How To Find Mind/Body Peace

You've been on a diet forever, but can't seem to lose weight.  Everyone's telling you to "just relax," but you can't seem to stop your mind from racing or your migraines from coming on frequently. You take all the right pills and supplements, but your body just feels out of whack. It can be so frustrating when you do all the right things — get your annual mammogram and Pap smear, take fish oil, stay out of the sun, eat organic food — and your body still isn't functioning normally or optimally.  The good news is, even when it seems like your body just won't mind your wishes, there are relatively simple and inexpensive things you can do on your own to support yourself in your journey to health.

If you've been dealing with a health problem or vague physical imbalance for a while, you may have tried alternative medicine or holistic health practices.  I'm a health psychologist, but my expanded title is really "Holistic and Integrative Health Psychologist." In that sense, I discuss both Eastern and Western treatments with my clients because I want to make sure they get the best care possible — not just the best care that traditional, allopathic medicine has to offer. To that end, here are some things you might want to consider:

  • Acupuncture is an ancient healing art and part of the system of Traditional Oriental Medicine (also known as TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine).  It has been used successfully for thousands of years to enhance health and rebalance the system; you may even find that your physician is able to offer you a referral. Many reproductive endocrinologists refer their infertility patients for acupuncture, for example, and it is also frequently recommended for pain, allergies and immune system enhancement. Acupuncture is nearly painless — in spite of the needles — and works in conjunction with your traditional treatments. Many acupuncturists also offer nutritional support. Many cities have several acupuncture schools, and their student clinics offer carefully supervised sessions for as little as $20/treatment. 
  • Nutrition is essential. Decreasing or eliminating caffeine, refined sugar, and refined flour will give your body a rest, reduce stress on your digestive system, enhance your immunity, and make your body optimally healthy. If that feels overwhelming, start today with a small change, like switching out regular coffee for decaf, or trading in a soda for some iced herbal tea. Your nerves will thank you too. Most doctors won't spend a lot of time on these issues, and don't have a lot of training in nutrition. You may need a session or series of series with a registered dietician to get the improvement you want.
  • Yoga is said to massage and "tonify" the internal organs, thereby leading to increased health. The slower-paced forms of yoga, such as hatha yoga, or yin yoga, are relaxing practices. There are many studies now documenting the effectiveness of yoga for reducing anxiety by increasing GABA (one of the feel-good neuro-transmitters in your brain), and for improving symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, diabetes, and cancer. But in my opinion, the best thing about yoga is that it helps you love and accept your body, precisely where it is today — not where you hope it will be.  If you're daunted by those fancy yoga studios, head on over to your nearest YMCA or other gym for some great introductory classes. And Groupon offers some great deals if you want to try out different studios or styles on a budget.
  • Meditation can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on the sound of your own breath for just five minutes. It can also be a complex and evolving process, if you choose to expand your practice. Regulating your breathing, clearing your mind, and giving yourself time for introspection are all benefits of meditation. If you want more information, do a search for the terms "meditation" or the "relaxation response." Mindfulness meditation has been studied extensively at UCLA, and they even have a Mindfulness Awareness Resources Center (MARC) where you can download free meditations.

Optimizing health is an activity in which you, the patient, play a very active role. Start right now to become a proactive patient and health consumer.

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