Holistic Healing: Science, Not Magic
Holistic healing isn’t always readily accepted as being a valid approach to dealing with physical or psychological symptoms. In fact, it’s often looked at as being equal parts myth, magic, and mystery. When we think of magic, we often conjure up ideas of cauldrons and sleight of hand, Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, and the areas of holistic health that we don’t completely understand. We relegate magic, and magical thinking, to the realm of childhood, and we tell ourselves that we’re too old to believe in anything outside of faith in the form of our dogma or just the cold hard facts.
Anything that seems to fall in between that, we might just dismiss out of hand. It’s easier to believe that certain areas of holistic health are a pure myth when in fact the truth is something else entirely.
Take meditation, for instance. Meditation isn’t actually magic. It doesn’t work just because we think it does, although the placebo effect is a proven scientific phenomenon. Scientists have been studying the health benefits of meditation extensively. An article in Psychology Today explains that scientists have found links between meditation and positive psychological and physiological benefits. In short, meditating is good for your health, and science can prove it!
I have found meditation to have a positive impact in my own life, improving my mindfulness and concentration. It’s helped me sleep better and has worked to lower my anxiety. As a former family therapist, I often encouraged meditation as an effective coping skill for clients dealing with a variety of psychological difficulties. Learning to be silent and still and to tune into our own bodies has a powerful effect, and science continues to explore the many benefits of a regular meditation practice.
Meditation isn’t the only holistic practice that science has validated. Smudging, or burning sage to clean the air, has been scientifically proven to be effective at killing harmful bacteria. When someone says that smudging burns away bad energy and creates a positive environment, this isn’t some kind of airy fairy supposition; it’s actually based in scientific research and has been going on since prehistoric times. Science only gives credence to smudging to promote positive energy and to eliminate negative energy from your home or office.
I smudge at least once a week, particularly during the school year and cold/flu season. Smudging is often an intentional act for me where I center myself and focus on health and healing, and while skeptics can easily dismiss my intentions, the scientific benefits of burning white sage in my home are much more difficult to dismiss with numerous studies corroborating the health benefits of this practice.
Yoga is another practice that is often incorporated into holistic health. Those unfamiliar with the practice may dismiss it as being a lesser form of exercise meant only for those who are flexible already, but practitioners and yoga enthusiasts can tell you this isn’t the case at all. But don’t listen to us: listen instead to the numerous researchers who have taken a close look at yoga and its benefits.
Yoga Journal lists 38 direct health benefits of yoga, each with direct ties to scientific research and not just some yoga enthusiast’s opinion. While flexibility is certainly one positive attribute of a regular yoga practice, it’s far from the only proven scientific benefit. It’s not hocus-pocus; it’s a healthy practice backed up by researchers and medical professionals. I’ve gone from a weekly yoga practice to a daily one, and I can definitely back this up with my own experience. While my strength, endurance, and flexibility have improved, there have been other benefits as well including improved sleep at night, higher levels of energy during the day, and lower stress. My posture has improved, as has my outlook on life.
So often, we dismiss alternative treatments and holistic remedies because they sound like some sort of witchcraft when we’re looking for proven treatments for what ails us. We forget that witches, witch doctors, and other healers often utilize herbal remedies and mindful techniques to encourage healing. Many of these methods are validated by science. Instead of dismissing the unknown in favor of the latest over-the-counter drug, it’s important that we do our own research and discover what science has to say about everything from reiki healing to Ayurvedic medicine to reflexology.
If we’re open to learning about new ways to treat mental and physical symptoms, we may just find our overall (holistic) health improves. It may just turn out that the methods we’ve written off as magic are actually rooted in science.
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