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Yes, our mind can make us sick, but it can also heal us

Have you ever wondered if a simple thought can change your health? In our days, where psychosomatic illnesses are increasingly prevalent, it is evident that our inner world - our thoughts, beliefs and emotions - can directly affect our physical health. However, what is  often overlooked, is our mind's remarkable ability not only to make us sick but to also activate healing from within. An idea that opens new horizons of possibilities for our health and overall well-being.

A game-changing TED talk

I recently came across the speech of Dr. Alia Crum at TEDxTraverseCity, “Change Your Mindset, Change the Game,” which offers useful insight into the power of the mind and is actually the inspiration behind this article. Dr. Crum’s speech is a journey into the science of mindset, exploring how our core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us can shape our physical reality.

A journey into the power of thought

Think of drinking a milkshake and your body responding not to its ingredients, but to what you think about it. No, this is not a scene from a sci-fi movie, this is real science. The research presented in this talk explores just that and delves into how our perception can tangibly affect our physical state.

The milkshake mystery: A tasty test of belief

Imagine this: they give you a milkshake. One day they present it to you as a 'sinful' delicacy full of calories. The next day, the exact same drink is presented to you as a healthy option with minimal calories. This experiment showed that our body's response aligns with what we think we are consuming and not with what it actually is. Strikingly, when the participants thought they were consuming the high-calorie drink, their body's levels of ghrelin - a hormone that signals hunger - dropped significantly, mimicking the response to a more filling meal. In contrast, when the same drink was presented as low-calorie, ghrelin levels did not decrease as much. This ground-breaking study shows that what we think about what we consume has a direct impact on our body's physiological response.

Turn routine into exercise just by thinking

Another fascinating study involved hotel cleaners. These women, engaged in physically demanding daily tasks, did not perceive their work as exercise. When one group was told that their work actually counted as significant physical exercise, something remarkable happened. Those who believed in this new perspective experienced multiple health benefits, such as weight loss and reduced blood pressure, despite the lack of change in their physical routine. This study highlights the idea that our perception of our activities can turn them into opportunities for health and well-being. Isn't it amazing how a change in perspective can lead to real physical changes?

Medicine and the influence of our thoughts

The impact of mindset extends into the realm of medicine as several studies show that how patients perceive and expect the effect of treatments can significantly influence their experiences. After all, the Placebo & Nocebo effects are not accidental. The Placebo effect is not just a psychological trick. It is a true testament to our inner strength. In numerous studies, patients who were given sugar pills, confirming their healing properties, showed remarkable recovery rates. Why do we not have our mind blown by this every single day? It's estimated that up to 32% of all medical healings come from the Placebo effect, which means that people simply believe that they are healed and they end up healing themselves.  The opposite is the Nocebo effect, where negative expectations lead to unfavorable outcomes. This was strongly demonstrated in studies where patients developed symptoms simply because they thought they would happen to them, even in the absence of a physical cause. If anything all the above state the obvious: that our mind and body are connected and it is no longer possible to treat them separately. In fact, there is a need for a more holistic approach to medicine, where the patient's mindset will be considered an integral part of the therapeutic process.

Harnessing our mental power

But how can we apply this knowledge in our daily life? Awareness of our mindset and our thoughts, is the first step to harnessing their power. It is important to recognize and evaluate whether our current mindset is serving us and to look for ways to adopt more beneficial perspectives. By changing our perception of our health, our activities and our overall well-being, we can make a real difference to our physical condition. This is not about denying medical science, but supplementing it with a strong mental framework.

Transformative thinking: A step toward healing

The journey of understanding the healing power of the mind is about transformative thinking. It is about the transition from "I am sick" to "I am healing", from "I cannot" to "I am able". Viewing healthy eating as enjoyable, stress as an opportunity for growth, and adopting a positive attitude about the treatment we receive can transform our experiences and enhance our well-being. Every thought, every affirmation, is a step towards our healthier selves.

Actionable Tips: Cultivating a healing mindset

Incorporating the above insights into our daily lives can be transformative. Additionally here are some practical tips to help you harness the power of your mindset for health and healing:

  • Mindful Reflection: Start your day with a few minutes of mindfulness, focusing on positive affirmations about your health. For instance, try saying, "Today, I am nourishing my body and mind with positive thoughts and healthy choices."
  • Journaling for Health: Keep a health journal. Each day, write down something you did that contributed to your physical and mental well-being. This could include healthy eating, exercise, or moments of stress management.
  • Reframe Your Narrative: Whenever you catch yourself thinking negatively about your health or stress, consciously reframe the thought. For instance, if you think, "This stress is overwhelming," try shifting it to, "This stress is a sign that I'm passionate about what I'm doing, and I can handle it."
  • Practice visualization:  Spend a few minutes each day visualizing your body healing and thriving. Imagine the positive changes happening inside you as you focus on thoughts of recovery and wellness.
  • Gratitude Practice: End your day with a gratitude practice. Reflect on three things related to your health and well-being that you're grateful for. This practice helps foster a positive mindset about your body and health.
  • Set Health Intentions: Each week, set a specific health intention. For example, "This week, I will view my workouts as a celebration of what my body can do," or "I will see challenging tasks as opportunities to grow and strengthen."
  • Educational Empowerment: Continue to educate yourself. Watching documentaries like "Heal" (2017) or TED talks like "Change Your Mindset, Change the Game", can provide ongoing inspiration and knowledge to strengthen your mindset.
  • Community Connection: Engage with a community that supports a healthy mindset. Whether it's a yoga class, a wellness group online, or friends who share your health goals, being around like-minded individuals can reinforce your positive mindset journey.

Embracing Your Inner Healer

In closing, if there's one thing I'd like you to take away from all of this, it's that your mind has tremendous power over your health holistically and can hold the key to healing you on all levels (physical and psychological). By consciously shaping your beliefs and perceptions, you can unlock an incredible capacity for healing and wellness and open a door to a holistic approach to health. Where your mind and body will work together harmoniously for your well-being.

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