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Stimulating the pathway connecting body and brain may change chronic condition patients’ lives

Stimulating the pathway connecting body and brain may change chronic condition patients’ lives
26th April 2018 Andrew Farquharson
In Mental Wellbeing
mental welbeing

BetterMe can help you increase your wellbeing. But what exactly is health and wellbeing? Zoe Fisher, Clinical Psychologist, Swansea University writes The World Health Organisation defines health as complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. “Wellbeing” is defined in dictionaries as anything from the physical state of being comfortable, to health and happiness. However, these definitions suggest that patients with chronic diseases or lifelong injuries cannot be healthy and/or happy.

Some have argued that people with cancer might be considered healthy if they have the following attributes: optimism, sense of control, purpose and meaning, positive social ties, and a nurturing family.

We also think that wellbeing in patients with chronic conditions can be improved – it just takes a different approach. At Swansea University’s award-winning health and wellbeing academy, we have been providing a unique service for brain injury patients – “happiness” groups.

Despite the name, this strategy is not just limited to making people “happy” again. Over eight weeks, the participants cover a variety of topics, such as positive health, positive emotions, and building meaning and purpose in life. We help them identify and focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses, and to develop positive social relationships with other group members. In addition, we encourage patients to take part in different activities, such as technology projects and other outdoor skill building programmes, through which clinicians weave neuro-rehabilitation and psychological therapies.

Our aim is to treat both physical health conditions and improve mental wellbeing by stimulating the pathway that connects both body and mind: the vagus nerve.

What patients need.

Brain injury is a condition that leads to a change in one’s identity for which little help is available. Patients usually have psychological treatments – such as cognitive behavioural therapy – as well as education and reassurance. While doctors typically focus on reducing impairment, we have found that this is not what what patients say they need. They want opportunities to use their strengths, to contribute and feel valued.

Full article