Research Supports the Mind-Body Connection
There is a significant amount of research these days supporting what is called the Mind-Body connection. Many studies demonstrate that our thoughts and beliefs have a large influence over our health and well-being. Studies on mindfulness, stress, the placebo effect and other topics all show that our thoughts are intertwined with our body’s biochemistry in complex ways.
The term ‘mind-body’ stems from a dualistic philosophy developed by Rene Descartes. His philosophy proposed that the mind and body are two separate things. The body is a material substance that runs like a machine and is controlled by the mind, a non-material substance composed of thought. Descartes is most famous for saying, “I think, therefore I am”.
His thinking has largely influenced western thought and science along with other dualistic philosophies. That is why there is an implied separation between mind and body. However, our thoughts, beliefs, and emotional responses are proving to be more interconnected with our biochemistry than previously thought.
Jon-Kar Zubieta, M.D., Ph.D., has performed a series of studies through the University of Michigan investigating how the ‘placebo effect’ works. One study examined this phenomenon by administering a painful solution into participants’ jaws and providing a placebo for pain relief. Researchers measured brain activity through PET and fMRI scans. They also asked participants prior to administering the solution how much pain relief they expected from the ‘painkiller’.
Most participants experienced significant pain relief after receiving the placebo. Both the PET and fMRI scans showed higher dopamine activity in a specific region of the brain, the nucleus accumbens. The most interesting finding discovered that participants who anticipated a higher level of pain relief had higher levels of dopamine activity.
The placebo effect demonstrates that our thoughts and beliefs have a masterful command over our physiology. The phrase ‘mind over matter’ comes to mind. With our mind and body so interconnected, it is important to take care after our thoughts and emotional responses.
According to the Benson-Henry Institute, between 60%-90% of all doctor visits are stress-related. This Institute is a leader in mind-body medicine and has developed what is called the ‘relaxation response’, which incorporates meditation and mindfulness techniques. The relaxation response is an effective treatment for stress and stress related disorders.
This is one way to take care of your mind-body connection and, as we have discussed in other blog posts, there are a number of ways to heal and support this connection.
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