Can Your Thoughts Impact Your Mood & Your Health?
Have you ever heard of the placebo effect, sometimes called the sugar pill effect? It’s this idea that patients believe they’re getting a medicine, surgery, or intervention that will provide relief of their symptoms so they expect it to work. And it commonly does. In her book, Mind Over Medicine, Dr. Lissa Rankin references studies that demonstrate placebos can prompt bald men to grow hair, lower blood pressure, cure warts, heal ulcers, decrease stomach acid, decrease colon inflammation, lower cholesterol, increase white blood cell activity, and relieve pain.
When potential drugs are tested to see how effective they are, they have to perform better than the control group which receives a placebo. This is not an easy feat since the placebo often shows a 20 to 40% improvement (or even higher) on its own.
Then there’s the opposite nocebo effect; believing something will have a negative impact. For example, if patients in the control group are warned that they may experience side effects like nausea and vomiting, it’s very likely they will. In her book, Dr. Ranking cites Dr. Herbert Benson saying, “Surgeons are wary of people who are convinced they will die.” Patients who were “convinced” of their impending death were compared to another group who were “unusually apprehensive.” While the apprehensive group did pretty well, those who were convinced they were going to die usually did.
The point of these intriguing examples is to help us fully appreciate the power of our thoughts and the mind-body connection. It’s now recognized that our thoughts, expectations, and feelings affect our physiology, signaling our body how to respond. In fact, they can even affect which genes are turned off or on.
But how often do you think about what you think about? How often do you react instead of respond to daily situations? If you live in your natural default mode where your survival instinct is in charge, it’s likely that you often get stuck in a loop of negative thoughts. And the resulting frustration, stress, disappointment, and discouragement impact which hormones, neurotransmitters, and signaling pathways are activated, which not only impacts your mood and your actions, they also impact your health.
So best sure to use negative thoughts for the information they bring, but don’t get stuck in them. Keep sharpening your positive edge.