Claire Wheeler M.D., Ph.D.

Head-to-Toe Happiness

What is Mind-Body Medicine?

Is mind-body medicine only about stress management?

Posted Jun 23, 2010

If you ask NCCAM, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, they'll tell you it's a field that "uses a variety of techniques designed to enhance the mind's capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms." The standard treatment approaches used in mind-body medicine include meditation, prayer, and creative outlets. This is a good start, but in my 10-year experience teaching and practicing mind-body medicine, I've found that it is so much more.

Traditionally, people tend to think of MBM when they think about stress. And yes - MBM is a great way to handle stress and stress-related problems. But stress management is only a small part of what you can do when you start integrating your thoughts and feelings with your body. Stress management is mostly about getting rid of emotional distress and mental anxiety. But what if you want more than that?

All kinds of research is being done on the power, not only of negative emotions, but also positive emotions to affect your physical well-being, your long-term health, and your longevity. That's why this blog has happiness in the title.

Socrates made the case that happiness is the highest good for any human being - and it's also the fundamental motivation for the things we do. Now, he wasn't advocating total hedonism - quite the contrary. He (and his more modern happiness theorists) contended that true happiness is not momentary gratification but the natural outcome of a life well lived.

I happen to agree with Socrates. So while this blog will cover many ways to approach stress in body and mind, we'll also spend plenty of time examining ways to be happier.

Here's a way to start thinking about being happy in your own life: for the next 7 days, right before bed, write down 3 good things that happened that day and why they happened. Positive psychology research shows that this exercise can induce measurable increases in positive mood and decreases in bad moods. You can download the article here.