Be careful! You get what you expect

 In Better Life, Focusing on the positive, Self confidence

You don’t need alcohol to get drunk; you just need to THINK you’re consuming alcohol.  You don’t need a pain reliever to get rid of a headache; you just need to THINK you’re taking a potent medicine.  You don’t need a bronchial dilator to relieve your asthma; you just need to THINK you’re using one.  And the list goes on, even to include not actually having knee surgery, but just thinking the surgeons repaired your knee to feel better.  This phenomena is called the placebo effect.  It is incredibly powerful and has been considered a nuisance in clinical trials that are trying to prove the effectiveness of new drugs.  But new research is being done to not only understand how this phenomenon works, but how we can harness it’s power.

Studies have uncovered that at least one of the underlying mechanisms is how our expectations impact our bodies’ chemistry.  If we believe something is going to help us or hurt us (the nocebo effect), our physiology responds as if it’s true. It might mean feeling better because we think we’re receiving a helpful drug, or feeling bad because we think we’re suffering side-effects from the drug even though it’s just a sugar pill.  Our brains are easily fooled!

Think of how this translates to other parts of your life.  If you think you can achieve something, your body prepares for and expects it.  If you believe good things happen to you, your body prepares for and expects it.  If you think you’re going to fail at something or that nothing goes well for you, your body prepares for and expects it.  It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to our thoughts and to find ways to catch ourselves expecting the worst.  Someone once told me, “I envision that the world is out to do me good!”

For more information on the placebo effect, check out these resources.


Tina Hallis, Ph.D., is a professional speaker and consultant for The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations fulfill their true potential using strategies from the science of Positive Psychology.

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