| OWL Venice
Have you ever meditated and felt your anxiety melt away? Maybe you’ve become a yoga enthusiast and simultaneously healed your chronic low back pain. These practices, along with many others, are part of mind-body medicine.
Trauma and stress are things everyone experiences in some way or another. It can cloud the mind, trigger unwanted emotions, and impact you physically. Avoiding it entirely is unlikely, but learning how to manage it can be life-changing. Mind-body medicine can help you harness the power of the mind and improve your health.
What is mind-body medicine?
Mind-body medicine is a method of using your thoughts to influence your health.
Treatments promote self-healing and the use of natural medicine. Mind-body medicine can treat different ailments, including stress, chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.
Here’s where it can get confusing, but just stick with us. The mind is the mental state of consciousness and unconsciousness. Thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and sensations are linked to the mind. What happens inside the mind goes beyond the physical brain, and they both influence the other. Referring to the mind and brain as the same thing is common. But to really understand mind-body medicine, recognizing the differences between the two is essential.
The integrative approach of mind-body medicine has been a major component of Eastern medicine for a long time. It sees the body and mind as one. Western medicine has always looked at the mind and body as separate entities and treats them as such. There’s a reason why it’s been around for so long. As people worldwide become more open to holistic healing, mind-body medicine is becoming a preferred treatment method.
I’m sure you’ve noticed how the topic of stress keeps popping up everywhere. The medical and wellness community is becoming more aware of how this has taken over our daily lives. Stress affects everyone differently, changing the definition from person to person. Constant stress can be harmful long term, bringing unwanted physiological changes to the body. It can contribute to anxiety, depression, PTSD, obesity, heart disease, and Alzheimer's. It induces inflammation which is the starting point for more severe conditions.
We’re living in some of the world's most stressful times. The Covid-19 global pandemic only made it worse. As mental health concerns continue to rise, people are exploring alternative solutions. Mind-body medicine techniques have become a key component for managing those concerns.
Benefits of Mind-Body Medicine
For centuries, Eastern cultures have practiced meditation, acupuncture, mindfulness, yoga, breath work, and other Ayurvedic techniques, as ways to heal. These techniques deepen the mind-body connection. Clearly, they knew what they were doing if people worldwide are still experiencing the benefits. Here are a few reasons why we love mind-body medicine.
Whole-body health or 360 health is a complete view of your health. This is a concept we live by. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects are all considered. Problems in one area of the body can lead to problems in another. Looking at everything as one has been a more effective way to address health concerns for many.
Imagine waking up in the morning knowing you were capable of healing yourself. It’s a real thing! We have more control than we think. Self-healing helps us avoid turning to the medicine cabinet when sick. It can strengthen the relationship between your body and mind and enables you to become aware of the things that are unique to you.
Modern medicine has a lot of pros, but there are also cons. Many medications only relieve the problem for a short time and don’t treat the root cause. They often mask the symptoms instead of curing them, creating other health problems. Mind-body medicine makes it possible to progress into healing permanently. Plus, it can be fun! Think about how great it would be to go to a tai chi class and head to an aromatherapy massage after.
Did you know you can prevent illness before it happens with mind-body medicine? Yup! Your weekly acupuncture or mindfulness session can double as preventative care methods. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help you stop health problems before they start. They say consistency is key for a reason!
Minimal Side Effects
Pharmaceuticals often have a laundry list of serious side effects. You’ve heard the commercials. Because mind-body techniques rely on the ability to heal on your own, this issue is rarely a problem. These medications may help one thing but cause another. Working for and against you can leave you right where you started. It’s also possible that side effects may also worsen over time.
Unique to You
One of the best things about mind-body medicine is that many different techniques exist. There’s no “one size fits all” approach. Mind-body medicine gives you a personalized treatment plan built around your specific needs. You may work with a practitioner or choose your own healing methods. The possibilities just keep going!
Common Mind-body Techniques
Meditation: Sit comfortably, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and get ready to relax your body and mind with a bit of meditation. This practice is catching on everywhere, and the best part is that you can do it anywhere. Research on meditation is expanding as more and more people experience higher productivity, a more relaxed state, and stronger relationships.2 Benefits include:
- Improved quality of life
- Better focus
- Better sleep
- A deeper connection to oneself
- Reduced anxiety
- Acute pain relief
Yoga: Warrior 1, 2, and 3 are about to be your new favorite poses, and here’s why.
Yoga helps clear the mind, brings you more conscious awareness, and boosts your mood. The body may experience improved flexibility, core strength, mobility, and stability. Note how you feel after your next class, and you’ll get why this is one of the most popular forms of exercise and medicine.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT helps people become aware of negative thoughts and trains you to change them. Traumatic situations like abuse and death can lead people into dark places. Sharing these personal moments with others can be challenging, making it difficult to find relief. This type of therapy helps channel the negative into the positive. A practitioner will guide you through navigating these thoughts, so you can eventually apply them independently. Clearing the mind of unwanted thoughts may help mental health conditions like stress, depression, PTSD, phobias, and anxiety. You got this!
Acupuncture: Acupuncture activates specific points in the body with slender needles. Not to worry! These needles are so thin you’ll barely feel them, and the results can be massive. Acupuncture has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. These hard to get to areas makes it an excellent technique for addressing pain. Acupuncture restores the body’s natural energy and can reduce inflammation, especially in the neck and back, joint pain, and migraines.
Biofeedback: Your body needs automated functions to survive, but sometimes those functions can work against us. Biofeedback is a method of controlling those functions to improve health. A practitioner works with you to consciously control these involuntary processes. Sensors track the body’s physiological changes to identify triggers and reactions.3 Heavy breathing from nerves or an increase in heart rate from thinking of past trauma are examples of things biofeedback can help with. It can also be helpful for headaches, chronic pain, ADHD, and constipation.
Stress and illness are part of life, but don’t need to take over your life. When you’re stressed, the body can lose the ability to heal on its own. Stress hormones can have a harmful impact long-term, and it's important to be aware of ways you can avoid this. Learning to increase healing power through the mind can be rewarding and transformative. Now that you know about mind-body medicine, you too can try to implement some of these practices into your own life!
- Mind-body medicine: Mount SinaiThe Broken Brain Podcast: The Life-Changing Benefits of Meditation with Emily Fletcher
- Acupuncture for Parkinson's Disease: Efficacy Evaluation and Mechanisms in the Dopaminergic Neural Circuit: PubMed
- What is biofeedback? Dr. Derek Andre: Revive Naturopathic Medicine
Lilith is originally from The Hudson Valley in New York. Growing up in this area made it easy to access the outdoors, and having a healthy, active lifestyle has always been natural to her. Her sense of adventure and curiosity has taken her around the globe, shaping her perspective on life and human connection.
After graduating from SUNY Purchase College in Westchester, NY, she moved to Brooklyn. From there, she got bit by the travel bug and spent three years traveling on and off all over the world, using NYC as her base. She backpacked solo through South America, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and parts of the Middle East. After returning from a year-long stint overseas, she moved to Aspen where she spent a winter season on the slopes.
Lilith sees the value of art and incorporates it into her life by doing or seeing at least one artistic thing a week. When she's not geeking out over health and wellness, she can be found checking out a new restaurant, seeing live music, and petting every dog she sees walk by.
She currently resides in beautiful, sunny Los Angeles.