Tools for healing outside of the therapy hour are something I’m always on the lookout for. The nytimes.com recently ran an article[i] that described a study pairing Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Tai Chi (TC) to help treat patients who suffer from insomnia. The participants who received both treatments experienced very positive physiological effects.
Research has shown that TC is effective in treating patients with other chronic medical conditions such as heart disease[ii]. In fact, a meta-analysis of studies[iii] using TC to treat anything from breast cancer to depression found 94.1% reported constructive results from the practice.
These studies are lending evidence to what faculty at MSP teach every day – the Mind/Body connection. When we nurture our bodies through gentle, positive action, we are at the same time healing troubled aspects of our minds. This goes beyond feeling “good” about our bodies, in terms of how we look or how we would like to look. Many attempts to “improve” our bodies these days are only recipes for more suffering when we compare typical fitness outcomes to cultural ideals. Mental healing through the body occurs when a person is doing something with the body that is genuinely positive, such as TC, yoga, or any centered body-based practice.
Of course, using exercise to treat depression is not a new concept[iv] but I like the idea of incorporating body movement that a client of any age or in any physical shape could start doing today. Clients who do not already consider themselves to be active or who are perhaps not ready to begin a rigorous exercise regime may be more suited to easing in with a calmer, less demanding form of body work.
Exploring the Mind/Body connection is not about getting “in shape.” A client may not experience weight loss or toner muscles. However, what may happen is the client begins to nurture her whole self, including her physical body. And her body may begin to respond to the self-care with positive health outcomes.
Mindful movement, no matter how slow, can help to heal the mind. We have only to begin.
Cynthia Ransley, MA, Social Media Copywriter for MSP