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UltraWellness Lesson 7: The Mind/Body & Body/Mind Effect

UltraWellness Lesson 7: The Mind/Body & Body/Mind Effect

IN LESSON 6, we reviewed how important energy is for life and for UltraWellness. You learned why we lose it and how to make it! But what is more important than almost any other factor in heath? What is the cause or worsens ninety-five percent of all illnesses? What has been associated with dramatic reductions in disease and increased longevity? In fact what is the one thing that is more important than cholesterol, blood sugar or blood pressure or any other risk factor in determining whether you will live a long and healthy life?

It is your attitudes, your social network, community and spiritual beliefs. Oddly, the biggest predictors of longevity are eating breakfast and psychological resiliency, being able to roll with the punches life throws at us.

I was browsing my old library (I hate throwing away books because they are like treasures), and found an old book I read in college called Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer, by a friend and leader in the field of Mind Body Medicine, Kenneth Pelletier, Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California (UCSF) and University of Arizona Schools of Medicine.

It was published in 1977. I wish I could say a lot has changed since the book was published. We have filled in the gaps, learned more about the mechanisms through which the body affects the mind and the mind affects the body, but the basic truths remain the same.

There is a dramatic and powerful connection between our mind and body, and of our body on our mind, in fact it really should not be called a connection because it is just one bidirectional system. Hans Selye, MD, the man who coined the word stress and first mapped out it biological effects said, “The modern physician should know as much about emotions and thoughts as about disease symptoms and drugs. This approach would appear to hold more promise of cure than anything medicine has given us to date.”

It is true. The most powerful pharmacy in the world is right between your ears!

Imagine if you could turn on fat burning–and lose weight–by using only your mind!

We are seeing an epidemic of stress related disorders. Americans live on caffeine and Prozac. We use substances to manage our moods. In fact the four top selling items in grocery stores are all the drugs we use to manage our mood and energy – caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and nicotine.

Depression, anxiety, autism, attention deficit disorder, memory disorders and dementia are epidemics in our society. They are making the pharmaceutical industry highly profitable. But how do we really deal with the root of this problem?

I will tell you what the causes of brain problems are and how to fix them a little later. But first let’s look at the power of the mind to harm or heal.

How to use your head to heal

One of my long-term patients came to see me after his wife died. He’d suddenly developed heart failure. His heart just wouldn’t pump. It was flooded with grief molecules, hormones like adrenalin, noradrenalin, cortisol and more. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study about how grief or emotional trauma can cause heart failure, literally a broken heart.

Rather than give him drugs for “heart failure” as I was taught, I suggested he have healing touch, a form of energy and emotional healing. He did and dramatically recovered. Touch, not medication, healed his heart.

We all learned how to read and write in school but never learned how to use our minds to help us with the most important survival skills–staying happy and healthy–that other cultures differ in their training. Herbert Benson M.D., from Harvard Medical School has demonstrated the amazing power of trained meditators from Tibet to control their physiology to slow their metabolism, change their heart rates, brain waves, and raise or lower their body temperature.

He even documented on film an ancient practice called tumo, the generating of internal heat, performed by initiated Tibetan monks. They are wrapped in icy cold sheets and must dry them from their internal heat. It is speculated that they do this by actively burning fat – something called brown fat. They can sit naked on a snowy mountaintop all night and not freeze, keeping themselves warm from their internal heat.

That’s something most of us don’t have any consciousness of, or control over. Imagine if you could turn on fat burning and lose weight through your mind!

That is ultimately the power of our mind and beliefs. Unfortunately we are not trained to address the stressful psychic loads that are the burden of the 21st century. And they are killing us.

Just consider these facts:

  • 95% of all illness is caused or worsened by stress.
  • Low socio-economic status is associated with poorer health outcomes and risk of death from all causes. This not related to poorer health habits, but to feelings of powerlessness and loss of control.
  • Internalized racism and stress are associated with high amounts of belly fat.
  • Stress hormones damage the hippocampus – the memory center in the brain causing memory loss and dementia.
  • In a study of people who volunteered to have cold viruses injected into their noses, only people with a high level of perceived stress got colds.
  • Women with metastatic breast cancer survived twice as long if they were part of a support group
  • Belonging to a group – a religious group, a bowling club, a quilting group – reduces risk of death from all causes and increases longevity despite health habits.
  • In a study of doctors, those who scored high on hostility questionnaires had a higher risk of heart attacks than those who smoked, were overweight, had high blood pressure or didn’t exercise!

The good news is we can change our beliefs and attitudes and their effects on our mind and our body. You may need to learn a few new skills, but they are essential survival skills we never learned in school or from our families.

We cannot thrive without them!

Even better news is it is not only about our beliefs and attitudes. Our mind and brain function is also influenced by what happens in our bodies. By addressing all the keys to UltraWellness “mental” problems can often be cured without changing your beliefs.

The effects of beliefs and attitudes are so important, but the effects of problems in our core body systems, on our mental state and brain function– such as our hormones, immune system, gut, detox system, energy system – and our nutritional status and other environmental inputs – are just as important and mostly ignored by medicine.

This is the topic for one of my books. For example, a man I saw yesterday was completely stressed out with anxiety and palpitations; he drank four martinis a night just to calm down. He also had severe muscle cramps and eye twitches.

These are obvious signs of magnesium deficiency. Stress, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar all deplete magnesium. He was in a vicious cycle.

What he needed wasn’t Valium or Prozac but to address why he was magnesium deficient (toxins, yeast, stress, alcohol, and caffeine), fix that through helping him detoxify, treat his yeast, cut out alcohol and caffeine, and give him enough of the relaxation mineral, magnesium, to calm his nervous system.

That, in combination with tools for calming the mind and the body, can help him reset his nervous system – using both the body-mind effect and the mind-body effect.

Here is what we know about how to influence the mind body and the body mind system:

  • Find the biological causes of problems with the mind by working on all the keys to UltraWellness I have outlined in the last 7 lessons. It could be mercury toxicity, magnesium, B12 deficiency, a toxic gut chemical or a gluten allergy that is changing your brain. So by changing your body you can change your mind!
  • Learn how to ACTIVELY relax. To engage the powerful forces of the mind on the body you must DO something, you can’t just sit there watching television or drink a beer.
  • Try learning new skills such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, take a hot bath, make love, get a massage, watch a sunset, walk in the woods or on the beach.
  • Exercise is a powerful way to burn off stress chemicals and heal the mind – well studied and well proven – just do it! It has been proven better than or equal to Prozac for treating depression.
  • Clean up your diet from mind robbing molecules like caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars, and eat regularly to avoid the short-term stress of starvation on your body.
  • Take a multivitamin and nutrients to help balance the stress response such as vitamin C, the B complex vitamins including B6 and B5 or pantothenic acid, zinc, and most importantly magnesium, the relaxation mineral.
  • Use adaptogenic herbs (herbs that help you adapt and be balanced in response to stress) such as ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, Siberian ginseng, Cordyceps, and Ashwaganda.
  • Take a hot bath or a sauna to help your body deeply relax and turn on the relaxation response.
  • Examine your beliefs, attitudes and responses to common situations and consider reframing your point of view to reduce stress.
  • Consciously build your network of friends, family and community. They are your most powerful allies in achieving long-term health.

Now we have come to the end of my introductory lessons about the revolutionary changes happening in medicine today.

I have introduced you to a set of new ideas and concepts that have the power to transform your health personally and to transform health care. It is no small job personally or for our society, but it is essential to stem the impending tsunami of ill health and economic burden facing us, our children and our children’s children.

The solution is UltraWellness, a fundamental change in our world view about health – a view that helps us get to the core of illness, to learn self-care, to take control and empower ourselves for transformation of our own health, and to transform our sick care system to a health care system.

Each of us can contribute and makes small changes that will have a big difference and we can move as individuals and as a community toward UltraWellness.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

Mark Hyman MD is the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

Comments (18)

  • So logical and yet too many doctors, people/patients and heads of government ignore these important facts.

    Every chance I get, I will spread thes words: We need to transform our SICK care system to a HEALTH care system.

    Many thanks for the enlightning information which confirms the concept of Eating what comes from a plant and avoid everything that is processed in a plant.


  • My mother (83) had a stroke in January 2010. We, her aging children were warned to prepare to ‘let her go’. She was comatose for over 72 hours. We visited. my siblings (2 isters and bother) got prepared. I got busy. I took over her hospital care (with permission) then prepared to take her home. In the last 2 weeks she was in hospital, I returned ‘home’ to finalise affairs and move the 700 miles to become her full time carer. In that time my sister had her moved into residential care and she is now under the control of a social worker who won’t let her come home.
    From comatose, she now walks almost unaided, feeds herself, makes you aware she needs the bathroom, helps to wash and dress herself and holds an unintelligable conversation. She cries a lot (partly stroke, depression, frustration and anxiety) and desperately wants to come home. Trouble is, she suffers from dysphasia and cannot say she wants to come home with me, more than once!
    She is now trapped in a disabled mind (communication/language problem) and a residential home filled with dementia sufferers.
    The care staff are desperate for her to come home but the social worker won’t allow it.
    I have read your mind/body article and want to read more as that is the way I’ve lived my 53 years to date. I am fit and healthy and deal with stress and get rid of it. I am trying all avenues to get mum out of the home but now am told i’ll be arrested if i take her off the premises. They’ll treat it as kidnap.
    In the summer months I took her home for weeks at a time, we coped well and it was great. She was happy, till I got her ready to go back.
    I am sadly in the uk so you may not be able to help me but any suggestion from a doctor (as our doctors seem to be governed by the government!) may help.
    I know mum will be much happier in a home and community environment and will live longer. I will be mortified if she gives up and in the last month, she’s started to weaken. I have her last two assements from the speach therapist and physiotherapist. One says she responds well to familiar people and the other says she needs minimal aide of one. Please help me.

    • Thank you, Joy, for your message and your interest in Dr. Hyman’s work. Your question and constellation of symptoms represents a complex medical condition and situation. Questions regarding conditions like these cannot be answered in a responsible manner via the Internet.

      If you would like information on becoming a patient at The UltraWellness Center please see “How to Become a Patient” at That site is designed to give prospective patients a comprehensive source of information about The UltraWellness Center. You may also feel free to call The UltraWellness Center at (413) 637 9991.

      Regardless of becoming a patient at The UltraWellness Center, it sounds like you need to consult with a doctor. Please seek medical attention for the issues that you outlined in your message.

      Wishing You the Best of Health!

  • Yes yes! And add to that some energy work, like Thai Chi, accupunture or accupressure. Laugh, smile, embrace joy. Touch for heath or Donna Eden’s energy medicine is 100% coherent with the list above. There is an energetic component to all of this. Which is why those Tibetan monks can control their body temps. (You can turn on the triple heats, or triple warmer). Conversely, you can reduce stress by some very simple energy medicine techniques. Another benefit is that it becomes impossible to eat food that is bad for you — it just isn’t appealing.
    I still eat too much – but I can only eat meat that has lived and died well. And the really fresh and vibrant fruits and vegetables at the farmers markets totally tempt me to take them home 🙂

  • Great info… we can have our stress, if only we’d take care of it

    When it comes to relaxation, I’ve learned to take my cues from healthy vertebrate animals. Isn’t it interesting that you’ll most likely never see a cheetah pull its hamstring or get a muscle spasm?

    How do animals move so well in spite of all the stresses they have to deal with?

    They do something that most people have never heard of, yet most every baby knows how to do the same… they all pandiculate and easily relax their muscles.

    Fido already knows what to do and we can easily do what animals naturally do so that we can have our stress and easily let it out.

    To find out what animals do
    you might discover another natural way to feel more comfortable.

  • Dr. Hyman,
    Have you heard about EFT, Emotional Freedon Technique, and do you think it can be useful to deal with stress and negative emotions or thoughts?
    Thank you,

  • Great article! I read a lot on health, esp. as it relates to ASD, since my 3 year old son has an autism dx. (For the record, I believe an autism dx is an incorrect dx, a better dx would be toxic overload resulting in protein synthesis disruption.) For the past year and a half, I have been trying different things with him, such as restricting casein, sugar and gluten, vitamin and mineral supplementation, enzymes, probiotics and amino support. I find my son to be a picky eater, but he does like certain veggies. I will make a better effort to give more fresh veggies and fruit.

    Not sure how you feel about oral chelation with alpha lipoic acid, but after a year of dietary and supplemental interventions and only mild to moderate success, I turned to it after reading and researching Cutler’s method on low/frequent dosing. I have found this to be the best intervention yet. Prior to chelation, my son’s (hair) levels for mercury, arsenic, lead, aluminum and cadmium were quite high- his total toxic representation looking to be at about 98%, yikes! Arsenic showed up even in his U/A prior to chelation. (Only eating organic poultry now after reading about Roxarsone.) After 6 months, hair levels have gone down quite a bit after an initial surge in some toxins and his essentials look more normalized. His GI effects test looks much better as well. He is returning to us; it’s quite amazing really.

    After reading your article, I began to realize that not only should I be working to help my sons (both my ASD son and my NT son) reach their full potential, but I should be doing the same for myself as well. Thanks for the great advice!

    Best Regards,

  • The seven steps to Ultra wellness was the most comprehensive, true to the core yet practical health advise I have ever read in a nut shell! I first heard about Dr Hayman reading Suzanne Summers book “breakthrough” where she claims he is the top doc above all others. Pretty impressive considering the book was a collection of
    interviewes from leading integrative medical experts. I see him on Doctor Oz too, another fav doc of mine. This article pretty much sums up ecerything that could possible be wring with you aside from injuries. Now the hard part is maintaining the self discipline to adhere to the lifestyle and dietary measures required for Ultra Wellness. It’s hard to believe more people have not posted positive comments after reading and him sharing this summary of this mans life work and findings.

  • Great information. I know some Dr.s say people don’t need vitamins, however, we see some wonderful changes when people have less financial stress, and better health with nutritional supplements. The information about your emotions is certainly true, most Dr.s never get to the root cause of a disease, they only treat symptoms. I love what you said about touch it is vitally important. Studies are now finding the power of touch and using different energy modalities are making a huge difference in our health. Thanks Dr. Hyman.

  • It doesn’t work that way at all. Yes, healthy living is very important… for everyone. The brain-mind-body thing in mental disorders refers to how the diseases can impact health overall. Treating the disorder helps with those other problems… because it gets rid of the stress that is causing or otherwise impacting them. (Stress in general can cause problems or make existing problems worse– some of that stress is medical in origin.) Sometimes the mental disorder is a symptom of another disorder, but that’s why it’s important to rule those things out first.

    You cannot will away a disorder, be it mental or physical. What you outline can help lessen the impact of a disease, allow the body to recover on its own sometimes (which does NOT happen often), or help with symptoms. But the underlying cause is still present. That underlying cause needs to be addressed and treated. You cannot tell people with type 1 diabetes to stop insulin treatment in favour of exercise or to change diets. Both can help (most diabetics do follow that advice), but these people still have a defect that prevents them from making insulin. Because they cannot make their own insulin, they are given injections of insulin. Nothing sort of gene therapy will change that.

    Unfortunely it’s not that simple in other disorders because we cannot correct (let alone address) the underlying cause yet. In those cases we can only treat the symptoms the best we can. That includes the use of medicines. We still cannot cure someone of congestive heart failure, but alievating the symptoms thru the use of dirutics and heart medicine does help decrease the workload on the heart. So do things like diet. Right now we can’t correct the problem, but we might be able to someday in the future.

    Also it is impossible to determine who will develop Alziemer’s, short of testing for a gene that is responsible for some cases. If it were that easy, we would be treating people as early as possible to delay its onset or miniminze its impact. Yet we don’t because we don’t know that far in advance yet. We only have risk factours… which include family history among other things. Healthy living can help though.

    The same is true in other diseases and disorders. Not all of them are present at birth and neither are indictations of their presence at first. Those can and sometimes do come later. My mom’s dog was born with no heart problems, yet she developed one in old age. That just happens sometimes– some of these are considered acquired disorders.

    I’m glad people are being benefitted from your advice. I just feel it’s another aspect in therapy and treatment in addition to medication (when said medication is warrented).

  • Fabulous article. I was “diagnosed” with MS about 2 years ago by the Western allopathic establishment, who could only offer me immune suppressant drugs as a remedy.

    I completely rejected their assessment and instead embraced and studied everything I could get my hands on to improve my “symptoms”. I can attest that the most significant discovery I made was the field of Energy Medicine, and all it has to offer. After 1 visit with a practioner, and subsequent daily energy routines that I administer myself, I have more energy and joie de vivre than EVER before. Educate yourself and tap into your power to heal yourself!

  • Dr Hyman, you are absolutely right in whatever you have said and I hope more and more people start believing in it! All i can say is a big Thank You & God Bless

  • The wheel turned and here we are again, and medicine is coming back where is belongs to the mind sciences. Salutation for that article.

  • Which one of Dr Hymans books would you recommend reading to balance hormones and reduce the risk of breast cancer?

    • Hi Angela,
      Congratulations for taking charge of your health and your future. I recommend that you start with the 10-Day Detox Diet program and then transition to the Blood Sugar Solution program to create a healthy lifetime eating style to optimize your health.
      Wishing you the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff