Some experts believe that there isn’t enough of an emphasis placed upon the connection between the mind and the body. Countless studies have shown that just by imagining or visualizing an upsetting or frightening experience from the past, our hearts beat faster, and we began to sweat due to autonomic nervous system (ANS) arousal. Many see this as an opportunity to use our minds to help our bodies (1).
Not only can positive thinking lead to better moods and coping skills, but also to improved overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, replacing negative self-talk with positive thoughts increases our abilities to handle stress in constructive ways. These mind-body exercises have been shown to strengthen our immune system and improve quality of sleep while decreasing anxiety and pain. They have also been shown to reduce the side effects of medical procedures and decrease post-surgical recovery time and the need for pain medication (1).
Cleveland Clinic estimates that only 15 minutes of daily practice is needed to learn how to quiet the mind and help the body relax. In time, these exercises allow the body to remain calm even during stressful situations (1).
In a recent study by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, mind-body therapy was used to help military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Post 9/11 veterans who received mind-body therapy also reported significant improvements in symptoms. The therapy was effective in reducing the severity of PTSD symptoms associated with combat while also reducing depression and anxiety symptoms, and increasing mindfulness and sleep quality (2).
Combat-related PTSD is a major public health concern for the Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs. When service members return from deployment with combat-related PTSD, conventional therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medications. Complementary and alternative treatments, such as mind-body therapies, are not only less invasive but also less costly, thus making them more attractive to service workers and veterans (2).