Understanding Mind-Body Medicine and How It Impacts Healing

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As an integrative physician and meditation practitioner with decades of experience working with cancer and complex conditions, I am confident that meditation and mind-body exercises can offer us the keys to unlock our deepest healing potential. Published research into the remarkable health benefits of mind-body medicine continues to expand. At the same time, I see the incredible healing power these practices can foster in my patients. While not everyone will become a miracle, everyone has the potential to become a miracle. The secret is to overcome our fear-based conditioning and tap into our infinite healing abilities that are innate within each of us. Meditation and mind-body practices can cultivate this, with the chance to quiet our minds, release our anxieties, escape from “ opens in a new windowsurvival mode”, and open our hearts. And this is where deep, lasting healing can happen.  

Meditation and Your Healing Potential  

Meditation and meditative practices like yoga, Qi Gong, and others, encourage true healing on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, and psycho-spiritual. Importantly, they help us expand our hearts and cultivate greater love and compassion—for ourselves and others. It’s this infinite love and compassion that fosters our greatest healing potential. I’ve experienced this consistently in my own meditation practice, when I teach meditation and healing in retreats,  and above all, in patients I’ve had the privilege of working with over the decades.  

The Research Behind The Practice 

Fascinating published research continues to highlight the complex cross-talk and vast interrelationships between the mind and the body. These findings underscore the deep mind-body connections that are emphasized within time-honored spiritual disciplines.  

For example, studies show practicing and expressing gratitude can provide a measurable benefits on the biochemical level, such as lowering stress hormones. Consistent meditation practice is shown to deliver numerous benefits including reducing inflammation, balancing and strengthening immune function, promoting healthy DNA, reducing cardiovascular and cancer risks, reducing pain, and improving cognitive health and brain function, particularly in parts of the brain that control empathy and emotional processing and regulation, as well as thinking, memory, and awareness.1-5  

On the flip side, feelings of cynicism, pessimism, and negativity are shown to increase inflammation, damage DNA, speed aging, and increase the risks of diseases like cancer.   

This all makes perfect sense if you think about it. After all, how does your body feel when you’re experiencing fear, anger, doubt, or other negative emotions? And on the other hand, how do you feel physically when you’re having  feelings of love, and compassion? These states offer us a clear window where mind-body connection is most easily viewed.  

Breaking Free from Stress 

Still, it can be hard to break free from a cycle of chronic stress. We can become accustomed to living with anxiety, stuck in survival mode where we’re dwelling in the past, or fearful of the future. Our minds become like “a blind rider on a wild horse.” We lose control over our minds, and our ability to find our calm center. This can significantly impede our health, healing, and overall wellbeing.  

Practicing mind-body medicine and healing starts with simply observing our thought patterns and emotions, so that we’re not “riding blind.”  Meditation and mind-body practices provide powerful tools to tame the wild horse, our neurotic minds. With steady practice, even just 10 minutes a day, meditation lets us take a step back, out of the cycles of anxiety and stress, and create mental patterns that promote healing instead of disease.   

Importantly, the aim in meditation and mind-body practices isn’t to suppress or reject negative feelings. The goal is to relax the mind and just allow negative thoughts and emotions to just come and go, without attaching meaning or weight, judgement, or worry. We view our thoughts and emotions as if they are clouds passing above. Behind the clouds, the sky is clear, representing the essence of our mind as clear and tranquil, and always present regardless of the clouds that come and go. With practice, the space between your thoughts becomes wider, calmer, and clearer. It is within this space that our deeper consciousness can expand and grow, and open our hearts with love, compassion, and clarity.  

How to Incorporate Meditation   

There are many styles of meditation and mind-body practice. One of the simplest and most profound meditations I teach is the ancient Buddhist practice of Shamatha meditation. Shamatha translates into “calm abiding” from Sanskrit. It is a powerful practice for both beginners and experienced meditation practitioners, to help reach the mind’s natural state of tranquility and clarity. In Shamata, we focus our breath on a specific object – such as a small stone — and let thoughts arise and slip away, gently turning attention back to the breath and the rock. For in-depth guided instructions, click  opens in a new windowhere.  

Regular meditation and mind-body practices can open a door to our deepest selves, where we can unlock true healing. These exercises nurture the powerful connection to our true selves, our communities, and the world around us – something we all need more of in today’s world. 

Sources:  

  1. Lavretsky H, Epel ES, Siddarth P, et al. A pilot study of yogic meditation for family dementia caregivers with depressive symptoms: effects on mental health, cognition, and telomerase activity. Int J Geriat Psychiatry. 2013;28(1):57-65.  
  1. Creswell JD, Taren AA, Lindsay EK, Greco CM, Gianaros PJ, Fairgrieve A, Marsland AL, Brown KW, Way BM, Rosen RK, Ferris JL. Alterations in Resting-State Functional Connectivity Link Mindfulness Meditation With Reduced Interleukin-6: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Jul 1;80(1):53-61. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.01.008. Epub 2016 Jan 29. PMID: 27021514.  
  1. Black DS, Slavich GM. Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016;1373(1):13-24. doi:10.1111/nyas.12998  
  1. Koike MK, Cardoso R. Meditation can produce beneficial effects to prevent cardiovascular disease. Horm Mol Biol Clin Investig. 2014 Jun;18(3):137-43. doi: 10.1515/hmbci-2013-0056. PMID: 25390009.  
  1. Zeidan F, Vago DR. Mindfulness meditation-based pain relief: a mechanistic account. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016;1373(1):114-127. doi:10.1111/nyas.13153  
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