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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

The Mind-Body

Emotions and Health

A woman standing on a dock looking at the sky.

Photo: iStock

Doctors have pondered the connection between our mental and physical health for centuries. Until the 1800s, most believed that emotions were linked to disease and advised patients to visit spas or seaside resorts when they were ill. Gradually emotions lost favor as other causes of illness, such as bacteria or toxins, emerged, and new treatments such as antibiotics cured illness after illness.

More recently, scientists have speculated that even behavioral disorders, such as autism, have a biological basis. At the same time, they have been rediscovering the links between stress and health. Today, we accept that there is a powerful mind-body connection through which emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect our health.

Mind-body medicine focuses on treatments that may promote health, including relaxation, hypnosis, visual imagery, meditation, yoga, and biofeedback.

Over the past 20 years, mind-body medicine has provided evidence that psychological factors can play a major role in such illnesses as heart disease, and that mind-body techniques can aid in their treatment. Clinical trials have indicated mind-body therapies to be helpful in managing arthritis and other chronic pain conditions. There is also evidence they can help to improve psychological functioning and quality of life, and may help to ease symptoms of disease.

Winter 2008 Issue: Volume 3 Number 1 Page 4