Telling someone to simply think about healing an illness and it will happen may sound like magic or sorcery. But the mind-body connection isn’t just a clever illusion. What you think and feel really does elicit physical responses from your body. Three safe and easy mind-body therapies you can use to improve your health are meditation, imagery and progressive muscle relaxation.
Meditation is easy to learn, though it does take practice. Many books, tapes, CDs and DVDs can guide you through a meditation session, but if you’d rather try it on your own here’s all you’ll need to do.
- Find a quiet location.
- Sit or lie down comfortably.
- Focus your attention on something—your breath, a word or phrase or an object.
- Keep an open mind, and let distractions come and go without stopping to think about them. As you are starting out, try meditating for just a few minutes. Increase your time as you get comfortable with the technique.
As its name suggests, imagery involves using your mind to develop a mental image of something. The theory is that the mind is able to cure the body when a particular image evokes a sensory memory, strong emotions or fantasy.You can use any image you find appealing. In fact, you can change images each time you practice this technique. The point is to promote positive thoughts and encourage your parasympathetic nervous system to slow your heart and breathing rates and lower your blood pressure.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and then relaxing all of the muscles throughout your body in sequence. Sit or lie down in a comfortable place. Working from head to toe, start by grimacing and clenching your teeth for a count of 10. Then relax, inhaling and exhaling as you do. Let your face be as lax as if you were asleep. Next, tense the muscles in your neck and shoulders for a count of 10 and then relax. Repeat, using the muscles in your chest, abdomen, buttocks, arms, hands, legs and feet.
Adapted from Super Healing: The Clinically Proven Plan to Maximize Recovery From Illness or Injury by Julie K. Silver, MD (Rodale, 2007).