Boston U.S—Citing the significant benefits of mind-body medicine, researchers recommend yoga, meditation, and other practice become a core component of medicine.  

Researchers from the Benson-Henry Institute (BHI) for Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and from UC Davis Health, published a new perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine suggesting that mind-body medicine should be used as a core component of healthcare.“Mind-Body Medicine” refers to the use of holistic health practices such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and pilates. The key benefits of mind-body medicine include stress reduction, relief from the symptoms of numerous health conditions, and improved self-regulation of the autonomic nervous system [1].

The Significant Benefits of Mind Body Medicine 

Mind-BOdy practices like meditation and yoga have become ever more popular over the past few years, especially since the current global pandemic.

Increasing scientific research into the benefits of meditation and the benefits of yoga mean it could soon become a key part of healthcare.

Among the key benefits of mind-body medicine are the facts that these interventions play a key role in reducing stress and anxiety, as well as improving overall wellbeing and helping with the management of various symptoms.

The researchers state that, because of these benefits, mind-body-medicine practices should be integrated into patient-treatment plans and medical research.

Lead author Michelle Dossett of UC Davis Health says that stress causes anxiety and depression to worsen, and has a serious effect on various conditions, including cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, autoimmune disorders, and chronic pain. Mind-Body practices like meditation and yoga help to reduce the symptoms of these conditions [READ: Meditation for pain relief].

Dossett, a former physician and researcher with BHI, says, “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.”

Mind-Body interventions are arguably more important now than ever because of the stress and anxiety surrounding COVID-19 [READ: Meditation & Yoga For COVID-19].

The Massachusetts General Hospital has played a pivotal role in bringing these practices into the medical field. The hospital began using mind-body medicine in 2006, as well as conducting research and training programs designed to further the use of these practices.  Of course, Mind-Body Medicine itself has been used for thousands of years. But wasn’t until the 1960s that the field began to gain interest in the West, when Herbert Benson became one of the West’s first physicians to use spiritual healing practices in medicine.

The core benefit of mind-body medicine is that it activates the Relaxation Response, says Benson. This, Benson says, is an “anti-stress capacity that transcends the differences that separate mind from body, science from spirituality, and one culture from another.”

Mind-Body Medicine is not intended to take over traditional medicine, but rather to be used in conjunction with surgery and self-care. The Mind-Body interventions, Benson says, will teach patients to help heal themselves through a combination of exercises (such as meditation and yoga) and nutrition.

The researchers state that traditional Western medicine has allowed for significant improvements in the healthcare field through the years, but is limited in its ability to handle stress-related complications of various conditions.

Chronic pain, for instance, is often “perpetuated by psychosocial stress,” says Benson. That stress, he says, has become an epidemic that the current medical field is ill-equipped to handle.  Enter Mind-Body medicine. Its addition to the healthcare field provides a powerful solution to the more emotional aspects of health and healing.

The authors openly admit that some people are sceptical about the use of mind-body medicine and that many physicians are not qualified to provide those services. Therefore, it could be some time before we see mind-body interventions throughout the medical field. Further research will also be required, partly to convince the critics and also to provide a comprehensive understanding of the benefits and limitations of this kind of intervention.

Written by Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.

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