The Power of the Mind-Body Connection

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The Power of the Mind-Body Connection

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By Kevin Kunkel, MA, CMT, CYT, LMFT

According to Harvard medical professor and researcher Dr Herbert Benson, “Mind body science has now reached a stage where it should be accepted as the third major treatment and prevention option, standing as an equal alongside drugs and surgery in the clinical medical pantheon.”   Yet, because highly successful drugs in a few treatment areas has caused an overuse of them in almost every area of medicine, as well as the systematic funneling of money and influence towards drugs and surgery, we’ve now had a near abandonment of traditional, effective mind body treatments.

Many folk remedies in the past worked because the human mind believed they would.   An important part of healing power is not only in the activity itself, but also with the conviction and anticipation that a specific therapeutic activity will bring improvement.

Numerous studies dealing with pain, depression, even parkinson’s disease, have seen significant improvement solely due to the belief that they were taking a medication or treatment that could work for them.  As our July newsletter points to, the power of placebo has been consistently validated in scientific studies, is worthy of understanding, and can be a motivation  and source for effective mind body treatments. I will introduce below a specific mind body treatment strategy that comes out of the understanding of the power of the placebo, or the power of one’s belief and expectation.

Through his years of research, Dr. Benson created a two-part mind body protocol that was scientifically proven to treat a variety of common medical symptoms such as pain, insomnia, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, premenstrual syndrome, aging, to name a few. In the first part, one uses a variety of techniques to create an internal state marked by physiological changes within our body that support healing and repairing.  This is especially useful in today’s world as it counteracts the debilitating stress response within us by engaging what Benson has coined the “relaxation response”.  With a resulting mind that is more calm and open, one is able to have more success moving on to the second part which utilizes the power of belief and expectation.

The second part is using what Benson calls “Remembered Wellness”.  For anyone who has had pain or a disorder for many years, or even those who have gradually lost their vitality and health as they “got old”,  it may be many years since they remember what it was like to have and expect a good level of health and wellness.  We get used to and adapt to our situation in order to get through it, go on with our lives, and at times, to avoid becoming hopeless and depressed about our situation.  Unfortunately, these largely unconscious reactionary attitudes can be relentless in getting in the way of the conscious part of us that is wanting to be healed.

In his research, Dr Benson often found that through the consistent practice of the first part of the protocol (calming and opening one’s mind through the stopping of one’s normal train of thought) a person would see a natural redirection of their beliefs and a significant improvement in their health symptoms.   For others, adding the second part of the protocol was necessary for proper treatment.

Remembered Wellness is a practice utilizing visualization. One visualizes a time when she was without pain or disease or had more energy and vitality.   Utilize all of your senses of sight, smell, hearing, touch so that you feel like you are reliving that moment.  What would it be like to stand breathe and move in this previous state free of pain or illness.?  If you’re struggling to form mental images, really focus on your body and imagine feeling yourself moving with a sense of ease and enjoyment. Imagine an action you’d like to be doing and what it would be like to do it from this place of wellness.  Play with these images and feelings for 8 to 10 minutes.

Americans love our homeruns, and this is not a one-and-done homerun strategy.  Changes occur overtime, and it takes developing a consistent habit over 21 to 28 days to rewire the brain and to even create change on the level of your gene expression (epigenetics).  For many, the negative side effects of drugs and surgery are the motivation to learn and use these body mind healing strategies. Others desire a more holistic approach to healing and are motivated to further support their body’s natural healing capacity.  So whether you want to further support your personal conviction that your current treatment plan will bring you the results you desire, or you are focused solely on supporting your body’s natural healing ability, visualizations of Remembered Wellness may be an important addition to your treatment plan.

Feel free to email me at kkunkel@akashacenter.com to further see how this could be appropriate for you.

Kevin Kunkel, MA, CMT, CYT, LMFT is a Somatic Therapist at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine, you can schedule an appointment by calling 310-451-8880 or emailing us at info@akashacenter.com

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