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Published April 24, 2013, 11:35 PM

Positively Beautiful: Tapping your way to good health?

Saying affirmations always make me smile as I think of the Saturday Night Live skit with Stuart Smalley looking in the mirror, chiming “I’m good enough, and by golly, people like me.”

By: Dr. Susan Mathison, INFORUM

Saying affirmations always make me smile as I think of the Saturday Night Live skit with Stuart Smalley looking in the mirror, chiming “I’m good enough, and by golly, people like me.”

Affirmations are no longer joke material, though we all might feel a little funny saying them. Main stream medicine is now quite accepting of the power positive affirmations have to impact our sense of health and well-being. Some therapists suggest a twist, or shall I say, “tap” to affirmations, literally tapping specific areas on your face and body while saying affirmations.

It’s called the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and involves tapping meridian points of the body, gently using the fingertips of your index and middle fingers about five to seven times on each. The 10 main meridian points are the

  1. top of the head

  2. eyebrow

  3. side of the eye

  4. under the eye

  5. under the nose

  6. chin

  7. collarbone

  8. under the arm

  9. inside wrist

The idea is to think of a problem or challenge area of your life and say a positive affirmation with an upbeat, positive manner, while tapping. Most typical EFT affirmations begin with: “Even though I have this ‘fill-in-the-blank’ problem, I deeply and completely accept myself.” Always move from the top down when tapping.

EFT can provide relief to some after just one session but it also depends on how many issues they need to work on around their problem. It can be safely used every day on everything from daily stress situations to chronic health issues. The internet abounds with case studies from individual patients working on issues as diverse as anxiety, allergies, weight loss, smoking cessation, phobias and balance.

Nick Ortner’s book, “The Tapping Solution” includes many patient stories, and has been endorsed by popular personal development experts Wayne Dyer (“No More Excuses”) and Jack Canfield (“Chicken Soup for the Soul”) as well as physicians Mark Hyman and Lissa Rankin.

A search of the medical literature reveals 3 recent studies that support EFT. One small study in 2009 involved 15 Canadian college students suffering from test anxiety. EFT compared favorably with cognitive behavioral therapy, considered a gold standard for psychological therapy.

Another study from 2012 examined the changes in cortisol levels and psychological distress symptoms of 83 nonclinical subjects receiving a single hourlong intervention. Subjects were randomly assigned to either an EFT group, a psychotherapy group receiving a supportive interview or a no- treatment group. Salivary cortisol assays were performed immediately before and 30 minutes after the intervention. Standard surveys were used to assess feelings of distress. The EFT group had the most significant improvement in their surveys and cortisol levels.

Published just last month, a group of clinicians from the medical school at the University of Athens in Greece followed 35 patients meeting international criteria for tension-type headaches. 19 patients used EFT twice a day for one month and the control arm of 16 patients were given standard care advice.

Outcome measures included several standardized surveys, a headache log and salivary cortisol levels. Within the treatment arm, perceived stress, scores for all surveys and the frequency and intensity of the headache episodes were all significantly reduced. No differences in cortisol levels were found in either group before and after the intervention.

I look forward to new research on EFT in different physical and mental health arenas with larger patient groups. In the meantime, I’ll be tapping into EFT myself.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com. Email her at shesays@forumcomm.com.