6 Mind-Body Therapies That Promote Natural Healing
Mind-body therapies can help you reduce physical symptoms and resolve emotional issues, including depression. Learn how to choose the right therapy for you.
·November 3rd, 2021
Mind-body therapies aim to promote natural healing of the body and the mind.
Yoga and meditation may help relieve pain and reduce depressive symptoms.
Tai chi has shown promising results in reducing inflammation in the body.
Guided imagery helps cancer patients with mood disorders.
Acupuncture is a versatile mind-body therapy that helps treat physical and psychological conditions.
Massage therapy has been proven to reduce pain and stress.
Some cultures have been using mind-body therapies for thousands of years to promote relaxation and bring about natural healing. In recent decades, science has been catching up with ancient knowledge, and we are learning that the mind does, indeed, have the power to heal.
What are mind-body therapies?
Remember that feeling of going on a leisurely walk in the park? It’s a warm, sunny day. Your thoughts slow down, your body relaxes, and you start taking in the landscape around you.
Your senses awaken — you can smell the autumn leaves or freshly mowed grass. Sunrays energize you. You come back renewed and hopeful, and you sleep better that night.
Mind-body therapies are like that walk in the park, but they work in a more structured way. They create a powerful connection between your body, your senses, and your mind to bring peace and healing. When you’re dealing with chronic pain, depression, or anxiety, you need more than regular walks in nature to get better.
Mind-body therapies are designed to help you relax. The body that’s free from tension has more energy to combat the negative effects of illness. People have used mind-body therapies, such as yoga or meditation, for thousands of years.
Today’s science helps us understand how these approaches work and which are effective for conditions ranging from inflammation to anxiety.
Following are six mind-body therapies that can promote gentle, natural healing.
Yoga to ease pain and calm the mind
Yoga is an ancient mind-body therapy that clears the mind and helps the muscles relax. Yoga teaches us to work with the body and harness its natural powers to ease pain and restore balance.
Yoga for depression and anxiety
The Society for Integrative Oncology recommends the use of yoga and meditation to treat depressive symptoms in breast cancer patients. Regular practice can also help reduce long-term anxiety in women undergoing cancer treatment.
Yoga to reduce pain
Researchers conducted a meta-analysis on the effects of yoga on different types of pain. They found out that yoga may be a useful complementary treatment in back pain, arthritis, and even headaches, but we need more studies to fully understand the impact of yoga practice on pain.
Meditation for mental health support
Meditation is another healing therapy that promotes healing of mind and body through relaxation. A newer form of meditation called mindfulness meditation is gaining popularity as a way of life as well as a gentle healing technique.
However, a 2014 systematic review of meditation programs affirmed the positive effects of meditation on anxiety, depression, and pain. We need more evidence to find out whether meditation can help manage stress or promote weight loss.
Tai chi may reduce inflammation
Tai chi is an ancient art form that consists of a series of moves designed to aid in flow of qi, the body’s energy force, to heal and restore balance in the mind and body.
Scientists have long suspected that mind-body therapies, like tai chi, that combine exercise, breath, and mindfulness have the potential to reduce inflammation in the body.
Researchers have reason to believe that regular practice lowers pro-inflammatory protein and boosts the body’s ability to fight inflammation.
As one example, a 2014 randomized controlled trial of breast cancer survivors with insomnia concluded that three months of tai chi exercise reduces the body’s inflammation on a cellular and genomic level.
Guided imagery to calm the mind
Guided imagery is a mind-body therapy that’s commonly used by complementary providers and cognitive behavioral therapists. It can be anything from guided relaxation to an imaginary journey into serene landscapes. The idea behind it is to help you feel safe and release muscle tension.
This method has not been thoroughly researched yet, but the initial findings are positive. For example, a 2020 review of studies concluded that guided imagery can enhance well-being, reduce stress and anxiety, and can even enhance the immune system.
A 2005 systematic review on the effects of guided imagery on cancer patients suggested improvement in depressive and anxiety symptoms.
More studies are needed to prove the positive effect of visualizations on physical symptoms, such as pain or nausea.
Acupuncture as mind-body therapy
Acupuncture is a Chinese medicine technique of applying thin needles to the energy points on the body. Its goal is to bring back balance and enable free flow of qi.
Most people think that acupuncture is only for physical problems, such as menstrual pain or allergies. But its effects extend to our psychological well-being as well.
According to a systematic review of 29 trials on the effects of acupuncture in the treatment of depression, this complementary treatment method may be a suitable addition to Western medication.
Massage therapy to manage pain and relieve stress
When we think of massage, images of a sensual spa come to mind, something you do as an indulgence or a special treat. But massage is more than pleasurable; when used properly, it can promote natural healing.
It helps relax tense muscles, tendons, and joints.
It reduces anxiety and stress.
It may “close the pain gate” in the nervous system.
For some people massage therapy could be an alternative to the use of opioid medication for pain management. Massage therapy can help for a range of conditions, such as back pain, headaches, and the treatment of scars after an operation.
A 2011 study on the applications of massage therapy in hand pain revealed a drop in pain symptoms and better hand grip after a course of massage treatments and self-massage. Moreover, participants of the study experienced a reduction in depressive mood, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.
Choosing the right mind-body therapy for your condition
Complementary treatments can give you much-needed relief from health problems. Sometimes they can even help to reduce the amount of medication you need to take. But whether you have PCOS, endometriosis, IBS, or another chronic condition, choosing the right treatment can be challenging.
If you’re unsure which mind-body therapies may be right for you, check out other articles in our blog to learn more.
If you’re ready to find a therapist, visit our provider directory to find an experienced practitioner who has the training you need to help you feel better.