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Gaining Release: Healing Hands and Labyrinths

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Posted: December 08, 2006

Spiritual Caregiving

Tending to Spirituality's Physical Side: 2 Approaches


How a Mirror Can Ease Pain

They look in the mirror, not to check their makeup or to see if their ties match their shirts, but to find relief from pain. An ever-increasing number of people suffer from chronic pain that is difficult to diagnose and a challenge to treat. Now, British researchers are developing a new treatment that involves little more than exercises in front of a mirror.

This new approach to pain is based on the theory that someone who suffers chronic pain may become so used to the experience of pain that the brain's movement control center triggers warning signals not only when there is an actual state of pain, but also when the patient thinks about or expects pain when he moves a limb.

Since this expected-pain sense is a learned or trained reaction, the researchers wondered if the brain could be retrained. The team at the University of Bath's School of Health and the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in the UK, says yes.

In two separate studies, participants were asked to sit before a mirror at an angle that allowed them to see only healthy parts of their bodies, such as a pain-free hand. Then the volunteers were asked to move the healthy and the painful limbs in the same direction simultaneously while focusing on the "healthy reflection" in the mirror.

More than half the patients experienced relief from pain during and after the exercise. The study suggests that by focusing on the reflection of a healthy body part in the mirror, we can convince the brain that everything is fine. The researchers concluded that "mirror training" can be an effective therapy for chronic pain.

For more information, click here.

-- By Monika Rice


Time Doesn’t Heal Wounds, But Adapting Can

Though most people dread the prospect of becoming ill, losing a job, or ending a romantic relationship, research shows that they won't suffer long-term emotional consequences . . . if they can adapt.

A study in the December 2005 issue of Psychological Science suggests people temporarily move away from their average happiness level after a crisis, but over time, they either return to their baseline happiness set point, or find increased life satisfaction.

Over an 18-year period, 30,000 study participants answered questions about life satisfaction. At some point after the first year of the study, 817 people reported divorcing. Their happiness was assessed before the divorce; in the years leading up to, during, and shortly after the divorce; and two years or more later.

Richard E. Lucas, Ph.D., author of the study at Michigan State University, looked at how far respondents' life satisfaction dropped when the divorce occurred and whether happiness eventually returned as people adjusted. The conclusion:

Some people adapt slowly, others quickly. Still others became even more satisfied with their life after the crisis. So life's events aren't the problem, nor is time the healer. Rather, adapting ultimately restores happiness.

-- By Jennifer Nelson

This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at Contact staff directly via email at

© 2006 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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