Can the Mind Really Heal the Body?
Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market
On the Free Form Fitness blog we typically stay within the realm of medical, research based, tried-and-true fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle topics. For this week we would like to venture into the world of self-healing with the mind.
Netflix released a documentary this year called “Heal”, which introduced audiences to several people who had managed to heal injuries, and cure illnesses with a resource we don’t typically turn to in the time of modern medicine – the brain. One man rebuilt his spine after a nasty injury, and another woman took control of the cancer in her body. The stories are amazing and almost unbelievable.
It seems crazy to think that just by thinking about healing that we may actually be able to heal ourselves.
Before we go any further, it must be said that this is all speculative and methods are mostly anecdotal. We are not giving medical advice, we are simply presenting an area of research within the health and wellness community. These types of strategies should be seen as additional resources and options, but you should always consult with a licensed professional before choosing alternative treatments for any kind of injury or illness.
So is there really a connection between body mind, and is the body interwoven enough with the mind that the mind can actually influence the body?
There are a few key examples of this that don’t even involve healing, but show the powerful connection between how we think and how we feel.
The first is the well-known “white-coat hypertension”. This is a phenomenon that doctors observed in their patients and would wrongly perscribe blood-pressure medication for. It has been shown that blood pressure can rise when in the presence of someone in a white lab coat, most commonly associated with doctors. The simple stress of seeing the doctor is enough to increase blood pressure. Seeing the doctor, considering the potential outcomes of the meeting, and creating a mindset of stress has the power to increase the blood pressure of people with otherwise normal blood pressure readings. Just think about that and then move onto this next example.
There are individuals with something known as multiple personality disorder. These people truly believe that they are 2 or more people in one. Doctors have observed a patient with this disorder who had one personality that was allergic to oranges and would break out in hives every time they drank orange juice. When they were their “other selves”, orange juice wouldn’t affect them at all. If they were in the mind of the one with the orange allergy, drank orange juice, broke out in hives, and then switched to their other mind, the hives would disappear. Multiple personality disorder is a great example of how the true belief in a certain state of being can influence the physical state of being.
Finally there is the placebo effect. This is a well known area of scientific research and is likely the strongest argument for the mind-body connection and the power of mind-body healing. Patients are given a placebo, or a version of a drug that is actually just a sugar pill, and by simply believing that the pill will be the magic treatment to cure their illness, they are “magically” cured.
Our brain is incredibly complex and is the reason why we have become the dominant species on this planet. It’s awesome computational powers have designed rocket ships, electric cars, and beyond meat burgers. So it should come as no surprise that if we turn that power in on ourselves that we could cause some impressive changes within ourselves.
One study even showed that individuals who visualized themselves lifting weights and putting on muscle increased their muscle mass by 24%! Exercising obviously will bring about more change, but the research just shows how strong the mind really is!
We even see these effects in different types of employment. If you work is controlling, too structured, and high stress, then your body will suffer by way of existing in a constant state of stress and inflammation. Chronic inflammation is the first step towards disease.
To contrast that, if your job allows for more creativity, gives you more control of your hours, and gives you a sense of purpose, chances are you will live longer because you are not living in a constant state of stress.
There are tons of examples of our mind and our thoughts influencing our physical state. Institutions are now starting to recognize the potentially powerful effects of mind-body healing and some schools are even including it in their curriculum.
Is it the new cure-all? Tough to say at the moment. But more mindfull-ness, optimism, and self-reflection is definitely something we could all easily incorporate into our lives.
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