Mind-body medicine focuses on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior, and the powerful ways in which emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect health. It regards as fundamental an approach that respects and enhances each person’s capacity for self-knowledge and self-care, and it emphasizes techniques that are grounded in this approach. To learn more about Mind-Body Medicine you may download this article "Mind-Body Medicine: An Overview" from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Three early prominent leaders in using meditation in this field are:
Dr. Herbert Benson
Dr. Benson is the founder of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine (BHI), a world leader in the study, advancement, and clinical practice of mind/body medicine. Dr. Herbert Benson was a pioneer in this field of using meditation in treating concer patients and introduced a simple, effective, mind/body approach to relieve stress in The Relaxation Response twenty-five years ago, the book became an instant national bestseller.
More than 35 years of scientific research and favorable patient results have proven the positive impact on health and well-being of the relaxation responseand mind/body medicine. Dr. Benson’s work has focused on stress reduction. Stress is a major contributor to illness today.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is internationally known for his work as a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society. He is Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he was founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, and founder (in 1979) and former director of its world-renowned Stress Reduction Clinic. He is the author of two best-selling books: Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness and Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life.
His books and guided meditation programs describe meditation practice in such commonsensical, relevant, and compelling terms that mindfulness meditation practice has become a way of life for thousands of people. His work has contributed to a growing movement of mindfulness into mainstream institutions in our society such as medicine, health care and hospitals, schools, corporations, prisons, the legal profession, and professional sports.
Dr. Kabat-Zinn received his Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT in 1971 with the Nobel Laureate in physiology and medicine, Salvador Luria. Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s research between 1979 and 2002 focused on mind/body interactions for healing, on various clinical applications of mindfulness meditation training for people with chronic pain and/or stress-related disorders, on the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on the brain and how it processes emotions, particularly under stress, and on the immune system; on the use and effects of MBSR with women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer; on patients undergoing bone marrow transplant; with prison inmates and staff; in multicultural settings; and on stress in various corporate settings and work environments.
His work in the stress reduction clinic was featured in Bill Moyers’ PBS Special, Healing and the Mind and in the book of the same title. In 1998, he and his colleagues published a research paper demonstrating in a small clinical trial, a four-fold effect of the mind on the rate of skin clearing in patients with psoriasis undergoing ultraviolet light therapy: [Kabat-Zinn et al, Psychosomatic Medicine 60:625-623 (1998)] (view PDF). Another study [Davidson, Kabat-Zinn, et al. (2003)], showed positive changes in brain activity associated with more effective emotional processing under stress, and in immune function in people taking an MBSR course in a corporate work setting in a randomized clinical trial (view PDF).
Joan Borysenko, Ph.D.
Joan Borysenko, Ph.D. has a powerfully clear personal vision- to bring science, medicine, psychology and spirituality together in the service of healing. Her brilliance as a scientist, clinician and teacher have placed her on the leading edge of the mind-body revolution, and she has become a world-renowned spokesperson for this new approach to health, sharing her pioneering work with a gentle graciousness, enthusiasm and humility.
Trained as both a medical scientist and a psychologist, Dr. Borysenko has gone beyond her traditional academic training and developed depth and breadth in a number of fields including behavioral medicine, stress and well-being, psychoneuroimmunology, women’s health, creativity and the great spiritual traditions of the world. She completed her doctorate in medical sciences at the Harvard Medical School where she also completed three post-doctoral fellowships in experimental pathology, behavioral medicine and psychoneuroimmunology and where she was instructor in medicine until 1988.
Also a licensed psychologist, Dr. Borysenko was co-founder and former Director of the Mind-Body clinical programs at two Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals, now merged as the Beth Israel/Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. These programs were the foundation for her 1987 classic New York Times bestseller Minding the Body, Mending the Mind.
The following comments on meditation are from Joan’s web site which she follows with an excellent summary of 12 different types of meditation
"Meditation Practices and Resources in Complementary Medicine
Meditation is like mental martial arts. You notice that the mind is making an assault, and with minimal effort, you step out of the way by returning to whatever the object of your concentration is. Little by little, you build up the mental muscles of awareness and letting go. This is a slow, gentle process. Just as a two year old wanders off and you bring him back with tenderness and patience, so it is with the mind. A meditation during which there are many thoughts and many attempts to bring the mind back to focus is a great training session. During the rest of the day you will gradually find that you have better concentration and are less prone to rumination. You are on your way to cultivating a peaceful heart and a powerful mind. We are all wired differently from a physiological perspective and each of us has different beliefs and experiences. Therefore, an excellent centering practice for one person may not suit another at all. Some people prefer a moving form of meditation such as mindful walking, qi gong, hatha yoga or stretching exercises. Others prefer closed eyed sitting exercises such as concentration, mindfulness meditation, centering prayer or other forms of imaginal centering.
Whatever form you feel drawn to practice, make a commitment for the full twenty-eight days and put it into your schedule every day at the same time. This is the basis of forming a healthy habit. Most people find that getting up fifteen or twenty minutes earlier and doing the practice first thing in the morning not only works well in terms of getting it done, but also sets the tone for a more peaceful, energized, loving and productive day. Physiological research shows that at least three 20 minute periods of meditation weekly are necessary to experience longterm reduction in heart-rate, blood pressure, anxiety and other stress-related problems."