The stress of everyday life have you frazzled? You’re hardly alone. But luckily for all of us, our bodies have come equipped with five gateways that are capable of promoting healing. I’m talking, of course, about our sense of sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell…and spirituality. Ancient healers were well aware of how each of our senses could be used to promote physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Nowadays, modern practitioners are combining time-tested methods with modern innovations to create therapies that not only heal us, but leave us feeling like never before. Here are a few of the most intriguing ones we’ve found.
“Color is key,” says Lisette Beraja, a Marriage & Family Therapist who frequently uses color in her work as a diagnostic tool. “I’ve seen firsthand the effects that color can have on mental health and healing.” She adds that psychologists have found that certain colors in our immediate environment can help us perform tasks more effectively. “Some experts say exercise is best performed in an environment of warm colors, such as reds and oranges, whereas tranquil blues and greens are ideal for mental concentration,” she says. The healing effects can even be felt in your wardrobe. “Everything about you can set the tone you’d like, from the color of your lipstick to the clothes you wear,” she says.
“My fiancé is an opera singer,” quips Jim Rohr, Doctor of Oriental Medicine at Canyon Ranch Miami Beach. “I live with proof of the power of sound.” Rohr uses a variety of sound-related therapies in his work, involving everything from traditional chimes to singing bowls, drums and rattles. In addition to these time-tested instruments, Rohr also plays CDs that utilize binaural beats to isolate and magnify specific types of brainwaves. Rohr is also a practitioner of acutonics, a lesser-known therapy where tuning forks of various frequencies are applied to trigger points on the body. The vibrations of the forks cause the body’s energy to vibrate in a complementary way. “The different vibrations have different effects,” he explains. “Some frequencies calm the mind and ease pain while others increase energy or improve the quality of sleep.”
“Touch therapies, such as Healing Touch and Reiki Touch Therapy, are grounded in Eastern ideology,” says Anne Vitale, an Assistant Visiting Professor at Florida Atlantic University who is also a Reiki Master with extensive experience using touch therapy for end-of-life care. “The body needs chi — or life-force energy — in order to heal the mind-body-spirit,” she explains. In Reiki therapy, practitioners like Vitale function as conduits for that energy to pass, by way of their hands, into those who need it. If you can’t experience a full Reiki session, don’t despair: You can use self-care techniques by placing your own hands over your seven chakras, or energy centers. “Using Reiki on a daily basis in self-care consistently bathes the physical body with needed energy,” says Vitale.
Larisa Alonso, Nutritionist for Canyon Ranch Miami Beach, can’t say enough about food: “It’s the basis and core for all health and healing,” she asserts. Most likely, you already know how the nutrients in particular foods can be used to help treat a variety of conditions — from arthritis to high cholesterol — but there are also foods that can dramatically impact our moods. “When we taste a food, a whole cascade of neurotransmitters are produced and released,” she explains. For one thing, foods that taste good cause us to release endorphins, which makes us feel great. “Take tryptophan, for example, found in foods like eggs, cod, soybeans, turkey and milk — it is a precursor to serotonin, which is a major mood regulator,” she says, recommending combining tryptophan-rich foods with wholesome carbohydrates in order to help shuttle the benefits to the brain more efficiently.
The use of the scents of certain pure plant essences to treat ailments and evoke particular moods dates back to ancient times, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. “In order to receive therapeutic benefits from essential oils, you must be using real oils — not synthetic fragrances,” cautions Charlotte Prescott, Director of Spa & Fitness for Canyon Ranch Miami Beach. According to Prescott, essential oils like citrus, pine and eucalyptus do their healthful work by entering the blood stream. This can happen either by way of inhalation or through skin absorption, perhaps at one of the spa’s customized aromatherapy massages. For those of us looking for new ways to relax, she recommends lavender for its calming influence, or frankincense, which promotes deep breathing. “Essential oils can have benefits for our mind, body and skin, all at the same time,” she says. “They’re great multi-taskers!”
Sometimes the most powerful healing therapies don’t fall into the traditional five senses at all. Instead, they work directly on our body’s inner energy and spirit. “We are physical as well as energetic beings,” says Anne Vitale. “The mind-body-spirit is interconnected on many levels. Often, a disturbance in the physical body can be an indication of an imbalance in the energetic one.” Jim Rohr agrees, asserting that the body has meridians and centers of energy, which sometimes need help being brought back into balance and alignment. “The acutonic tuning forks have an effect on your body regardless of whether or not you’re actually hearing them,” he points out. Whether you’re feeling out of balance physically, mentally, or spiritually, pursuing therapies that reach out to all six of your senses is the surest path to feeling truly healthy.