MINDFULNESS AND INNER BEAUTY

A mindfulness student recently experienced her body as beautiful during a body scan in class.  You may already have a positive self-image and feel good about your body. You may consider your body to be “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Or you may have a negative body image, even hating your body. Whether you love your body or hate it, you can benefit from the body scan, a foundational practice from mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).

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MINDFUL SELF-COMPASSION

Your compassionate human desire to take good care of others is critical to the well-being of your family, friends, co-workers and community – and taking good care of yourself is the foundation for your care of everyone else.  However, it is sadly true that we often take better care of others than we do of ourselves. It’s as if we need a new Golden Rule: Do unto yourself as you do unto others. We would never say or do to someone else some of the things we say and do to ourselves.

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MINDFULNESS FOR SENIORS

You and I have two primary modes of mental activity: the doing mode and the being mode. Although we are called human beings, we spend the majority of our time in the doing mode rather than the being mode.  Your “doing” mode is highly prized in our culture for schooling, work and career. It demonstrates your mastery and command of detail, data, thinking, intellect and your goal-oriented ability to get things done. We depend heavily on the doing mode to take care of all our daily affairs at home and work,….

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GOOD MEDICINE IS INTEGRATIVE

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is your best resource for evidence supporting the combination of mainstream medicine with safe, effective complementary approaches for health promotion, disease prevention and the treatment of acute and chronic conditions.


Integrative medicine brings together conventional, mainstream, allopathic medicine and biomedicine and unconventional, complementary, alternative approaches to health in a model of care that is increasingly finding a home in academic medical centers, hospitals, individual practitioner offices and clinics in a way that benefits the well-being of consumers, practitioners and health care systems.


Over the past 30 years, conventional mainstream medicine (aka biomedicine or allopathic medicine) has expanded its scope as scientific research has documented the relative safety and therapeutic value of interventions previously considered unconventional, alternative or complementary. “Unconventional” medicine refers generally to any approach that is not part of conventional mainstream biomedicine. “Alternative” medicine generally refers to an approach that is used instead of conventional medicine. “Complementary” medicine generally refers to an approach that is used in addition to conventional medicine.


In 1991, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) created the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) under the oversight of the NIH director.

As scientific research on alternative medicine emerged at major medical centers, partly funded by the OAM itself, the OAM was elevated to the status of a formal NIH center and renamed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). In December 2014, it was renamed the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health in response to criticism about the use of the controversial term “alternative medicine” and also in response to mainstream medicine’s increasing embrace of complementary approaches.


NCCIH’s mission 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.” NCCIH lists four categories of integrative approaches: mind/ body, dietary/biological, movement/energy and manual interventions. The most widely used therapies include food/nutrition, supplements, yoga, meditation, acupuncture/Traditional Chinese medicine, massage and pharmaceuticals. The conditions for which integrative approaches are most commonly used include chronic pain, gastrointestinal conditions, anxiety, depression, stress and cancer.

Meditation and massage were among the first complementary approaches to attract popular interest and scientific validation, followed by acupuncture, spinal manipulative therapy and a variety of mind-body approaches such as relaxation training, physical exercise, imagery, biofeedback, mindfulness, yoga and spiritual practices, including prayer. This broad range permits individuals to use approaches that fit their personal health needs, belief system, local availability and finances. Though the approaches are numerous, several foundational elements are common to many of them. It is important to note the foundational principles of good integrative practice are shared by good mainstream medicine. For this reason, I believe it is helpful to view the following as a list of core values of good medicine, regardless of the label integrative, complementary or mainstream.


  1. Uniqueness. - We are all unique. Our nutritional needs and preferences vary. We experience the same illness differently based on age, gender, genetics, psychology and lifestyle. An intervention that might be perfect for one person may lead to adverse reactions in another. Integrative medicine customizes therapy to individual needs, facilitating the patient’s innate healing systems. The empowered patient is at the center of personalized care in integrative medicine.
  2. Scientific evidence. - Decisions regarding therapy are based on scientific research, with special attention to safety, effective- ness and affordability.
  3. Collaborative team approach. - Communication is emphasized among all practitioners and the patient.
  4. Holism. - The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Good medicine seeks to balance and harmonize physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, financial, familial, ethnic and environmental influences that affect a person’s health.
  5. Healing relationships. - Treatment rests on a transparent, collaborative therapeutic partnership with active participation by the patient. The practitioner is a catalyst awakening inner strengths and healing resources inside the patient. Sharing of knowledge and information is a two-way street.
  6. Self care. - The very heart of good medicine is an actively engaged, empowered patient. Prevention and health promotion are emphasized alongside treatment interventions. Many illnesses are related to lifestyle, behavior and the choices we make. Mobilizing internal antidotes to stress at work and home and in daily life is fundamental.
  7. Other healing systems. - Traditional medical systems such as Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine have increasing research support. Used perhaps by more people globally than biomedicine, these ancient approaches are now being integrated with modern biomedicine.
  8. Group support. - A healing environment of peers can catalyze healing, emotional support, encouragement, feeling connected and combatting loneliness. Small group support aids healing through mind-body skill development, telling one’s story and actively listening to others’ stories.
  9. Spirituality and transformation. - One of the greatest risk factors for heath is living a life that is not aligned with one’s deepest purpose, meaning, values, beliefs and faith. Connection to something larger than ourselves can support physical, mental and emotional health. It is challenging to prescribe this to those without faith, but scientific validation is helping to open the minds of skeptics.


Integrative medicine combines the best of ancient healing wisdom with modern science and addresses the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – in the context of community and relationships. Integrative medicine is helping evolve our healthcare system by providing effective, safe and affordable ways to promote health, prevent disease and manage the escalating burden of chronic disease. Thankfully, it is helping heal health practitioners and health systems as well.


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DR. JOHN PATTERSON

Dr. John Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He is on the family practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Saybrook University’s School of Mind Body Medicine (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, D.C.). He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative medicine consultations

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