It is generally believed that the brain is the organ responsible for judgment, insight, emotion, thought, body movement, and perception. The brain receives its nutrition, glucose, and oxygen supply through the blood circulation and feedback from the internal and external environment via the peripheral and central nervous systems. Normal brain function depends upon harmony between the multitude of body organs and the brain itself. Brain tumors or seizure disorders can result in individuals having irregular or bizarre behavior. Alcohol intoxication may result in delirium or confusion. End-stage kidney and liver disease also result in impaired mental states that lead to disorientation and confusion. Someone who suffers from a thalamic stroke may have refractory limb pain, even if the physical exam and laboratory, nerve, and muscle tests on the affected limbs are unremarkable (1).
There are two autonomic nervous systems in the human body: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Through the release of catecholamines such as epinephrine and norepinephrine, the human body will increase cardiac output via a faster heart rate and a higher ejection volume. The blood glucose level will increase, and there will be elevations in the blood pressure through peripheral vasoconstriction and the cardiac changes mentioned previously. The final outcome will be a redistribution of blood to the brain, heart, and muscles, which is the natural physiological reaction to stress challenges. Its purpose is to protect humans from experiencing any life-threatening insults or allow them to escape from dangerous environments. This so-called "fight or flight" reaction, if overwhelming for extended periods of time, will result in significant negative impacts on the human body. Blood pressure and sugar will be kept at elevated levels constantly, leading to hypertension and diabetes. Patients will suffer chronic pain and disturbances of memory and sleep as well as other discomforts, leading to significant social, economic, and professional dysfunctions. More than 80 percent of medical visits are found to be associated with stress-related anxiety (2).
Mind-body health is the discipline that studies the relationship between the brain, mind, and body, specifically involving changes in behavior. It aims to reduce physical disease and ailments through techniques of mind regulation. Through the release of acetylcholine, cardiac output is reduced as a consequence of a slower heart rate and reduced cardiac stroke volume, and blood pressure is within a normal range due to the balance of vasoconstriction and vasodilation; blood sugar concentration is also normalized. The improved circulation of blood to the skin results in improved complexion and fewer wrinkles. Mind-body medicine is most commonly used for anxiety/ depression and for musculoskeletal and myofascial pain syndromes. People have used these techniques either in conjunction with conventional medicine or independently. Most who practice mind-body techniques have felt positive changes (3,4).
There are a number of modalities under the umbrella of mind/body medicine (5), including relaxation techniques, guided imagery, tai chi, qigong, yoga, and meditation, such as transcendental meditation. Some other remedies such as group therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy are already integrated into modern Western medicine. The popularity of mind-body health is growing extensively due to its convenience, low cost, and minimal side effects.
Relaxation techniques are used to elicit a relaxation response that reduces physiological symptoms and enhances a sense of well-being. It has two key components: focused attention via repetition of phrases, words, or a simple physical activity such as breathing and attempts to ignore meaningless or frustrating thoughts. The breathing techniques can promote activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (6).