“We now have scientific proof that the mind can heal the body.” This is how Dr. Herbert Benson from Harvard University opens his book “Relaxation Revolution: The Science and Genetics of Mind-Body Healing”.
“This means that you have the innate ability to self-heal diseases, prevent life-threatening conditions, and supplement established drug and surgical procedures with mind-body techniques that can improve your physiology, biochemistry, brain functioning, and genetic activity.”
The Happy Doctor Program promises the following benefits:
Tools for handling burnout and compassion fatigue
Better physical health
Enhanced emotional and mental health
Increased energy and productivity
Strong sense of purpose and meaning
Improved sense of overall well-being
Productive daily self-care regimen
Positive changes in mindset and attitudes
Comprehensive science-based information about health and wellness
Great physical appearance as a result of our skincare products
Total satisfaction and a sense of great value
If you feel that we've come short of our promises, we offer your money back minus an administrative fee of $99. In addition, you can keep the skincare package that you get with the program ($2000 retail value).
Many of the tools, products, and practices we use are based on activating the relaxation response of the body. Below we provide more information about its nature and mechanisms.
The Relaxation Response
The term, “Relaxation Response” was coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, professor, author, cardiologist, and founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute. The response is defined as your personal ability to encourage your body to release chemicals and brain signals that make your muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain. In his book "The Relaxation Response", Dr. Benson describes the scientific benefits of relaxation, explaining that regular practice of the Relaxation Response can be an effective treatment for a wide range of stress-related disorders.
The Relaxation Response is essentially the opposite reaction to the “fight-or-flight” response and is beneficial as it counteracts the physiological effects of stress. It is characterized by the following:
decreased metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, and rate of breathing;
a decrease or “calming” in brain activity;
an increase in attention and decision-making functions of the brain;
changes in gene activity that are the opposite of those associated with stress.
increase in the body’s output of nitric oxide – a molecule associated with good health, including antibacterial and antiviral responses and also beneficial changes in the cardiovascular system—can be induced by the relaxation response.
Currently, chronic stress is a major source of illness. We tend to activate the fight-or-flight response multiple times during a typical day, usually because of situations that are annoying and stressful, but not life threatening. These include traffic jams, long lines in the grocery store, and deadlines. But all those surging stress hormones can take a toll on the body. Over time, such low-grade chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and muscle tension. Over 75% of Americans who responded to an online survey said that their stress levels are so high that they feel unhealthy (American Psychological Association, 2010), on top of that we have the stress from COVID-19 and the current health and economic crisis. So Dr. Benson’s research seems highly relevant.
“Modern medicine currently relies on two major therapeutic approaches: medication and procedures such as surgery. Until recently, little emphasis has been given to mind-body approaches. But as scientific evidence continues to establish the significance of mind-body interactions, a third major approach to medical treatment should evolve: one characterized by self-care through mastery of mind-body interactions. The Relaxation Response should prove an important element of this very promising approach.
We believe that mind-body science has now reached a stage where it should be accepted as the third major treatment and prevention option, standing as an equal alongside drugs and surgery in the clinical medical pantheon.” Dr. Herbert Benson, “The Relaxation Revolution”
According to Dr. Benson, learning to elicit the Relaxation Response is a great skill that can help us deal with life's unexpected stressors, heal ourselves, and achieve better health. Practicing just once or twice daily can be enough to counteract the stress response and bring about deep relaxation and inner peace.
There are many methods to activate the Relaxation Response including visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, acupuncture, massage, breathing techniques, prayer, meditation, tai chi, yoga/stretching, and self-care routines such as skincare and aromatherapy. Medical professionals rarely have time for long meditations or organized activities. For this reason, we focus on products and practices that can be done at home or on the go. Especially effective are practices that are part of an established routine.
Scientific studies show that this method can be effective for the following conditions:
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Menopausal, perimenopausal, and breast cancer hot flashes
Pain—general Pain—variations (backpain, headache, etc)
Premature ventricular contractions (extra or skipped heartbeats) and palpitations (heart pounding)
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
(In his book “Relaxation Revolution: The Science and Genetics
of Mind Body Healing”, Dr. Benson provides detailed instructions
how to use mind-body healing for each of these conditions as well
as a plethora of scientific studies supporting the effectiveness of
Investigations employing this two-phase method have demonstrated
the same healthful physiologic changes elicited by Transcendental
Meditation (the most studied type of meditation).
In addition to these diseases and symptoms, clinical and research evidence mounts that mind-body approaches can be effective in treating many other complaints. These include allergic skin reactions, bronchial asthma, congestive heart failure, constipation, cough, diabetes mellitus, dizziness, drowsiness, duodenal ulcers, fatigue, herpes simplex (cold sores), hostility and anger, immune problems, impotency, obesity, postoperative swelling, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In fact, any condition that is caused or exacerbated by stress can be helped by a well-designed mind body approach. Furthermore, because all health conditions have some stress component, it is no overstatement to say that virtually every single health problem and disease can be improved with a mind-body approach.
Research at Harvard, published in July 2008 in the peer-reviewed online journal of the Public Library of Science, PLoS ONE, shows conclusively that the mind can indeed influence the body down to the genetic level. Its key implication is that we can consciously “switch on” healthful genetic expression. We may not be able to change our genes per se, but you can use your mind to change your genetic activity. More specifically, gene signatures that were switched on or off by the relaxation response were associated through past research with clear health benefits. As indicated earlier, these benefits included more healthful regulation of the immune system, lower psychosocial stress levels, less destructive oxidative stress, and a reduced tendency toward premature aging. Also, the gene activity we observed is associated with healthful gene activity that is the opposite of that found in many cardiovascular diseases and other conditions.
Another study revealed that the participants who were experienced in eliciting the relaxation response through meditation had thicker regions of the brain’s cortex in those decision-making regions associated with attention and also sensory, cognitive, and emotional processing. The greater cortical thickness in the older participants’ brains suggests that meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning.
THE NATURAL HEALING CYCLE
Healing can result from the natural, self-restorative powers of
the body, the vis medicatrix naturae identified by the ancient
Greek physician Hippocrates. Current research suggests that
the speed of this natural recovery could be impeded or hastened
by the state of the patient’s mind. If the patient is under emotional
stress, believes that recovery is unlikely, or is otherwise in the
grip of negative emotions, healing can be delayed or blocked.
In contrast, if the patient enjoys a calm and positive mental state,
natural recovery might take place more quickly.
“With the wave of new research, we have moved beyond the idea of
regarding relaxation response techniques as “unconventional.”
The current scientific support requires that they be accepted as
mainstream, along with pharmaceuticals and surgery.”
Dr. Herbert Benson
EXPECTATION AND BELIEF – THE PLACEBO EFFECT
The power of expectation—the kind of expectation that embraces a deep belief that what is expected will actually occur—has long been recognized as a significant mental and emotional force. But is there any scientific foundation for placing expectation and belief on such a high pedestal? More specifically and personally, just how powerful can your personal beliefs and expectations be in the healing process?
Hundreds of investigations, involving a wide variety of diseases and health problems, have demonstrated the power of the human mind over disease. In these studies, the design includes a control group (no treatment), a placebo group (receiving mock treatment), and an intervention group (receiving medical treatment). In many of them, the placebo/belief worked as well as the drug/surgery.
“Just as an antibiotic drug may stop an infection or surgery may eliminate a malignancy, so the mind—your mind—has the capacity to treat or even cure many of your serious physical and emotional complaints.” Dr. Herbert Benson
Despite the existence of ample and convincing research, many people still have reservations about mind-body medicine due to cultural conditioning and mainstream beliefs. To banish your doubts and gain access to mind-body healing, you may have to change some of your basic assumptions about medical treatment.
Reductionism refers to the tendency to try to explain or reduce complex life processes to simplistic, mechanical, or very limited components. Medical reductionism involves a basic assumption that only certain specific physical treatments will be effective in responding to illnesses. Like most patients and physicians these days, you may be trapped in a restricted, reductionistic mindset that says, “A real cure for a serious illness is possible only through drugs, surgery, or some other physical procedure. Any suggested treatment apart from these physical responses is ‘unscientific’ and will probably be ineffective.”
One of the reasons for the prejudice against mind-body medicine comes from the confounding of expectations/beliefs and spiritual beliefs concerning a higher power. This is unfortunate because the two are completely separate. Psychologists, for example (my field of specialization), have long ago accepted the power of expectations and beliefs and routinely adopt them in their study designs. Beliefs are part of our cognitive apparatus and they play enormous role in goal setting, choice, and performance. For example, self-efficacy, a term coined by the famous Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura, and indicating how strongly we believe in our success on a task, is more predictive for performance than actual ability/competence. This finding, along with a ton of similar results from medical experiments, shows that what we expect/belief can be more powerful than “objective” external factors.
Another reason for the skepticism regarding the placebo effect is the wave of new-age “alternative” practices that often use the concept of belief in an unscientific way, as in “the law of attraction” and “energy healing” (based on an unsubstantiated belief that such things exist and really work). It is important to separate the wheat from the chaff, rather than just to lump all belief-related therapies and discard them altogether. As in any other field, there are practices based on good science, and those based on bad science or quackery.
So let’s see what good science has to say about this phenomenon:
The mind body research in this area may encompass one or more of these belief-related phenomena:
a belief of the patient that a particular treatment can work;
a belief of the healer/physician that a particular treatment can work;
a trusting relationship between the patient and the healer—a belief in each other;
a sense of expectancy—or a highly positive, future-oriented mindset—that a particular approach to healing will improve or cure a particular disease or symptom.
As these expectation-belief factors come into play in the mind and emotions, healthful
physiologic changes occur in the body, all the way down to the molecular level.
HOW DOES PLACEBO WORK: THE MECHANISM
The most abundant research findings on expectations/beliefs come from the field of pain management. Scientist from Emory University, Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Michigan confirmed that the placebo effect—with an emphasis on belief and expectation of pain relief— operates in the body through the release of natural opioid mechanisms,
which alleviate pain. These mechanisms include an increase in the concentration of neurotransmitters (endorphins) in chronic pain patients who were able to avail themselves of the power of belief and expectation in pain relief.
These researchers concluded that “verbally induced expectation plays a crucial role in each of these experimental conditions, even after the pharmacological preconditioning with ketorolac.”
A number of researchers have recognized that depression could be alleviated in up to 50 percent of patients not just by the common remedy, drugs, but by the expectation and belief associated with the placebo effect.
A mechanism that contributes to this power of the placebo in depression involves the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which must be present in sufficient quantities in the body to ward off depressive states. Researchers have determined through sophisticated brain research technology that when the placebo effect results in recovery from depression, specific changes occur in the brain in frontal and cingulate cortical activity.
Furthermore, the impact of the placebo on depression is not a short-lived phenomenon. A 2008 review article in the Journal of Psychiatric Research showed that, in eight placebo-controlled antidepressant trials involving 3,063 depressed patients, 79 percent receiving the placebo experienced a lessening of their depressive symptoms and suffered no relapse while undergoing more than 12 weeks of placebo treatment.
Altogether, results suggest that some patients respond better to mind body interventions than others who would benefit more from medications. One conclusion is that mind-body interventions work best in conjunction with traditional approaches relying on drugs/surgery/therapy.
Here is a video of Dr. Benson teaching the Relaxation response https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBCsFuoFRp8