Scientists are now admitting that the whole mind-body connection might extend a little further than they previously wanted to admit. However, if you look at the concept known as the “placebo effect”, you can see that the mind can trick the body, and it’s been doing it in clinical trials for generations.
So how important is this “placebo effect”? Well, when patients involved in clinical trials are given sugar pills, saline injections and fake surgeries are performed on them, their original ailments improve by between 18 and 80%.
How can this be, you might ask? And could this effect work the other way? Might we be shooting ourselves in the foot with our own minds?
The term “nocebo effect” has already been coined. Here are some of the details.
The effect on our bodies
Researchers and experts in the field are now stating that harmful beliefs are like poison to your body.
Chinese superstitions could be fatal
Researchers in San Diego, USA, looked at 430,000 death records and discovered some crazy results. 30,000 Chinese-Americans’ records were compared with 400,000 randomly selected white peoples’. The Chinese-Americans born during the years that Chinese astrology deems unlucky, and those that had diseases deemed unlucky, died significantly earlier than their white counterparts.
These researchers looked at all the relevant data, and came to the conclusion that these findings couldn’t be explained by genetic factors, lifestyle choices or any other variable. The more strongly these Chinese-Americans believed they were unlucky, the sooner they died.
Even doctors can make themselves sick
Seem a bit coo-coo to you? Another study looked at medical students. 79% of them reported developing symptoms suggestive of the diseases they were studying.
Scientific reasons behind the madness
Scientists who study the brain conclude that there is a neurological reason for the cycles of negative thinking we can fall into. When the amygdala – the area in the brain that is thought to deal with the emotions – is aroused, it stays in the same state for a good while.
Memories can also take their toll. When we feel an emotion, it gets logging in our brains. As these memories build up over time, they can trigger emotions we felt in the past. New situations can get linked to past traumas deep within us.
How do I fight negative thoughts and feelings?
Focusing on illness has been scientifically proven to predispose you to getting sick. Excessive knowledge about what can go wrong with the body can actually be harmful to your health!
So how do you get out of that situation? Positive thinking. It’s human nature to want to learn from past mistakes, and mull them over in our minds, but let’s look at some useful ways to counter negative thinking patterns:
- Take control: one of the more effective ways of turning things around and being more positive it just to begin to watch out for negative thoughts. The sooner you spot them, the easier it is to move toward something more positive and enjoyable in your mind.
- Visualisation. Remember a time when you felt calm and peaceful. Bring that feeling to the front of your mind. Thinking of something nice can change the way you feel really quickly. Visualise something you’re worried about going really well, instead of badly.
- Rationalise: use the energy you are wasting on negative thinking to find a positive solution to your worries or a practical problem.
- Look to the positive: there is often a silver lining in every situation. Choosing to see the positive and list them in your mind or on paper is a good way of tipping the balance back.
- Move up the scale. It’s hard to make the leap from down in the dumps to ecstatic! You’re also likely to wind up feeling annoyed and frustrated. Try taking one step at a time.
- Say encouraging words to yourself, like, “I’m sure things will get better soon.” Or, “I’m sure I’m going to find a way to get through this.” Be patient, and be slightly optimistic to begin with.
Negative emotions aren’t all bad, though. Feeling down or sad can help us build a brighter future. Emotions that encourage us to spend time alone can trigger helpful insights and allow us to focus on ourselves and give ourselves some TLC. Balance is the key, for a healthy body and mind.