|The Mind/Body Connection|
In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true either is true or becomes true
But what does it really mean? It’s probably safe to say that wishing for a gold Rolls Royce won’t suddenly make one appear in your driveway. But there is significant evidence to suggest that coordinating the interaction between our minds and bodies can result in amazing things. Lifelong learning plays a major role in this because it helps balance both your mind and body. And when things are in balance, you feel better and have the ability and desire to create a rich and satisfying life.
Technically, the study of Mind/Body connection goes by several intimidating labels certain to demolish anyone playing Scrabble with you. Among these names are such polysyllabic nightmares as psychoneuroimmunology, psychophysiology, neuropsychology, and psychoneuroimmunology. We’ll opt for a much shorter abbreviation of the last one: PNI.
Then in the late 1960s and early 1970s, cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson began studying the effects of meditation on blood pressure. He developed the term “the relaxation response,” which today is recognized far and wide. Finally in the mid 1970s, psychologist Dr. Robert Adler’s studies demonstrated that cognitive and emotional cues could affect immune response. Thanks to his research PNI was finally recognized as a legitimate medical specialty.
Since these early discoveries researchers everywhere have been studying PNI. Over the ensuing years, PNI has demonstrated its value in three different research areas – physiological research, epidemiological research and clinical research.
In 1981, Dr. Felton and his team of researchers made an important discovery. They found a hard-wire connection between the body’s immune system and the central nervous system, which is controlled by the brain.
Simply put, using special stains the team was able to trace nerves to various locations throughout the body. They then discovered a network of nerves leading from the brain to cells in the immune system. This was the long elusive scientific proof that the Mind/Body Connection was real! Hard evidence showed that the brain has the ability to send signals to immune system cells.
Thanks to that discovery, we now know that the immune system, instead of hanging around waiting to kill bacteria, is working all the time. It’s critical to every function in our bodies.
Dr. Felton says about his discovery, “Our Grandmothers knew all along that our minds and our bodies were connected, even if the scientific community didn’t. We’ve simply provided irrefutable data showing that it’s true.”
Today, the study of PNI is important; scientists, medical and mental health practitioners, and consumers are all actively exploring the possibilities associated with PNI. In fact, Harvard University established a Mind/Body clinic in Boston in the 1970s and more have been founded around the world since then.
The National Institutes of Health allocate research money on a regular basis to fund PNI study. In FY1999, $10 million was directed to conducting research in the behavioral sciences and establishing more Mind/Body medical centers.
How Does the Mind/Body Connection Work?
Sometimes this connection can be compromised. We feel out of balance. Maybe we get cranky or irritable. Depression might even set in. Whatever our reaction, the first step toward regaining our balance is to identify the culprit. And these days, the most common culprit is stress.
Stress is something we all live with in varying degrees, every day of our lives. Medical research has shown that stress can dramatically affect different systems in our bodies including the endocrine or hormonal system, and the immune and circulatory systems.
One way to explore the interaction of the Mind/Body connection is by measuring the effects of stress, something the medical community has the ability to do. Indicator levels for the hormone Cortisol, our blood pressure, heart rate, and even our ability to heal injuries are all used as benchmarks for how we handle stress. If any one of these indicators is abnormal, we may find ourselves dealing with serious emotional or physical problems.
Studies have actually shown that chronic caregivers have significantly decreased immune function. Research has also shown that widows and widowers can take up to a year to restore immunity after the death of a spouse. Victims of sexual abuse and those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder show increased negative cardiovascular activity along with Cortisol function abnormalities.
All this indicates that some of life’s biggest sources of stress such as bereavement, chronic caregiving, loneliness, anger, trauma and marital difficulties can negatively affect the needed balance of the Mind/Body connections. It behooves us to do what we can to keep this delicate balance on an even keel.
So, just how do we maintain that balance and what’s the connection between lifelong learning and the Mind/Body concept? We’ll explore these questions next time.
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