Mental Health: Think it Out

(6 proven ways to use your mind to heal your body)

The man who walked into Dr. Herbert Benson's Boston office was a mess. He was a stress case at work, he suffered awful headaches, and his stratospheric blood pressure did not respond to high doses of prescription medicines.

But rather than throw more drugs at him, Dr. Benson, an M.D. who works at a Harvard-affiliated health center called the Mind/Body Medical Institute, prescribed a 10- to 20 minute daily dose of what he calls the "relaxation response": a calming exercise of muscle relaxation and controlled breathing.

"He found that, slowly and inexorably, the headaches became less profound," Dr. Benson says. "Eventually, they totally disappeared. His hypertension, which required relatively high doses of two medications, dropped so significantly that he needed only a fraction of the dose of one medication. This man gained a new perspective."

Stress is the number-one mental culprit in the delay of wound healing. Ohio State researchers studied 11 dental students, taking a chunk of flesh from the roofs of their mouths during summer vacation.

Then, 3 days before the first exam of the next school term, they took a chunk from the opposite side of each student's mouth. On average, the wounds took 40 percent longer to heal during stressful exam time than during the carefree days of summer.

"You can become a victim of the environment or the mind," says William Malarkey, M.D., director of Ohio State's clinical research center and a member of the Center for Stress and Wound Healing, "or you can proactively change the environment of your mind."

(source: keyword: think it out)