Mind Body Focus
The mind-body relationship is a fascinating connection between what people think and feel, and their physiological processes. A comprehensive approach to mental and physical health recognizes the interconnectedness of the mind and the body.
Scientific research establishes that chronic stress and other unhealthy mind-body interactions contribute to mental and physical health problems. The ability to self-regulate physiological responses is a skill that can be learned — using techniques like biofeedback and meditation, for example — leading to improved health and well-being.
Mind-body medicine focuses on the interactions between physiology and behavior. These interactions promote emotional, mental, social, spiritual and behavioral factors that directly affect a person’s overall health. The mind-body approach to health respects and enhances a person’s capacity for self-knowledge and self-care, and it emphasizes techniques that balance the already mentioned interactions.
Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind-body medicine and founder of the Benson–Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital reports that between 60% and 90% of all physician visits are for stress-related complaints. His research has proven the efficacy of mind-body medicine in treating conditions, such as heart disease, infertility, gastrointestinal disorders, headaches, chronic pain and more.
Mind-body medicine typically focuses on intervention strategies that promote health. These include but are not limited to: relaxation techniques, hypnosis, imagery, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, acupuncture, tai chi, qi gong, cognitive-behavioral therapies, group support, autogenic training, spiritual development, nutrition and physical exercise.
These intervention strategies enhance a person’s ability to effectively understand her/his own mind-body connections, in collaboration with other medical care for symptomatic relief or the elimination of a problem.
What is Psychophysiology?
Psychophysiology is the scientific investigation of the mind-body connection. Applied psychophysiology is the discipline which uses this information for practical purposes. Psychophysiologists are interested in how mental processes affect the body, how we experience that information, and what changes occur when people experience particular emotions. This research helps develop ways to teach people skills to learn to control body functions which may be causing health problems, as well as studying ways to predict and prevent stress-related health problems. Biofeedback is one method of self-regulation which is studied extensively and refined by psychophysiologists.
What is biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a modality that helps a person develop the necessary awareness and skills to transform unhealthy physiological patterns into healthier, more productive responses. It can be used to treat a particular medical condition, or as a training program for learning effective stress management and mind-body skills. Biofeedback is surprisingly fun and easy to learn.
How does biofeedback work?
Non-invasive sensors, connected to a computer, are attached to different parts of the body, such as the fingertips or a particular muscle group. These specialized tools monitor a person’s physiological processes heart rate, breathing, muscle tension, skin temperature, and sweat gland arousal as they occur in real-time. Personalized recommendations are made based on clinical feedback from these tools.
As a person become familiar with her/his personal psychophysiological patterns and reactions to stress, s/he can learn to control them with the goal of achieving more regulation and balance. In all applications, the goal of biofeedback training is to learn techniques to develop self-regulation skills. With practice, these changes become automatic, and the use of the biofeedback instrument is no longer needed.
Biofeedback is used by healthcare professionals trained in medicine, psychology, nursing, physical and occupational therapy, social work and counseling as treatment for a variety of physical and psychological conditions.
There is extensive research that demonstrates the efficacy of biofeedback for many conditions, and to achieve optimal states of health and well-being. Biofeedback provides individuals with techniques for experiencing a healthier mind and body as a whole, irrespective of whether or not a person has a pre-existing medical or mental health condition.