Mind-body therapy is any process that attempts to alleviate physical symptoms through mental processes. This type of therapy takes a variety of forms, including meditation, art therapy, tai chi, and other programs that focus on reflecting on the body. One of the reasons this type of therapy is often successful even for complex problems like pain and anxiety is because people often do not realize that their bodies are acting in a specific way that is physically causing the problems in question. The goal of this therapy is usually to first create awareness and then use the mind's power over the body to stop the ways in which the body is hurting itself.
A wide variety of illnesses are treated with mind-body therapy. Pain, anxiety, emotional problems, and many complications from serious diseases like cancer can all be treated with mind-body therapy. It is important to note, however, that reputable versions of this type of therapy typically do not claim to cure diseases or replace traditional medicine for serious problems. Mind-body therapy may be able to reduce pain due to tension, but it cannot cure serious genetic disorders, cancer, or other problems that require medical intervention.
The key to this type of therapy relies on promoting awareness of the body's state. Mind-body therapy classes may encourage participants to slow down and think about tension in the body, grow accustomed to the signals the body is sending, and learn about what different physical feelings mean. One example is that people with diabetes often feel a certain way due to low blood sugar, but they do not always have the mindfulness needed to act on the signals being sent by the body. Therapy of this type is perfect in these cases because it works in a way that can easily be verified.
There are many different strategies used to promote this type of mindfulness, and all have certain merits. In many cases, the problem is more complex than merely cultivating awareness. Reducing pain due to tension, for example, requires the person to understand how to relax muscles he or she has been subconsciously straining. Mindfulness is not simply about listening but also about gaining control over the body in ways not typically required by daily life. This often takes practice, which is why many mind-body therapy classes take place over a number of weeks or months.
Some mind-body therapy techniques can be used at home to promote wellness without investing in a class or medical assistance. Visualization, journaling, and even gentle yoga can all be used to create increased awareness of the body and establish patterns over time. Gaining control over the body can be a very personal process, and exploring control methods is often best accomplished in isolation.