Healthy in a Stressful World:
Dr. Herbert Benson
Dr. Herbert Benson
is the founding president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at the
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. His three decades of
pioneering research into the mind/body connection have been chronicled
in six books, including the seminal The Relaxation Response.
He is regarded by many as the godfather of modern mind/body medicine.
comes from any situation, or circumstance that requires behavioral adjustment.
Any change, either good or bad, is stressful, and whether it's a positive
or negative change, the physiological response is the same. There is
a secretion of adrenaline, nor-adrenaline, epinephrine, and nor-epinephrine.
Those hormones change the mental, as well as the physical components
of our body. They lead to increased anxiety, increased anger and hostility,
increased mild and moderate depression. They contribute to high blood
pressure, hypertension, most heart disease, and angiopectorus. Even
heart attacks can be influenced by these hormones.
always been under stress. There's always been famine, pestilence, interpersonal
problems. But what's different about modern-day life is the sheer amount
of information and number of circumstances to which we have to adjust.
We are eliciting the fight-or-flight response repeatedly and this frequently
leads to symptoms.
when you think of the Mind/Body Medical Institute that you recognize
how we approach health and well-being. It's akin to a 3-legged stool
being held up by one leg of pharmaceuticals and a second leg of surgery
and procedures. We use traditional medicine on 10 to 40 percent of people
where it works. But we also add a third leg to that stool, where people
can take advantage of what they can do for themselves. That third leg
is self-care where we have several components. One is the relaxation
response, which is the physiological counterpart to the stress response.
Nutrition, exercise, stress management, and the belief system of the
patient are added to that, and we integrate them in a unique fashion.
saying is that a very large number of disorders are caused or made worse
by stress. We don't want to go too far because this is a mental sort
of thing. For example there is no data whatsoever to show that stress
causes cancer. However, stress could alter the course of a cancer. So,
we should view all diseases as having many components.
"One of the
most powerful aspects of healing [is] the placebo effect. Look at the
components that make up the placebo effect. First is the belief on the
part of the patient. Second is belief on the part of the healer or practitioner.
The third component is the relationship between the two, the belief
that comes from a solid relationship. What it [the placebo effect] really
is, is remembered wellness.
can have enormous power. You can actually be chased by someone or dream
you're being chased, and the reaction will be the same because it's
a reality in your brain. We could take advantage of that, and by appropriately
believing in what can heal, we can remember those patterns in our brain
and turn on remembered wellness.
what you know to be important to you, and that belief can definitely
counteract the harmful effects of stress. Believe in what you're doing
to counteract the stress. Believe in relationships, and if you're of
a religious nature, believe in the protective aspects of God. That's
good for us because it gives us hope, and that hope is a very wonderful
way to cope with many of the stresses of everyday life. Now I'm not
saying that we should all believe in God. I'm saying if your belief
system is to incorporate God, and that kind of spirituality, that's
wonderful. If you're not religious, then use another belief in which
you have faith, and that belief can also help you counteract the harmful
effects of stress."
Herbert Benson, M.D.
Cycle of Stress
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