Superstars of Mind-Body Medicine
Meditation & Relaxation
Mind-Body medicine is really not new to some cultures. The American Indians have practiced mind/body medicine for decades. They are enlightened and in some areas, far advanced over Western Culture. They have used and taught visualization for treating illnesses for centuries. A former client of mine is Indian-American and maintains strong ties with her tribal culture.
At one point, several years ago, she was diagnosed with inoperable brain tumor. American Doctors could not help her, and ultimately she accepted the help of her native relatives. She was taught to meditate and visualize the tumor being an iceberg in her head. While she meditated, she imagined it to be melting. The treatment worked. Today, some 15 years later, she is tumor free. The case described is just one of thousands on record. You will not likely hear of this kind of treatment success in an American Medical Journal. It is not an "approved" method of treatment.
Three decades ago, it was considered scientific heresy for a Harvard physician and researcher to hypothesize that stress contributed to health problems and to publish studies showing mental focusing techniques were good for the body. In the 1970's Herbert Benson, a Harvard Physician, did just that. He broke ranks with the medical establishment when he decided to pursue his theory and to prove or disprove it in his medical research. In the 1970s Herbert Benson had done research on Transcendental Meditation, which he later published in his well-known book, "The Relaxation Response". Benson developed his own version of meditation, which involved mentally repeating the word one with each exhalation of breath. He documented a number of physiological effects of meditation.
Since the time of Benson's work, considerable research on the long-term benefits of meditation has established that it can alter personality traits, behaviors, and attitudes. If you suffer from anxiety disorders, meditation can break up obsessional mental patterns and help you restructure your thoughts more productively. (Regular meditation has an even greater impact on repetitive mental patterns than the practice of progressive muscle relaxation, which is directed more to relieving muscle tension.)
Meditation has repeatedly been found to reduce chronic anxiety. Often the dosage of tranquilizers can be substantially reduced if you are meditating every day. Other long-range benefits include:
1. A decrease in heart rate
2. A decrease in blood pressure
3. A decrease in oxygen consumption
4. A decrease in metabolic rate
5. A decrease in the concentration of lactic acid in the blood (associated with anxiety reduction)
6. An increase in forearm blood flow and hand temperature An increase in electrical resistance of the skin (associated with deep relaxation)
7. An increase in alpha brain wave activity
Another great meditative technique can be used to boost immune system functioning. What follows is an example of how you can use the power of your mind to obtain optimal physical health for your body.
HOW TO USE RELAXATION AND GUIDED IMAGERY
Relaxation and visualization, or guided imagery, have both been shown to boost immune function, but these exercises require practice and, in some cases, instruction by a qualified health professional. However, the following actions can help you calm down and focus your mind on bolstering your immune system.
1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, with shoes off, clothing loose, lights dimmed, eyes closed.
2. Take a deep breath, filling your abdomen as well as your upper chest with air. Slowly let the air out. Repeat, breathing deeper and feeling yourself relax.
3. Repeat a simple word or phrase (some people use a prayer) to yourself. Concentrate on this phrase, banishing all distracting thoughts.
4. Beginning with the top of your head, tense and then relax the muscles in your body.
5. Conjure up a vivid image of a tranquil, quiet, safe place, and see yourself in that setting.
6. Visualize your perception of your internal defenders in action. Some think of them as scrubbing bubbles polishing a coat of armor, others imagine them to be sharks gobbling up
germs as they swim through the bloodstream.
7. Practice 10 to 20 minutes a day.
___Solso, Robert, L.,(2001), Cognitive Psychology, Sixth Edition, Allyn and Bacon: Boston, MA.
___Benson, Herbert,(1975)The Relaxation Response,
Harper-Collins.com, World Wide Web
Paula Albano, LPC, Ph.D.(abd)