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 real evidence to support the claim that mind training can actually improve health?

ANSWER: Epidemiological studies by DeBoer, Kuderer, Butow, Brown, and many others have found a strong positive correlation between honest emotional expression (especially of negative emotions) and longevity. Based on those findings, people who had been identified as having personality styles that had correlated in earlier studies with cancer, heart disease, and various chronic illnesses were randomly assigned to two groups. The controls received no mind training. The experimental groups were taught self-hypnosis, concentration meditation, and cognitive restructuring—all of which are evidence-based forms of mind training.

As little as six hours of training resulted in half the death rate in this group when compared to the controls (Eysenck 1988). In another study, forty-eight cancer patients were divided into two groups. The controls received no mind training. The treatment groups were provided with psychological skill-building to create a greater sense of control, purpose and meaning in their lives.

The median survival for the twenty-four members of the control group was three years.  The median survival for the members of the treatment group was five years (Eysenck 1988).

In a third study, one hundred women with widely-metastasized breast cancer were divided into two groups of fifty each. One group was composed exclusively of women who had chosen NOT to receive chemotherapy and the other group was composed exclusively of women who all chose to receive chemotherapy.

• Half the women in both groups were randomly assigned to receive mind training.

• The survival rate for those who received no treatment was eleven months.

• The survival rate for those who received chemo but no mind training was fourteen months.

• The survival rate for those who received mind training but no chemo was fifteen months.

• The survival rate for those who received both chemo as well as mind training was twenty-two months (Eysenck 1988).

This last point illustrates that mind training is best used adjunctively to medical standard of care rather than as an alternative. In fact, my personal belief is it should never be used as an alternative to any medical treatment that has a change of working.

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.