Mind-body medicine should be integrated in the care of patients and medical research, say experts. In a perspectives article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, medical experts from the Benson-Henry Institute (BHI) for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and from UC Davis Health recommended called for broader use of mind-body practices.
Benefits of Mind-Body Practices
It’s been known that popular mind-body practices like yoga and chi gong help improves general well-being and reduce stress. Stress can contribute heavily toward conditions such as anxiety and depression, as well as cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches and chronic pain. Particularly during the stressful situation now around the world with COVID-19, the mind-body medicine can be of much benefit.
“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,” said Michelle Dossett, lead author of the article.
Integrating Mind-Body Medicine
Researchers at BHI have actually been integrating the field of mind-body medicine into MGH’s clinical care, research and training programs since 2006. The institute’s founder was Herbert Benson, one of the first Western physicians to bring spirituality and healing into medicine. Benson is known for his work with the technique called 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,” said Benson, who is also the senior author of the paper.
According to the researchers at BHI, body-mind medicine makes up what they call the three-legged stool. One leg is surgery, the second is pharmaceuticals and the third is self-care. The third leg involves patients learning to improve their health though mind-body approaches such as exercise, nutrition and mind-body medicine.
In modern society, stress has become a debilitating force that impacts the health of many around the world. Conditions such as depression and anxiety are rampant among the world’s population, as well as stress-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disorders.
“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 researchers said.
Science has recognized the relationship between mind and body, especially when it comes to mental and physical health. Integrating body-mind medicine into patient care and medical research should yield positive benefits for society.