Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

This question & answer column is for people living with chronic health challenges and their family caregivers, who want to learn to increase the odds of improving their health by learning to live with mastery & wellbeing.

I invite you to post your questions in the comments box below. When I get a certain number of related questions, I pick one that covers them all and I answer that one.

I post to this blog three times per week. Monday posts are relevant published articles. Wednesday posts are interviews—mostly video. Friday posts consist of questions about living better with chronic health challenges, and my answers to them.

Here is this week’s question:

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION:  Is there evidence from scientific studies proving that mind training improves health outcomes and cures disease?

ANSWER: There are many studies published in the finest refereed medical journals proving that mind training is medically efficacious, but there are no mind training methods that have proven to cure any diseases or medical conditions.

There are numerous anecdotal accounts of people successfully using mind training to fully recover from various incurable cancers and all manner of serious disease. However, those anecdotes are usually flawed. In some cases, the patients may have been misdiagnosed and may in fact have had a disease that often resolves without any medical intervention. In other cases, the patient also received standard of care medical treatment and it is not clear what actually cured the patient.

Despite all that, mind training has proven to reduce emotional distress and improve psychological flexibility. Those two changes then serve to reduce physiological stress, which contributes to better immune function, which then can improve health outcomes.

In some rare cases, mind training has made enough of a difference to allow patients to beat the odds and fully recover unexpectedly. Unfortunately, most of the evidence for this is anecdotal and it only seems to occur with extreme commitment to some form of mind training practice, such as a mindfulness practice or a concentration practice and practiced with great intentionality.

However, anything that helps patients reduce emotional distress and increase psychological flexibility will improve the odds at least to some extent. Good psychotherapy also fits into this category, especially the newer forms such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

It’s important to note that in the last hundred years, a large number of senior mindfulness teachers have died of various cancers—they all had very advanced and committed mind training practices that failed to prevent their deaths.

In conclusion, mind training is good for the mind and good for health and well being, but don’t expect it to prevent or cure metastatic cancer or other deadly diseases. 

This website is offered as a free public service, supplying information that has been found helpful to certain people living with chronic health challenges. No treatment is offered on this website. The advice is general, and may or may not apply to your individual situation, and is not a substitute for psychotherapy or medical treatment.

What questions do you have about how to live better with chronic health challenges that are related to the relationship between states of mind and health? 

Just scroll down and type your question in the comment box. I will post a reply to your comment, but your question may not appear in this column. 

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