Mind-Guided Body Scans for Awareness and Healing–Youtube Interview of Erik Peper, PhD by Larry Berkelhammer, PhD

In this interview psychophysiology expert Dr. Erik Peper explains the ways how a body scan can facilitate awareness and healing. The discussion describes how the mind-guided body scan can be used to improve immune function and hold passive attention (mindfulness) to become centered. It explores the process of passive attentive process that is part of Autogenic Training and self-healing mental imagery. Mind-guided body scanning involves effortlessly observing and attending to body sensations through which we can observe our own physiological processes. Body scanning can be combined with imagery to be in a nonjudgmental state that supports self-healing and improves physiological functioning.

Free resources: Your Healing Journey and Information on Complementary and Alternative Medicine

The old song, The hipbone is connected to the thigh bone, expresses that we are part of a system in which every part is affected and affects every other part.  This system includes the physical, mental, emotional, social, environment and spiritual factors (see figure 1).


Figure 1. The healing environment–we are all interconnected. From: Optimal Healing Environment, Samueli Institute, 2013 (http://www.samueliinstitute.org/health-policy/your-healing-journey).

Not only are we an integrated system, we also need to feel SAFE in order to heal and grow.  Without feeling safe, we are on guard–a state that inhibits our self-healing potential. It is no wonder that sometimes people are dissatisfied with traditional medical care and visit holistic health/complementary and alternative health care providers.  These professionals often take more time to listen, touch you, and make you feel SAFE.

It can be challenging to make sense out of the overwhelming barrage of information available on the web.  How do you know what is appropriate,  what is healing strategy , or even what is a holistic perspective?

To put healing in context and to offer a frame work for what is useful, the recent free book and videos by the Samueli Institute and the information on National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)’s  website are very useful (http://nccam.nih.gov).

Samueli Institute publications

The free book Optimal Healing Environments: Your Healing Journey and video resources were developed by the Samueli Institute  in collaboration with the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters Initiative. It is a personal resource for understanding the role of Optimal Healing Environments in your personal and professional quest for health and well-being..  Go to their website and down load the free book and videos (http://www.samueliinstitute.org/health-policy/your-healing-journey).


National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is the Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).  The mission of NCCAM is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and alternative medicine interventions and their roles in improving health and health care. One of the best sources for evidence based medicine on CAM that can be used to help decision making.

The NCCAM website offers free resources and comprehensive video lectures about research in complementary health approaches that provide an in-depth perspective on the current state of science, as related to complementary medicine. Topics range from mind-body pain therapies to acupuncture.  Watch these online video lectures from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Complementary and Alternative Medicine Online Continuing Education Series (http://nccam.nih.gov/training/videolectures).

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Improve recovery from diseases. Youtube interviews of Erik Peper, PhD by Larry Berkelhammer, PhD

The psychophysiology of health and recovery from cancer and other medical conditions

Discussion about remarkable recoveries from life-threatening diseases following a visit to a shaman, medicine man, faith healer, voodoo master, or other indigenous healer. Also discussed is the importance of deep trust in the doctor, healer, healthcare team, the treatment, and in the ability of the immune system to improve their health.

Shifts in consciousness improve recovery rates for cancer and other diseases

This discussion explored shifts in consciousness that are associated with improved recovery rates for cancer and other diseases. Patients with a sense of control and who are empowered tend to heal faster. Acceptance for our present circumstances, when combined with hope for the future, and a belief in possibilities contribute to speedier recoveries. An optimistic view of the future and of health have physiological correlates that are associated with healing.

Improve rest and healing when hospitalized*

Imagine being in a strange hospital room with nothing to evoke calmness and peace – just a TV going and showing horrors of the world.  Staff coming in and out who often interrupt a person’s little sleep, blinking cardiac monitor lights, florescent lighting, beeping monitor noise, muffled groans of the other patient.  So hard to rest and sleep and to feel safe.  Sleep, please come and take me away from this horror – it’s now two in the morning, the terrors begin to crawl through me, sleep is withdrawing and I am facing my demons of thoughts and worries.

Instead of helping me with my natural progression of sleep, I am offered a sleeping pill to numb me out and disappear. Don’t they know that regularly taking of sleeping medication has been found to increase mortality risk by 25% and if used sporadically, by 10% to 15%? Being able to sleep promotes healing and sleep more likely occurs when patients feel calm and safe.  When sick and in pain, we often are terrified and want to be nurtured; we tend to regress and become more baby like – desiring our loved one(s) holding us and telling us all will be well.  A fearful child wants to be surrounded by loving, calm, supportive parent(s) as do most adults.  This helps us to let go and know in a non-verbal way that we are now safe and can safely rest.

Benefits of feeling safe have been found to be numerous.  For example, when a loving partner holds the patient’s hand, he/she experiences significantly less pain and a slowing of the heart rate.

Yet the patient placed in an unfamiliar room with clanking noise, flashing lights, fluorescent light  and with another patient who makes unfamiliar noise adds to fearfulness and unrest.  No wonder when elderly patients go to the hospital they often become confused and anxious and can experience major cognitive loss.  Terror and fear of the new and unfamiliar can lead to cognitive disturbances and when combined with anesthesia may cause significant cognitive decline,

It can be so simple to promote a healing environment that will improve patient recovery and significantly reduce medical cost as studies have found.  Patients who had gall bladder surgery and their room had a window with a view of trees compared to patients with a view of a brick wall had less pain medication and were discharged a day earlier. 

To promote healing in a hospital, we need to  honor ones natural evolutionary origins and reduce factors that evoke fear and at the same time  increase factors that promote healing and safety.  The following suggestions show an increase in long-term health benefits for the patient.

  1. Have the room in absolute darkness and no noise to support sleep and no interruptions for medical tests unless absolutely necessary.  Findings suggest improved sleep and positive changes in patient outcomes
  2. Have medical staff use red lights as the only light at night when working with patients as florescent lights with its blue spectrum blocks melatonin production and interrupts sleep.
  3. Arrange a bed next to the patient for a loving person to be able to caringly attend to the person in their hour of need.   Just being present, holding a patient’s hand, reassuring,  or giving a foot massage before going to sleep is often more effective than giving sleeping medication.
  4. Prescribe hand holding and being with a patient without time pressures as a billable procedure as done for routine prescribed treatments such as medications, epidural, or  intravenous solutions.
  5. Support nurses to be able to take the time to be with the patien, Make it a valued, legitimate nursing intervention.
  6. Offer a room with a view.

*I thank Dr. Betsy Stetson for her helpful suggestions and feedback