Mind-body medicine can greatly improve health
In a perspective written for the New England Journal of Medicine, experts are calling for mind-body medicine to be fully integrated into patient treatment plans and medical research. Relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga are not just good for general well-being, but can also buffer some of the dangerous health effects of stress.
According to study lead author Michelle Dossett of UC Davis Health, stress exacerbates anxiety and depression and plays a role in many conditions such as cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic pain.
“By reducing the body’s stress response, mind-body practices can be a powerful adjunct in medicine by helping to decrease patients’ symptoms and improving their quality of life,” explained Dossett.
She pointed out that mind-body practices can also reduce stress related to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Study senior author Dr. Herbert Benson is the founder of the Benson-Henry Institute (BHI) for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Benson was one of the first Western physicians to bring spirituality and healing into medicine, and is well-known for his work with the Relaxation Response.
“The Relaxation Response is an inborn, anti-stress capacity that transcends the differences that separate mind from body, science from spirituality and one culture from another,” Dr. Benson stated previously.
At BHI, mind-body medicine is known as the third leg of a three-legged stool. The first leg is surgery, the second is treatment with pharmaceuticals, and the third is self-care. For the self-care approach, patients learn about health and fitness interventions such as exercise, nutrition, and mind-body medicine.
“Western medicine has produced revolutionary health benefits through advances in pharmacotherapies and procedures,” wrote the researchers. “It now faces enormous challenges in battling stress-related noncommunicable diseases.”
“Chronic pain, often perpetuated by psychosocial stress, has become an epidemic that our pharmaceutical arsenal is poorly equipped to handle and medical costs continue to soar. Mind-body therapies can be a helpful adjunct in managing chronic pain and other stress-related noncommunicable diseases by fostering resilience through self-care.”
The research is published in the the New England Journal of Medicine.