Choosing a mind-body therapy isn't easy, and doing some "homework" before making your choice can help you identify the practice that is best for you. Ask yourself:
- What do you want from the therapy? Do you want to address your stress so you can decrease your risk of disease? Do you need to find a way to cope with physical symptoms? Are you looking to treat a particular disease? Or are you looking to increase your general wellbeing? If you have a specific health goal, ask your provider which therapies he or she would recommend and do some research on your own-there is lots of information out there.
- What's appealing? Do you like to dance, sing, paint, exercise? Choosing a therapy you'll enjoy increases your chances of sustaining and reaping the benefits of a mind-body practice.
- What's logistically realistic at this point? How much free time do you really have to devote to this practice? Are there financial constraints? Is there an instructor or therapist in your community to help you get started? Your commitment to a particular practice may evolve over time, but it's important to base your initial choice on what's realistic for you now.
- What physical, intellectual, and/or spiritual characteristics must you consider? Can you settle down in a sitting position or do you prefer to move? Do you find that music or art brings you a peace you don't find elsewhere? Are you comfortable with a spiritual approach? Think about your characteristics and choose a mind-body therapy that incorporates them. Again, that is not to say that these characteristics don't change over time. But honor your present self as you begin your mind-body journey.
- What is safe and effective? Generally, mind-body therapies are very safe. Remember that mind-body therapies have a rich and ever-expanding body of research supporting their efficacy. In the end, however, you are responsible for ensuring your own safe and effective mind-body routine, so tailor it to your needs.
For example, if you're choosing a therapy with an intense physical component, seek approval from your healthcare provider and listen to your body to avoid overdoing it. If you are suffering from depression or a personality disorder, talk with your primary therapist before doing meditation, clinical hypnosis, or guided imagery (and some type of expressive therapies that use guided imagery). If you're using medication, monitor yourself to determine if your mind-body practice reduces your need.