Did you know that you have within you the power to keep you healthy and to fight off any diseases or disorders that may have taken root within you?
We already know that there is a very powerful mind-body connection. Have you ever gone to the doctor because you were feeling unwell and immediately after the doctor’s visit, you started feeling better? Even before taking any medication prescribed? This is known as the placebo effect. In fact, the placebo effect occurs in about half of all cases, regardless of how efficacious the medicine administered is or is not.
The placebo effect is well documented and occurs most often during new drug trials. In order for the doctors conducting the trial to know whether or not a medicine works against a specific ailment, they must include a control group in this study. This control group will be told that they are receiving the drug when they are actually receiving only a sugar pill. If the control group and the test group show similar rates of cure, then the drug will fail the trial. If the test group rate of cure is higher, then the drug is said to be effective. What is most interesting here is that almost always, at least some of the subjects in the control group will be cured. This suggests a strong mind-body component is at work: the subjects perceive that they are receiving a drug to cure their illness and because of this perception, their illness is in fact cured.
Other evidence of the mind-body connection is the stress scale. The stress scale is a measure of the likelihood that you will suffer a major illness in the next year or so. It assigns a numerical value to a series of major life events, some positive, some negative, but all in general, usually have some emotional value or stressors. Obviously, the more major the event, such as a death in the family, marriage, divorce, starting a new job, or the loss of a job, the higher the numerical value. The larger the number you end up with at the end, the greater the chances that you will become ill in the next year.
There have been numerous studies that prove that there is a substantial mind-body connection that can aid in healing or actually impede healing, despite all medical efforts. One such study was conducted at the University of California Medical Center (Davis.) The subjects were a group of 93 patients who had undergone spinal surgery. Some of them were given some specific instructions regarding controlling their blood flow. These patients lost less blood than those who did not receive this instruction. . The results of this study were published in the in The Anesthesiology Journal in September 1986 and later on, by the Center of the Advancement of Perioperative Health, Yale School of Medicine in 2006.
The mind-body connection is formed by chemical transmitters called neuropeptides. The source of these neuropeptides and the mediator between them and the body is an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus controls all of the major autonomic systems of the body, from the beat of your heart to your digestive system. It mediates the endocrine system responses, including the surge of adrenaline in times of high emotional excitation. Neuropeptides carry the messages from the hypothalamus to the organs and cells responsible to effect this communication.
You need no special equipment or any special instruction in order to harness the healing power you hold within yourself. You have only to exercise this ability, much as you would train your muscles during physical exercise. The key components to healing through mental power are meditation, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization.
Find a quiet place where you are free from all distractions and get into a comfortable position. Some people are more comfortable sitting while others prefer to lie down. Choose the position that is most comfortable for you. Now focus your attention on your breath. Put your whole mind into each inhalation and exhalation. Feel your chest expand as you take in air and contract as you breathe it out. Empty your mind of all other thoughts. Concentrate only on the sound of your own breath. Try this for a few minutes at first and then gradually lengthen the time as you progress.
The theory behind using imagery is that certain images bring to mind positive thoughts and emotions that cause positive changes in the homeostasis of your body. The positive emotions engendered by these images cause the parasympathetic system of your body to lower your blood pressure, decrease your heart rate and slow your breathing.
To invoke imagery, you have only to call to mind an image that you find pleasing, that calls to mind happy memories and strong positive feelings. You can pick a different image each time you try the exercise.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation involves consciously contracting and relaxing the muscles in your body in a certain order. As with meditation and imagery, find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and assume whichever position is most comfortable for you: sitting or lying down. The sequence is generally from head to toe, so, starting with your head, contract the muscles of your face and clamp your teeth together for ten seconds and then relax, taking a deep breath in and pushing it out as you do this. Move on to your neck and shoulders next, contracting them for ten seconds and then relaxing them, breathing in and out. Do the same thing with the rest of your muscles until you reach your toes and feet.
Visualization, like imagery involves calling to mind images. However, visualization is more specific and it posits that you can foster healing in your body by direct thought manipulation. One way to practice direct visualization is to imagine that your immune system is successfully attacking and fighting off any and all disease in your body. You can also imagine yourself as being healthy and whole, or imagine that you are bathed in a healing mud which takes all of your pain away and heals the tissues that have been damaged due to injury or illness.
The power of the mind to heal is well known if not yet fully understood. We see it in the placebo effect and it has been to some extent, quantified by scientific studies. We all have this power within us and can employ it with no real special instruction other than the exercises described herein. Train your mind to heal and reap the benefits of good health and physical well-being.