I recently attended the Emerging Tools for Innovative Providers Conference on Spirituality and it's impact on Healthcare, held at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA. In attendance were healthcare providers of all backgrounds, including doctors, nurses and administrators, chaplains, psychologists and researchers from Adventist Health, Duke University, Loma Linda, Azusa Pacific, UCLA and UC Davis to name a few. The overall goal of ETIP is to explore the significant spirituality and health care research accumulated over the last 25 years and how it impacts patient care and outcomes.
One of the key contributors, Dr. Lee Berk, spoke about the power of humor and laughter - and the research that substantiates what we intuitively know to be true: laughter is good medicine.
Meditation and Guided Imagery Meditation is as simple as following your breath.
Guided meditation is the first tool I use in every Create to Heal class. It calms the breath and stills the mind, allowing for relaxation and rejuvenation. Following the breath, catching a thought and releasing it, watching thoughts go by are all ways of getting beyond the surface chatter of the mind to the calm waters below. Once settled into a more peaceful state, patients feel open and receptive to visual imagery, creative writing and self- expression. Stress and anxiety are released.
In the sports world, athletes often refer to “zoning” or being in the "zone” when performing at high levels. When “zoning,” they have control of their breath and the chatter of their mind and “play” no longer feeling tired, stressed or in pain. They experience their sport with joy - the love for the game - without worry of winning or losing. Fully aware, they allow their bodies to move with grace and perfection without thinking, without trying.
You don't need to be an Olympic athlete or All American Champion to receive the benefits of simple exercise.
The American Journal of Public Health tells us "music is the most accessible and most researched medium of art and healing." I often welcome patients into class by playing one of the great oratorios of all times - the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah. Patients report they literally have a change of heart, a change in perspective and mood; a little Handel goes a long way. Music, like poetry, engages us so thoroughly that we immediately feel better.
When you listen to music, your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain linked to reward and motivation. Listening to music can be so pleasurable that even the anticipation of listening to music can cause a release of dopamine.
The benefits of using music therapy with cancer patients is also well-researched and documented.
The color and movement of art impacts patients' imagination in a way that encourages them to clearly visualize a positive outcome. The viewing of art inspires communication from a deep place, helping them to express experiences often difficult to put into words. The creating of art - the doodling with various colored pens and watercolor pencils, the shaping of sculpey clay, the shredding of hand-made paper to form the first layer of a canvas piece - allows for a tactile release of energy and attention to detail that transcends the pain and worry of disease.