The Mind - Body Connection to
Improving Your Health
While there are some in the
physician community who caution against the use of such mind body techniques as
creative visualization to the exclusion of disregarding conventional medicine,
studies have made it increasingly clear that an individualís attitude has a
significant effect on their emotional state, as well as playing key roles in
prevention and recovery from illness. Harvard Medical School scientist Steven
Locke, M.D. has commented about the mind body relationship in his coauthored
book The Healer Within:
connection: What effects do positive emotions have on the immune system?
Close relationships with
friends and family seem to have a significant mind-body effect on the immune
system. Studies have shown that married people live longer than those that are
single or divorced. Other mind-body studies have linked happiness and positive
emotions to longer survival for cancer patients.
negative emotions also affect the immune system?
The effect of stressful
events on the mind- body have been well-documented. Stressful events such as
the death of family members, loss of a job or marital separation may cause
marked deficits in immune system functioning as measured by changes in the
number and function of specialized blood cells.
Is there actually a cancer
personality? Some mind-body researchers suggest that there are behavior
patterns such as suppression of hostility and helpless and hopeless attitudes
that may place some people at greater risk for cancer. In the opinion of many
experts and researchers, the notion that personality determines cancer risk is
probably simplistic and emotionally destructive. Having cancer is bad enough
without believing your illness is your fault. The reality is that people
develop cancer not because of personality deficits but because of hereditary
predisposition to the disease, exposure to tobacco smoke or other carcinogens,
high-fat, low fiber diets, and drinking too much alcohol and other known risk
any value in the mind-body technique of guided imagery, deep relaxation or other
While these techniques may
be helpful for enhancing relaxation and reducing anxiety they are unproven for
reducing risk of cancer or other terminal illnesses. Some studies have
suggested that these techniques may marshal the immune defenses against
pathogens but patients who use them should not abandon their conventional
treatments in the belief that these techniques will cure them.
laughter play a mind-body role in the battle against illness?
The late editor Norman
Cousins who wrote about his own personal health battle in Anatomy of an Illness,
was among the first to argue that laughter does not play a role. He believed
that what made the difference for him was a sense of empowerment in being an
active participant in his treatment, rather than relating his recovery to
strictly the power of laughter. Although he used comedy to induce positive
emotions, he emphasized hope, a sense of control and loving support as critical
factors in his healing. Research, however suggests laughter may have some
effect on the immune system functioning.
any truth to the proposition that hostile, angry people die younger?
Dr. Redford Williams and his
associates at Duke University found that certain forms of hostility including
mistrust and cynicism have been associated with higher mortality rates. Other
studies have suggested people who are either too angry or never express their
anger may be at higher risk. At Harvard, some researchers have done a study of
various psychological factors and their effect on immune system functioning.
They found that people who were defined as being more hostile, had lower natural
killer cell activity, which are white blood cells that fight disease in the
body. Some of the possible explanations included that hostile and mistrustful
people may have poor social networks. Some studies have found that the support
of friends and family plays a protective role in health.
Is there a mind-body
connection that increases the risk of the common cold?
Stress has been found to
increase the likelihood of developing colds. Since relaxation techniques have
increased the immune response in some studies, deep breathing and meditation
might be helpful in strengthening resistance to the cold virus. Although this
hasnít been well researched it seems worth a try.
Some information from The World's Greatest
Treasury of Health Secrets from the editors of Bottom Line Publications
Information and webpage by
(Health and Geriatric Psychologist)
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