Mind/body medicine refers to the way our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors
affect our health, and the therapies that use mind/body interactions to promote
health. Blood pressure that goes up from stress can be reduced by meditation.
Controlling anger may prevent a heart attack. Group therapy for cancer may
extend life. Relaxation techniques can reduce chronic pain.
The National Institutes of Health sees mind/body medicine as a major category
of complementary and alternative medicine. In the last 30 years, scientists have
found surprising connections between the mind and the body. It is clear that the
interaction between the mind and the body is complex and occurs at numerous
levels, although there are presently more questions than answers. Still,
research does support many mind/body techniques to prevent, relieve, or treat
certain diseases. For example, the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of
Massachusetts Medical Center (508-856-2656) offers a program modeled by Jon
Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. This therapy uses mindfulness meditation for cardiac
rehabilitation, high blood pressure, cancer, anxiety disorders, and chronic
Much of mind/body medicine is designed as self-care. Its aim is to focus the
mind on the body in the moment. Some of the most commonly used mind/ body
techniques are biofeedback, meditation, hypnosis, psychotherapy, visualization,
and spiritual healing. The services of qualified professionals are often
required, yet some of the basic techniques, such as mindfulness meditation,
require mostly an investment of practice time. Mindfulness practice, which can
lessen our response to stress, can become a way of living. It can help us move
with level-headedness and self-control through the constantly changing
circumstances of our lives. The key to all mind/body interventions is the
practice of slowing down and paying attention. In attentiveness comes mind/body
If you would like to try a mind/body practice, Boston-based mind/body coach
Apara Borrowes, M.S. recommends beginning with a simple exercise. This includes
thoughtful breathing, a meditative focus in the body, and visualization. The
result can be a state of health-enhancing relaxation. Try it yourself by
following the five steps outlined below.
Instructions for a Simple Relaxation Practice
Take 10 or 15 minutes to yourself to relax and rejuvenate. With practice,
your inner clock will bring you back right on time. In the beginning, you may
want to set an alarm.
1. Sit or lie comfortably in a place where you will be undisturbed. Close
your eyes or find a place to rest your gaze where you won't be distracted. Allow
your awareness to rest in the center of your body.
2. Take 10 full, relaxed, deep breaths, counting from 10 to 1. Inhale deeply
and slowly so that first your stomach rises, then your mid-chest, then your
upper chest. Exhale fully. (Deep breathing may produce lightheadedness at first;
if this happens, slow down.)
3. As you inhale, imagine your body filling with calmness. With each breath
out, release any stress; you will feel your body relaxing and your thoughts
4. After 10 deep breaths, allow your breath to find its own rhythm. Call to
mind a time or place when you felt at peace and filled with well-being, or
imagine a future calming time and place. Visualize yourself there in detail.
Allow your body and mind to relax more as you visualize your healing scene and
focus on those good feelings.
5. When it is time to return from your meditation, take several deep breaths
and stretch before you open your eyes. Congratulate yourself on time well spent
and notice how you feel.