.
- Mind-body therapies encompass self-regulation and positive thinking to help promote self-control, physical health, and emotional well-being.
- Mind-body therapies can come in handy for those who suffer from chronic pain, digestive problems, lowering your blood pressure and your cholesterol, boosting your immune system and improving your sleep. Yoga movements are also great for improving the bowel function and for ensuring optimal digestion.
- Utilizing mind-body techniques and engaging your body in therapy can have a positive impact on your mental health and recovery. And while a mind-body therapy isn’t necessarily a replacement for other kinds of therapy, you can ask your doctor if they think it might be beneficial to you.
- Science has shown yoga can boost your body’s production of “happy” hormones, improve your sleep cycle, reduce inflammation in your body, and naturally slows down your brain’s stress response. This makes yoga a helpful mind-body therapy you can try out in a class led by a certified instructor, or even as a therapeutic activity you can incorporate into your lunch breaks.
- Hypnotherapy is effective at relieving symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, sleep problems, and physical issues, such as chronic pain and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Mediation quite literally changes your brain — improving cognitive function, memory, and your ability to pay attention.
- Biofeedback therapy is to give you insight into how you physically react to anxiety, trauma, or other mental health issues, so you can better control your physiological symptoms. This mind-body therapy has been scientifically proven to help relieve symptoms of PTSD, help people with ADHD focus, and reduce chronic physical pain associated with eating disorders, addiction, and depression.
- The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) has reported that some trauma survivors turn to dance therapy “because dance movement therapy uses movement as the primary means of assessment and communication. Memories that may be too difficult to express verbally can be shared through movement and dissociated feelings.”
- The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) reported, “Recent research suggests that symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression may be positively affected with massage therapy.” In particular, massage therapy has been proven to be a helpful tool for people with headaches, chronic pain, and fibromyalgia.
Overall, your mind and emotions can impact your physical health on a deeper level, and they often play a very important role in the way we experience pain. It often happens that people who suffer from chronic pain are also overly stressed, depressed or anxious. This is where the mind-body therapies can truly make a difference and help you relax. The therapies are rarely used individually. It usually takes a combination of two or more mind-body techniques in order to achieve the desired result.
- nccih.nih.gov – National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
- .ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – US National Library of Medicine
- National Institutes of Health
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