It has been reported that there is a drug that we can all get for free, that has immense health benefits and has no side effects. It is called the mind. It has long been known that the mind is powerful and has the ability to heal the body. Studies have shown time and time again a phenomenon (the placebo effect) whereby an individual’s symptoms can be improved by an otherwise ineffectual treatment. This improvement of symptoms is most likely due to the individual’s beliefs and expectations that the drug or treatment they are receiving is going to work. So how can we use the power of our mind to help the quality of our lives and our health?
Believe in what you’re doing, believe the actions you are taking are healing. When you drink a glass of water, close your eyes and imagine it taking away your headache, imagine it clearing your skin or amplifying the healing qualities of the tablets you are taking. Tell yourself that you are getting better, imagine it and believe it. Whether it is true or not, tell yourself it is real, feel it and believe it.
The Power of Positive Thinking
Be optimistic; tell yourself that everything is going to be fine because sometimes realism can be bad for your health! Research shows that optimists recover from illnesses quicker, they have healthier immune systems and they live longer… now that has got to be something to be optimistic about!!! Negativity will only drain your inner resources and can literally make you ill. Ditch the ‘fight or flight’ response and embrace a ‘rest and digest’ response to life. Do what you need to do to increase your self-esteem, boost your self-worth and every day be grateful for what you have. Build on the positive and keep negativity at bay.
The Quality of Social Networks
Your attitude towards those around you can have a huge effect on your health and well-being. Loneliness can literally kill. Increasing and developing friendships is as good for your health as giving up smoking. However, it is not all about the size of your social network, it is about the quality of that network and our attitude towards the people in it. People who trust their friends are less likely to feel lonely. If you feel satisfied with the friendships you have, you have nothing to worry about but if you feel threatened by others and feel a sense of being alone in this world taking steps to rectify this. It could literally save your life.
Studies have shown that not only does meditation fulfil a spiritual dimension it also improves our health. It can help with depression, stress, soothe skin conditions and stop the progression of certain illnesses such as HIV. It has also been claimed that meditation can slow down the aging process. It’s not all about spending hours in the lotus position; mini meditations throughout the day could increase the quality of your life and improve your health. Take regular moments throughout the day to concentrate on your breathing and centre yourself. Short spurts of meditation here and there, all add up.
Although not properly understood hypnosis probably taps into our physiological pathways similar to those involved in the placebo effect.. Self-hypnosis can help with conditions such as pain management, sleep disorders, depression and anxiety.
To carry out self-hypnosis you should:
- Find a comfortable position that you can maintain throughout the process. Make sure you are warm and that you will not be disturbed for at least 30 minutes. When you get comfortable, take a few deep breaths in order to help yourself relax. (If you fall asleep easily, adopt a sitting position)
- Think clearly about your goal. For example, say to yourself, my goal is to be pain-free or my goal is to feel confident. Keep your goal in the positive and make it about what you want to achieve and not about what you want to avoid. So for example, do not say ‘I want to stop feeling nervous’ as this focuses the mind on the being ‘nervous’, and you do not want to invite more of this into your life. You need to focus on the positive, which here is being more confident.
- Now close your eyes, breathe deeply, relax and allow any fears, stress, anxiety or negative feelings to float away. Imagine them drifting off in a big fluffy cloud. Focus only on your goal, your intentions and positive feelings.
- Note any tension in your body. Scan your body and imagine the tension drifting off towards the sky. Visualize your body getting lighter and lighter. Relax each part of your body bit by bit.
- Imagine yourself at the top of a flight of stairs. The stairs rise out of a sea of tranquil water. There are ten steps in all, five below water level and five rising out of the water, reaching for the sky. Imagine yourself standing at the top of the stairs, tell yourself that you are going to walk down the steps, one at a time, counting as you go, 10, 9, 8…. Imagine each number in your mind and start the descent. With each step, feel yourself drifting deeper and deeper in to relaxation. When you reach the fifth step, feel the water beneath your feet. As you go further down, feel the cool water enveloping your body. The cool, calm oasis rising up around you and then above you.
- When you reach the bottom of the water, you should start to address your issues and bring your goal into focus. Now imagine three boxes close by that you must swim to open. Swim towards the boxes and start opening them one by one. Open the boxes and visualise in the box three things that will help you towards your chosen goal. Using the pain-free example ‘ See yourself pain free, let the pain-free you step out of the box and enter into your body, in the next box imagine a pain free pill, take the pill whilst repeating a positive statement, ‘I am free from pain’, open the third box and reach in and find a pair of running shoes, put them on and imagine yourself running whilst repeating ‘I am strong and I am free from pain’.
- Once you have completed the task and are happy swim back towards the stairs. Walk back up the stairs, towards the sun-lit sky, feel the water leaving your skin as you rise upwards. Feel the heaviness of your body as you reach the sixth step. Walk slowly, back up towards the top, feel the light entering your body.
- When you reach the top, take a few moments before opening your eyes. Then out loud say to yourself “Wide awake”, “Wide awake” then open your eyes and allow your mind to return to its conscious state.
Live with Purpose
It has been long documented that the power of religion and spirituality can have a positive impact on health. The power of prayer or the belief that some deity or other will heal you could have a powerful placebo effect. It has also been suggested that having a purpose in life can also increase life satisfaction and impact positively on your health. Having an idea of why you are here and what is important to you will make you feel more in control of your life decisions and therefore, stress and anxiety will be reduced. Knowing what you want to do and spending more time doing the things you enjoy, will severely improve your sense of well-being and increase your sense of purpose and subsequently can improve your health.