The Power of Positive Thinking
Mind over Medicine
Most of us have heard of the “placebo” effect. This healing effect occurs in patients during clinical trials, when they are given a fake or sham treatment, yet they still feel the positive benefits. The placebo effect is real, some suggest involvement up to 70% of the time. But this effect is not just in your head, research has shown that simply believing you are getting the actual treatment, can cause physiologic changes in the body:
- decreasing your blood pressure
- heals ulcers
- even makes bald men grow hair who think they’re getting Rogaine!!
But this placebo effect, has a dark, even twin, called the “nocebo” effect. The same mind-body power that can cause positive changes in the body, can also harm you.
The mere suggestion that a patient may experience a side effect from a medication or procedure can result in patients reporting these symptoms. In a double-blinded clinical trial, patients were warned about the side effects they may experience, and approximately 25% reported severe side effects, even when they were only taking sugar pills.
What the research shows…
- Patients about to undergo surgery who were “convinced” of their impending death had worse outcomes than those who did not have negative feelings
- Women who believed they were prone to heart disease were 4 times more likely to die. It’s not because these women had poorer diets, higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol, or stronger family histories than the women who didn’t get heart disease. The only difference between the two groups was their beliefs compared to another group.
- Patients believed to be terminal who are mistakenly informed that they have only a few months to live have died within their given time frame, even when autopsy findings reveal no physiological explanation for the early death.
- A well-known study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a fake surgery for knee arthritis was just as effective as a real surgery
- Irritable bowel sufferers who knew ahead of time that they would be taking a placebo, reported improvement in symptoms, simply because it was suggested that they could.
- A general distrust of people leads to a greater risk of dementia compared to those who were more trusting. Neurology 2014
- Data from nearly 100,000 women found that the most cynical participants were more likely to have heart disease than the least cynical folks. Circulation 2009
- People who scored higher on measures of unfriendliness, as well as those with chronic stress and depressive symptoms, had a higher risk of stroke than the friendlier participants. Stroke 2014
Benefits of Positive Thinking
The “power of positive thinking” is a popular concept, but what does the “power of positive thinking” really mean?
I have presented a lot of data that shows how having negative beliefs about your health can adversely affect your health. This also holds true for many patients I treat for spine pain. Here are some benefits and tips on how to remain positive even in times of extreme pain:
Positive thinking helps to fight stress by decreasing cortisol production. Positive thinking has actually been found to boost your body’s ability to fight off disease
Improve Heart Health
Stress and anxiety can mess with your heart function. However, positivity can lower your risk of heart disease, including stroke and heart attacks. People who think positively tend to exercise more, eat healthier, and live happier lives!
Individuals who think positively tend to age healthier. This means that they suffer from fewer physical and emotional health problems as they got older.
Positive thinking is proven to help people tolerate pain. While stress and negativity cause pain sensations to be stronger, positive thinking can help reduce the pain.
How to Become a Positive Thinker
Smiling has been scientifically proven to improve your mood and thought patterns. The muscles in your forehead are directly linked to your brain’s emotional center, and creasing them into a frown can make you moody and depressed. Smiling, on the other hand, sends positive, happy thoughts to your mind.
Yoga or Meditate
Mindfulness is a great activity that helps you to bring your focus inward and listen to your self-talk. If you hear a lot of negativity, make a conscious effort to replace those thoughts with positive ones
Be Around Positive Thinkers
Take a look at the people around you and instead of hanging around people that will accompany you in your misery, find people that will help to pull you out of it. The more positivity you have in your life, the brighter the world around you will become.
Science has proven that singing helps fight depression and boosts your mood. The more you sing, the happier you’ll become. It’s a great de-stressing activity!