Prisoners of expectations

Expect to get sick, and you probably will.

As I often tell myself when my own internal Negative Nellie shows up, “Shhhhh, my body’s listening.”

Our thoughts and beliefs affect our bodies and our health.

Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal themselves, but that’s influenced by our thoughts and beliefs. Our thoughts regarding the effectiveness of treatments we’re receiving, and our confidence in those treating us influence the outcome.

The relationship between our minds and bodies is the subject of interesting research of late. Our thoughts and beliefs have more to do with our health than was once believed.

In the old days, if a patient responded to a placebo (fake pill or sham procedure), it was believed they were making it up, or it was all in their heads. They were fakers or hypochondriacs.

Not so any more.

What wasn’t understood until fairly recently, it was indeed, all in their heads; but not in the same way we understand it today.

The placebo effect is a beneficial, measurable effect resulting from taking a pill or substance containing no active ingredient. The mind believes the pill will work, and so it does.

There is exciting research being conducted on the placebo effect that has changed the perspective once held about placebo. It has led to investigation into the power of the mind to heal, and into new frontiers of related medical research.

Research on the placebo effect finds the attitude of the attending practitioner, the cost of the placebo, the ritual around taking it, and even the colour of the pill all have bearing on the effect.

An injection of placebo is found to be more effective than a simple pill, possibly because of the ritual and significance of an injection being greater than that of taking a simple pill.

Research has even been conducted on placebo knee surgery for osteoarthritis in which the patients believed they had undergone a surgical procedure, but they had not.

Those who received the fake surgery experienced similar positive results to those who had undergone the real procedure.

Can a positive outlook keep you healthy?

The relatively new field of scientific study called psychoneuroimmunology is telling us it can. Our immune systems respond to our brain activity and thoughts.

The science of epigenetics is finding we are not a victim to our genes. Our genes change according to the our internal environment.

Understanding the relationship between our minds and bodies is empowering.

It is important not to blame ourselves when we experience illness, but instead to be gently curious about what may have been happening in our minds. Stress often plays a role.

It is reported 60-90 per cent visits to the doctor are related to stress. The effects of stress on our health are well documented, and the fix for this may be simpler than you think.

Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine Research in Massachusetts has long been researching the effects of the relaxation response on health.

They’ve found that simple, regular shifts in our breathing, thoughts, and emotional states have a measurable effect on our bodies.

Increased awareness of the impact of stress and thoughts on health, highlights the importance of taking care of our own mental well-being. Our lives depend on it.

Finding ways to support our mental health is invaluable. Becoming aware, non-judgmentally, of our tendencies of thought is a great place to begin.

As a mindfulness practitioner, I’ve seen the transformative effect simple mindfulness practices can have on people’s physical and emotional health.

At times, it can feel as though we are victim to stress and our minds, but this does not have to be the case.

Establishing a habit of pausing and taking three, deep, conscious breaths, checking in with our bodies, our emotions, and thoughts is quick a simple.

This allows us to gain insight into ourselves and to initiate the relaxation-response.

The research is fascinating, and makes clear to us the importance and power of the mind in our healing.

If we’re resisting the treatments that are prescribed, or only focusing on the potential negative side-effects, we’re only creating more challenge for ourselves.

We’re not just passive observers in our health care, we are the main player. What we believe matters.

While I am a total supporter of eating a healthy diet, getting exercise and taking good care of myself, as Carl Stronter wrote, what you think is as important as what you eat.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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