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Mind Body and Brain Technique Exploring Brain
Mind-body techniques are based on the theory that mental and emotional factors can influence physical health. Behavioral, psychological, social, and spiritual methods are used to preserve health and prevent or cure disease.

Because of the abundance of scientific evidence backing the benefits of mind-body techniques, many of the approaches are now considered mainstream. Methods include the following:

Meditation Relaxation Techniques Guided Imagery Hypnotherapy (Hypnosis) Bio Feedback

Mind-body techniques can be used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, chronic pain, coronary artery disease, depression, headaches, difficulty sleeping (insomnia), and loss of urinary control (incontinence). Mind-body methods are also used as an aid in childbirth, in coping with the disease-related and treatment-related symptoms of cancer, and in preparing people for surgery. The effectiveness of mind-body techniques in treating people with asthma, high blood pressure, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus) is not as clear.

There are few known risks associated with the use of mind-body techniques.

Exploring BrainIn meditation, people regulate their attention or systematically focus on particular aspects of inner or outer experience. Meditation usually involves sitting or resting quietly, often with the eyes closed. Sometimes it involves the repetitive sounding of a phrase (a mantra) meant to help the person focus. The most highly studied forms of meditation are transcendental meditation and mindfulness meditation.

Meditation has been shown to have favorable effects on heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) function, immunity, and brain activity, such as increasing activity in parts of the brain associated with mental clarity. Meditation often induces physical relaxation, mental calmness, and favorable emotional states such as loving-kindness and even-temperedness. Meditation fosters the capacity for Meta cognitive awareness (the ability to stand back from and witness the contents of consciousness). Meta cognitive awareness interrupts habitual and reflexive responses to stress and improves tolerance of and coping with emotional distress.

Most meditation practices were developed within a religious or spiritual context and held as their ultimate goal some type of spiritual growth, personal transformation, or transcendental experience. As a health care intervention, however, meditation may be effective regardless of people's cultural or religious background. Meditation has been shown to offer numerous health benefits, including relieving stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain, and symptoms of chronic disorders such as cancer or cardiovascular disorders. Meditation is also used to promote wellness.

Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques are practices specifically designed to relieve tension and stress. The specific technique may be aimed at reducing activity of the nerves that control the stress response (sympathetic nervous system), lowering blood pressure, easing muscle tension, slowing metabolic processes, or altering brain wave activity. Relaxation techniques may be used with other techniques, such as meditation, guided imagery, or hypnotherapy.

Guided Imagery
Guided imagery involves the use of mental images to promote relaxation and wellness, reduce pain, or facilitate healing of a particular ailment, such as cancer or psychological trauma. The images can involve any of the senses and may be self-directed or guided by a practitioner, sometimes in a group setting. For example, a person with cancer might be told to imagine an army of white blood cells fighting against the cancer cells. Guided imagery has not been thoroughly scientifically studied, but many people claim to have had success with it.

This alternative therapy is derived from Western practice. In hypnotherapy (hypnosis), people are guided into an advanced state of relaxation and heightened attention. Hypnotized people become absorbed in the images suggested by the hypnotherapist and are able to suspend disbelief. Because their attention is more focused and they are more open to suggestion, hypnotherapy can be used to help people change their behavior and thus improve their health. Hypnotherapy can be used to treat or help treat purely psychological symptoms.
Exploring Brain
Hypnotherapy may also be helpful in treating many conditions and symptoms in which psychological factors can influence physical symptoms:
  • Phobias
  • Certain pain syndromes
  • Smoking cessation
  • Conversion disorders (in which apparent physical illness is actually caused mainly by psychological stress and conflict)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • Some skin disorders (such as warts and psoriasis)
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, particularly the nausea some people get before chemotherapy (anticipatory nausea)
  • Anxiety and diminished quality of life in people who have cancer
Hypnotherapy has been used with some success to help people stop smoking and lose weight. Some people are able to learn to hypnotize themselves. The mechanism of hypnotherapy is poorly understood from a scientific standpoint.

Bio Feedback
Biofeedback is a method of bringing unconscious biologic processes under conscious control. Biofeedback involves the use of electronic devices to measure and report back to the conscious mind information such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and brain surface electrical activity. With the help of a therapist or with training, people then can understand why these functions change and can learn how to regulate them

Typically, biofeedback is used to treat pain (see Nondrug Pain Treatments), including headache and chronic abdominal pain, stress, insomnia, fecal or urinary incontinence attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and mild cognitive impairment, tinnitus, and Reynaud's syndrome. Biofeedback has been shown to be clinically effective in treating certain problems (for example, headaches, incontinence, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder).

Exploring BrainThe Best Mind-Body Techniques
Your body's best friend? Your brain! Cutting-edge research proves that these mind-body techniques can ease aches, illness, insomnia and more. "We now have compelling scientific proof that the mind can heal the body," says Herbert Benson, M.D., director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of Relaxation Revolution. Benson's research has found that mind/body practices-meditation, yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, visualization-all elicit the relaxation response, quelling the release of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Your heart slows, blood pressure falls, digestion eases and immunity soars. Still not convinced? Here are 6 mind-body techniques we love.

Only 13 percent of SELF readers meditate regularly, but two thirds of you say you'd be willing to give it a try. Pick something simple and recurring to focus on, a mantra. "It could be your breath, a prayer or a saying, like, 'May this be a good day'". Then repeat it in your head as long as you can, up to 20 minutes. "If you get distracted, that's OK," he says. Gently refocus until the mantra has recaptured your attention.

Take A Breath
There may be no quicker way to trigger the magical relaxation response (and all the good genetic changes that come with it) than by controlling your breath. Not only will deep breathing lower your blood pressure, but recent research shows sucking wind, as it were, can also increase antioxidant levels in your blood, helping protect you from oxidative stress and all the dastardly conditions associated with it, including heart disease, hypertension, Alzheimer's disease and plain ol' aging.

Say "OM"
There's a reason you feel like a goddess when you walk out of yoga class, and it's not because you finally got your money's worth out of your gym. It's because yoga and similar mind-quieting methods have the potential to work as well as many medications at treating what ails you.

People who attended only one 90-minute yoga class a week for 16 weeks reduced their back pain by two thirds and their pain medication usage by 88 percent, according to one study. Migraine sufferers who took up the habit for three months reported fewer and less intense headaches, and people on antidepressants who added thrice-weekly yoga for two months said they felt less depressed, anxious and angry.

Get Your Qi On
More than half of you say you've never heard of qigong. But the ancient Eastern practice, also known as Chinese yoga, can ease a long list of ailments, including heart disease, bone loss, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Try this move from Samuel Barnes, star of the DVD Element: Tai Chi for Beginners. (Tai chi is a form of qigong.)

Exploring BrainLifting hands
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, hands hanging down in front of thighs. Inhale and lift both hands to chest level, leading with the wrists. Then exhale and bring hands back to thighs, "painting the wall" with fingertips. Repeat for two minutes. Hooked?

Reboot Your iPod… Now It's A Painkiller
For headaches or joint pain, groove out. Chronic pain sufferers who listened to music for an hour a day for seven days reduced their hurt by 20 percent. The key is to choose tunes that recall a time when you were happy and free from pain. "Usually, we listen to music to validate how we feel. That's why we play sad songs after a breakup. "But to use music therapeutically, you need to listen to songs that make you feel the way you want."

Start Smiling
Not only are positive thinkers less likely to develop heart problems such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, they also live longer overall. In a 15-year study of more than 100,000 women, cheery types were 14 percent less likely to die in an eight-year period than gloomy gals were the National Institutes of Health Women's Health Initiative finds. To change your thinking, visualize a happy moment: "Imagining yourself in a hammock on the beach can have an immediate, relaxing effect on the body that makes it more difficult to stay focused on the negative".

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) lists some techniques that are considered mind-body therapies or practices:
  • Patient support groups
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Creative arts therapies (art, music, or dance)
  • Yoga
  • Biofeedback
  • Tai chi
  • Qigong
  • Relaxation
  • Hypnosis
  • Guided imagery
As this list indicates, mind-body therapies and practices include behavioral, psychological, social, expressive, and spiritual approaches.

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