Mind-Body Medicine: The New Science of Optimal Health

Course No. 1920
Professor Jason M. Satterfield, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
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Course No. 1920
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Course Overview

In recent decades, science has revealed that the mind and body are intimately connected in ways we haven’t previously realized—and this field of knowledge is now changing our understanding of health and disease. While it’s easy to see that stress affects health and well-being, or that your blood pressure rises when you’re angry, cutting-edge research shows that the mind-body connection goes much further.

Numerous studies on the brain’s interaction with the body demonstrate that health is directly affected by our social environments, socioeconomic status, culture, behaviors, relationships, psychological states, and habits of mind, among many factors.

Current mind-body science reveals facts such as these:

  • As few as eight weeks of mindfulness meditation can meaningfully boost your immune system.
  • Extreme stress and low social support increase the risk of breast cancer by a factor of 9.
  • Contact with nature is correlated with numerous positive health outcomes, including improved attention for children, reduced stress, and enhanced work performance.
  • Chronic hostility portends calcification of the coronary arteries, even in young people.
  • Expressive writing by patients is correlated with improved outcomes for both asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

Mind-body medicine—working in tandem with traditional medical practice—makes use of a large spectrum of psychological, physical, and behavioral treatments, drawn from many disciplines, in an approach to health care that aims to treat the whole person. It provides highly effective resources for preventing and treating a wide range of medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, stress, cancer, and depression—as well as for fostering the ultimate goals of health care: truly optimal and lasting physical health, and emotional and psychological well-being.

A knowledge of this exciting field offers you critical understanding of the state of the art of health care and a significant new direction in medicine. But beyond valuable knowledge, a grounding in mind-body medicine gives you numerous practical, empowering tools for your own health care, as well as that of your family—tools that can make a profound difference for healthful, vibrant living.

In Mind-Body Medicine: The New Science of Optimal Health, you’ll study this subject in compelling depth, with the expert guidance of Professor Jason M. Satterfield of the University of California, San Francisco. These 36 eye-opening lectures offer you a comprehensive overview of the field, providing rigorous answers to the questions of what makes us sick, what makes us well, and what we can do about it.

You’ll look closely at the anatomical and biological systems through which what is “outside” in the environment gets “inside” to affect our minds and bodies. You’ll also examine recent research on subjects ranging from the impact our emotions and psychology have on health to the crucial roles that social, cultural, and behavioral factors play. And you’ll learn about effective mind-body treatments for numerous common medical conditions and diseases.

Finally, you’ll finish the course with a toolbox of ideas and interventions for your personal wellness goals, empowering you to partner more effectively with your medical providers and maximize your own health.

A Remarkable New Context for Health Care

Professor Satterfield, a highly respected professor of clinical medicine and a specialist on the intersection of psychological factors and physical health, brings to the table his deep knowledge of mind-body science and extensive clinical experience in its application.

In the course’s opening, he introduces you to the model of “biopsychosocial medicine,” which looks at the relationship between biological, psychological, and social factors in health.

In studying how the biopsychosocial model is applied in modern medicine, you delve into these core subject areas:

Biological pathways:You first investigate the anatomy and physiology of four biological systems through which the “outside” gets “in.”

  • By reviewing a detailed study of the autonomic nervous system and the neuroendocrine system, discover how the brain activates the body’s two stress-response systems, and how these systems crucially affect health and well-being.
  • Learn also about the physiology of immune function and the effects of stress on immune response and healing.
  • Study the mechanisms of genetics as well as fascinating research indicating that your behavior can alter your genetic material, for better or worse—changes that can be passed on to future generations.

Psychological factors in health: In the course of nine lectures, you look in depth at the critical ways in which psychology affects the body.

  • Learn how negative emotional states such as anger and hostility can influence both the onset and progression of disease, and how positive emotions aid substantially in healing and wellness.
  • Study how cognition—the ways in which we think and process our experiences—affects emotional states and behavior. Drawing from cognitive and other behavioral therapies, learn effective techniques for reshaping thinking, emotions, and behavior.
  • Review evidence that certain personality types may be predisposed to conditions such as cardiovascular disease and depression, and learn how we can compensate for risk-carrying personality traits by working with cognitions and emotions.
  • Investigate the neuroscience of behavior and the important effects of our behaviors on both disease and disease prevention.
  • Look at stress as an integration of biological, cognitive, and social factors, and see how we can approach stress response and coping as a developmental skill.

Social and ecological factors: You also study the important effects on health of factors such as culture, identity, socioeconomic status, social support, communities, and public health policy.

  • Examine the studied correlations of income to health, education level to longevity, and ethnicity to susceptibility to disease, and consider how we can use this knowledge to benefit both individual and public health.
  • Review research linking social support to health in many medical conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, and pregnancy; and do a detailed assessment to evaluate and strengthen your own social support network.
  • Investigate how spiritual affiliations and practices have distinct physical benefits, such as reducing blood pressure, cortisol, and inflammation; improving lipid profiles and cardiovascular health; and extending life expectancy.
  • Assess how physical environments affect health, how national and local culture impacts health-related behaviors, and how public initiatives can create healthier behaviors, environments, and communities.

Tools and Strategies for Optimal Wellness

Building on the biopsychosocial model, you study mind-body treatments for common conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stress, cancer, obesity, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Here, you learn about specific practices and interventions that you can use in your own health care program, such as these.

  • Stress management: For both personal and occupational stress, learn about a spectrum of stress management approaches, from cognitive restructuring and perspective shifting to meditation, breathing techniques, relaxation training, and the learnable skill of resilience.
  • Strategies for successful behavior change: With reference to concerns such as lifestyle change, weight management, and disease prevention, study the leading models of effective behavior change, as well as specific approaches such as the strategies of motivational interviewing, the four key elements of change, and the internal skills of self-regulation.
  • Heart disease—prevention and treatment: Survey psychosocial interventions for heart disease, including a range of behavior change approaches, stress and emotion management, somatic quieting, social connection, and dramatic evidence that cardiac disease can be reversed through lifestyle change.
  • Treatment of pain: Study mind-body factors in pain experience, and learn about treatments including cognitive and behavior change, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and biofeedback.
  • Fatigue, headaches, insomnia: Investigate the variety of medical conditions that show no clear organic cause, such as chronic fatigue, tension headaches, and sleep disorders; and review effective psychological, physical, and behavioral approaches to treatment.

Professor Satterfield’s teaching combines an extraordinary breadth of knowledge, clear and accessible explanations of the science involved, and a highly compassionate approach to patient care. He enriches the lectures with stories and case studies of patients in treatment for stress, heart conditions, insomnia, trauma, and other health challenges, showing you what mind-body medicine looks like in clinical practice and how you can integrate its lessons into your health program and daily life.

With the knowledge and tools you’ll learn in Mind-Body Medicine: The New Science of Optimal Health, you can begin your own biopsychosocial assessment, identify your strengths and challenges in partnership with your medical providers, and take authentic steps toward your fullest physical and mental wellness.


These lectures are not designed for use as medical references to diagnose, treat, or prevent medical illnesses or trauma. Neither The Great Courses nor Professor Jason Satterfield is responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a medical condition or illness, you should consult a qualified physician.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Weaving the Biopsychosocial Braid
    Begin by contemplating three of the course’s core questions: Why do people get sick? How do people get well? What can we do about it? As a guiding context for the lectures, learn about the biopsychosocial paradigm, which looks at the relationship between the biological, psychological, and social factors in human health. x
  • 2
    Vital Signs—Defining Health and Illness
    What does it mean to be healthy? Here, look at definitions of health, sickness, and disease as multidimensional constructs. Examine how we measure health, both individually and publicly. Review health determinants such as human behavior, geography, the environment, genetics, and economic factors in approaching a more holistic model of health. x
  • 3
    Fight or Flight vs. Rest and Digest
    Begin to look at the biological pathways whereby psychological and social phenomena affect the body. Study the autonomic nervous system, the biology of the “fight or flight” response, and its opposite, the relaxation response. Also learn about the body’s stress-response system and the medical consequences of chronic stress. x
  • 4
    Simmering Soup—The Neuroendocrine System
    Here, study the anatomy and function of the endocrine system as it affects the body’s stress response. Learn how the endocrine system releases cortisol, the “stress hormone,” into the bloodstream, and the physiologic changes that cortisol produces. Review the problems caused by cortisol imbalance and key approaches to controlling stress. x
  • 5
    Deploying the Troops—Basic Immunology
    What is the relation of the mind to the immune system? Study how the immune system fights foreign organisms, destroys altered cells, and heals wounds. Then examine studies showing the effects of stress on front-line immune response, susceptibility to disease, and wound healing. Learn also how meditation can boost immune function. x
  • 6
    Nature vs. Nurture—Genes, Health, and Disease
    Review the basic science of genetics and inheritance as a lead-in to the fascinating field of epigenetics. Grasp how genes are biologically expressed or “turned on” and how our behaviors and environment can alter our genetic material (for better or worse) within our lifetimes—alterations that can be passed on to subsequent generations. x
  • 7
    Forget Me Not—Cognitive Function
    In the first of two lectures on cognition, look at definitions of intelligence and whether intelligence can be changed. Consider the many factors affecting IQ and whether IQ correlates to achievement. Learn about “neurobics” and other ways to improve cognitive functioning, and study the nature of learning and memory. x
  • 8
    Mind over Matter—Cognition in Everyday Life
    Begin this lecture by studying the power of belief and how it can affect our health. Learn about the “dual process” model of thinking and how thinking affects behavior. With reference to cognitive therapy and positive psychology, study reflexive or “automatic” thinking and practical approaches to changing our thinking, emotions, and behavior. x
  • 9
    Emotions Revealed—Psychology of Emotions
    Consider the function of emotions—what they signal and communicate and how we express them, both verbally and in many nonverbal ways. Study their evolutionary purpose, including the role of positive emotions in problem solving and creativity. Review studies of happiness and the specific health effects of different emotional states. x
  • 10
    Agony and Ecstasy—Biology of Emotion
    Learn about the parts of the brain that correlate to emotional experience as they generate emotions and emotion-based memories and regulate our behavior. Note the physiologic “signature” of different emotions—the physical changes emotions produce—and track experiments indicating that altering physical posture and movement changes emotional experience. x
  • 11
    What’s Your EQ, and How Can You Improve It?
    This lecture introduces the concept of emotional intelligence: how we perceive, use, understand, and manage emotions. Explore different models of EQ and ways of testing it as they relate to health and the regulation of emotions. Study key strategies for managing negative emotions and for generating positive ones. x
  • 12
    What’s Your Type? Personality and Health
    How is personality related to health and disease? Learn about the history of personality testing and the identification of personality “types” based in behavioral traits. Study what these typologies may predict about health matters such as depression and cardiovascular disease, and consider ways to compensate for risk-carrying personality traits. x
  • 13
    An Apple a Day—Behavior and Disease Prevention
    Begin by investigating health-related behaviors, such as smoking, substance abuse, and overeating. In exploring why we behave as we do, look at biological factors, the neuroscience of addiction and habits, and also at psychological and social determinants of behavior such as socioeconomic status, culture, education, and societal pressures. x
  • 14
    Staying on the Wagon—Making Changes That Last
    Here, investigate leading models of behavioral change, including the “stages of change” model and “motivational interviewing,” a group of strategies to support people in action taking. In specific examples, study four key elements of successful behavior change, the nature of willpower, and the internal skills of self-regulation. x
  • 15
    Ease the Burn—Modern-Day Stress and Coping
    This lecture discusses stress as an integration of biology, cognition, behavior, and social and emotional factors. Look at stress response and coping as a developmental skill, and explore eight kinds of coping behavior. Then review a menu of stress-management options, both cognitive and behavioral, highlighting mindfulness meditation and the skill of resilience. x
  • 16
    The Iceberg—Visible and Hidden Identity
    Moving to social factors related to health, explore how health is affected by identity. Observe how personal identity is embedded in culture, and study the features of identity formation, using examples of race and gender. Look at the impact of stereotypes and labels as they affect both health and health care. x
  • 17
    Ties That Bind—Relationships and Health
    Now take an in-depth look at relationships and at the kinds of support that social connections can provide. Review the substantial research linking social support to health, in conditions from cardiovascular disease to breast cancer and pregnancy. Finally, use an assessment tool to evaluate the quality of your own social support network. x
  • 18
    Building Bridges—Intimacy and Relationships
    In deepening your look at social factors that affect health, refer to the assessment tool from Lecture 17 and consider ways to strengthen and improve your network of social support. Learn about therapeutic approaches to developing intimacy and resolving conflict in relationships. Also study strategies for managing anger and cultivating empathy. x
  • 19
    Touched by Grace—Spirituality and Health
    Look first at statistics on the prevalence of spirituality, and consider how faith can affect wellness through fostering healthy behaviors, social support, and a sense of meaning. Review studies on the health effects of spirituality, encompassing the physiology of meditation and other faith-based practices, and the significant medical benefits of forgiveness. x
  • 20
    A Matter of Class—Socioeconomics and Health
    Socioeconomic status plays a multilayered role in health. Examine the marked correlation of income to health and the diverse factors that contribute to it. Study evidence on the relation of education level to longevity and to specific medical conditions. Finally, review studies showing surprising connections between social status and susceptibility to disease. x
  • 21
    A Cog in the Wheel—Occupational Stress
    Here, investigate stress in the workplace and the phenomenon of professional burnout. Study research on stress correlated with job category, and the common elements of work-related stress. Learn about ways of measuring individual and organizational stress, links to the onset of medical conditions, and cutting-edge strategies for treating stress. x
  • 22
    The Power of Place—Communities and Health
    Our living environment plays another significant role in health. Assess how neighborhoods affect health, from environmental exposures to the extraordinary benefits of green spaces and contact with nature. Track the effects of our social communities on health-related behaviors, and consider how we can alter our built environments to be healthier. x
  • 23
    The Master Plan—Public Health and Policy
    In a far-reaching look at public health, learn about the field of behavioral economics—its study of the realities of human behavior and how we might use our behavioral tendencies in new ways. Grasp the concept of “choice architecture” as it allows us to make public policy that authentically supports healthier communities. x
  • 24
    Heart and Soul—Cardiovascular Disease I
    Cardiovascular disease shows significant links to psychological and social factors. Study the anatomy and physiology of heart disease as well as the similar pathophysiology of strokes, and review studies revealing startling correlations of stress, personality type, hostility, and depression with cardiovascular function and dysfunction. x
  • 25
    Heart and Soul—Cardiovascular Disease II
    Now look at psychosocial interventions for treating heart disease. Survey the range of behavior change interventions, including diet and exercise, and dramatic evidence that cardiac disease can actually be reversed through lifestyle change. Also track the significant cardiac benefits of stress management, and evaluate the usefulness of treatments for anger and depression. x
  • 26
    The Big C—Cancer and Mind-Body Medicine
    Begin this lecture with a discussion of cancer biology and the range of risk factors for cancer, with emphasis on behavioral and lifestyle-related risk factors. Assess the use of stress management and social support in treating cancer, and investigate whether these and other psychosocial treatments affect cancer outcomes. x
  • 27
    Bugs, Drugs, and Buddha—Psychoneuroimmunology
    Consider the impact of psychosocial factors on the immune system, featuring the correlation of emotional states with wound healing and surgical recovery. Study the effects of behavioral factors and stress management in treating HIV/AIDS and the role of stress in asthma. Finally, look at interventions to improve or recalibrate our immune systems. x
  • 28
    Fire in the Belly—The GI System
    This lecture explores the important connection between the mind and digestion. Study the anatomy and physiology of the gastrointestinal system, highlighting the remarkable role of our intestinal flora. Learn how stress affects digestion in the examples of ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and review effective behavioral and psychological interventions used in treatment. x
  • 29
    Obesity—America’s New Epidemic
    Can psychosocial interventions prevent or treat obesity? Investigate the phenomenon of obesity in the United States and the social, environmental, and biological factors that may explain its dramatic increase. From the range of approaches to weight loss and management, and parameters from our lecture on behavior change, consider realistic strategies for success. x
  • 30
    The Strain in Pain Lies Mainly in the Brain
    Mind-body factors play a critical role in both the cause and treatment of chronic pain. Study the physiology of pain and the variability of pain experience with respect to emotions, stress, and phenomena such as placebo and “phantom limb” pain. Review treatments including cognitive and behavioral strategies, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and biofeedback. v x
  • 31
    Catching Your Zs—Sleep and Health
    Learn about the science of sleep, sleep’s five stages, and how sleep changes as we age. Study sleep deprivation, with a focus on the widespread problem of insomnia. Track the diverse causes of insomnia and possible treatments, including stimulus control, sleep restriction, relaxation and cognitive therapies, and behavior change. x
  • 32
    Chasing Zebras—Somatoform Disorders
    Explore the intriguing phenomenon of medically unexplained symptoms—symptoms that show no discernible organic cause. Regarding conditions such as chronic fatigue, tension headaches, and lower back pain, look at causes ranging from cognition and emotions to cultural and social factors, and review both psychological and physical approaches to treatment. x
  • 33
    Seeing the Glass Half Empty—Depression
    The biopsychosocial model provides valuable interventions for this all-too-common condition. Define the hallmark symptoms of depression and current medical understanding of depressive disorders. Review a case study of depression, highlighting cognitive restructuring and behavior change treatments, as well as the usefulness of medications, supplements, and shock therapy. x
  • 34
    Silencing the Scream—Understanding Anxiety
    Investigate how fear and anxiety affect your mind and body, and explore the biology and symptoms of anxiety disorders with reference to simple phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. Study effective treatments such as exposure therapy, reality testing, and relaxation therapies and their use in tandem with medications. x
  • 35
    Lingering Wounds—Trauma, Resilience, Growth
    This lecture discusses treatments for trauma, with a focus on post-traumatic stress disorder. Learn about the psychobiology of PTSD, and follow a case study featuring highly effective interventions based in emotional reprocessing and unlearning fear-based cognitions. Consider how to promote resilience, growth, and meaning following trauma. x
  • 36
    Tomorrow’s Biopsychosocial Medicine
    In concluding, reflect on the promise of new medical technologies, a more interdisciplinary and personalized approach to health care, and new directions in medical training. Contemplate changes in clinical practice between 1970 and what we may expect in 2030, and what the health care team of the future may look like. x

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Your professor

Jason M. Satterfield

About Your Professor

Jason M. Satterfield, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
Professor Jason M. Satterfield is Professor of Clinical Medicine, Director of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Director of Behavioral Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He earned his B.S. in Brain Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. He currently directs the...
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Mind-Body Medicine: The New Science of Optimal Health is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 45.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Practical Application of Theoretical Models I use the concepts of different chapters when doing group therapy.
Date published: 2020-08-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting summary of the topic Well done overview of a topic that I find very interesting
Date published: 2019-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Insightful I am happy to see Western medicine becoming more holistic. The course was well organized and each class had useful information to improve our health.
Date published: 2019-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very informative - easy to watch very informative - easy to watch Covers a lot of diverse areas of health care The speaker was very good
Date published: 2018-10-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from dont get download version! wont stream continuously. constantly restarts from beginning!
Date published: 2018-07-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of thebest courses . Dr. Satterfield makes a complex area of study understandible and relevent.
Date published: 2018-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great lectures So agree with the biopsycosocial model used this approach in my recovery from depression, also studied during my degree
Date published: 2018-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from College without the cost Great way to get a college education without paying the high cost. Alos allow one to gain insights on hobbies when located from the main stream of life I.e. in the military.
Date published: 2017-11-23
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