Positive thinking is a powerful and often underutilized part of healing illness.
The effects of having belief in the success of a treatment have been documented for over two centuries. Though thoughts and emotions are quickly gaining acceptance as tools in healing, most people do not fully harness the power of their thoughts.
There is growing evidence that the symptom-free placebo should be the first line of medical treatment. The 2002 Annals of Internal Medicine proposes that the placebo response “will probably lead to far greater insight into how treatment works and perhaps to real improvements in human well-being.”
The father of laughter medicine Norman Cousins, who performed biochemistry research at the school of medicine at UCLA, said, “Mind is more powerful than medicine.”
“We know thoughts and feelings can influence disease,” states Candace Pert, Ph.D., a research professor of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center. She says, “Physiology and emotions are inseparable,” and, “My research has shown me that the body can and must be healed through the mind.”
Harvard’s Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., says, “Anxiety—the distress evoked by life’s pressures—is perhaps the emotion with the greatest weight of scientific evidence connecting it to the onset of sickness and the course of recovery.”
Studies performed by Ekman, Levenson, and Friesen, according to "Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology," led these researchers to propose “each discrete emotion … coordinate(s) changes in the organism’s biological states.” Emotions produced by one’s thoughts change one’s internal chemistry.
Harvard’s Dr. Herbert Benson, an international expert on mind-body medicine, has played a leading role in more than 180 scientific publications and books. In “Beyond the Relaxation Response” he says, "Belief—whether it’s deep within your mind and ‘heart’ or focused on some outside object like a doctor—can play a key role in generating positive or negative responses in our bodies.”
Benson’s team was the first to study the physical effects of meditation on Tibetan monks. He writes, “The Tibetan sages in effect tell us, ‘The state of your mind is the most important single factor in your physical health.’” Benson teaches: “The only valid healing ingredient that can be identified in [some] cures is the presence of strong belief.”
In many cases, the placebo groups heal as fast as or faster than the drug treatment groups. In fact, Benson states that in only “25 percent of your ailments, your doctor will probably be more successful than the use of your belief system” He says this leaves 75 percent of all physical ills to the impact of one’s thoughts.
A 1994 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded, “Placebo effects influence patient outcomes after any treatment, including surgery.” The placebo “may be misattributed to specific treatment effects,” says JAMA, admitting that the success of some medical treatments is due to one’s thoughts. Many incredible stories of placebo indicate that the mind can act completely in absence of standard western medical treatment.
But modern medical treatments have not fully utilized the power of the mind, at least not purposely. Today, the word placebo in medicine is often disregarded as a discrepancy of otherwise valid research, rather than a powerful adjunct to it. Placebo has such a well-known effect that pharmaceutical companies ritualistically throw out placebo data in order to remove the power of the mind from skewing their research. It was thought that “trials would become more efficient” by screening placebo responders and eliminating them from the treatment, says the Journal of Royal Society of Medicine (JRSM).
Still, the growing awareness is that one’s state of illness or health is based largely on one’s perception, or thoughts. Benson says, “The human mind can significantly increase its power over the body when it is provided with a positive focus for belief.” One’s belief can lie in anything from a doctor to a god. Whether one obtains this belief through research, suggestion, or through a dream makes no difference. The key is to find a way to believe in your healing process.
James Goodlatte is a certified holistic lifestyle coach who currently assists new parents and pregnant mothers to achieve optimal health. He can be contacted at FitForBirth@gmail.com or through YourSuperBaby.com.