Mind Over Matter | How the Brain Can Help You Heal

Modern science believes that the mind is just matter “doing something unusual.” But, for thousands of years, most human beings have believed that there is more to the story than that. The mind is something independent of matter that can also alter it.

To an academic, this sounds like pseudoscience. How could the mind possibly affect reality? But, in the realm of personal health, it really does have an impact!

Mind Over Matter

To understand this concept, think about the placebo effect. When people take a sugar pill (that is, a pill that has no medical effect whatsoever) but the doctor tells them that it’s medicine, they often get better. Their outcomes are superior to those who received no pills in the first place. 

In fact, the placebo effect is so strong that it forces scientists to include it in their study designs. These days, researchers don’t take a paper seriously unless it has a placebo control group (a group of people who didn’t take the real medicine). 

There are countless other examples of similar effects at work. For instance, you can do the opposite with the so-called “nocebo” effect. Here, you give someone a sugar pill but tell them that it’s bad for them. After they take it, they report worsening health conditions, just because of the effect of their mind. But, it gets even weirder than that. For instance, if you tell a person you’re giving them a placebo, they still feel better. 

Putting all this together, it becomes clear that the brain can help when you are recovering from your injuries or illnesses. If you truly believe you’re getting better, you probably will! This is another reason why in the spiritual community, when you pray about something and believe that God will answer that prayer, it often produces positive results.

The Mind and Aging

Researchers have known about the placebo effect for more than a century. But, there are plenty of other instances in which the mind seems to play a pivotal role in health. One is in the realm of aging. 

For instance, studies show that if you put older people back in environments from their youth, their bodies actually start behaving younger again. The mind appears to reverse their biological clock, literally making them less frail and more active. 

Aging experiments also show that how old a person thinks they are can reflect how old they appear on the outside. It’s almost as if the mind follows a program and the body follows. Therefore, if you reprogram yourself to think younger, you actually become younger!

The Mind and Healing

The same is true for healing. Doctors often comment that the most positive patients are usually those who survive and end up thriving. They seem to be able to pull through, regardless of how bad the prognosis is. Even if they have severe, life-threatening diseases, they can sometimes pull themselves back from the brink. 

Perhaps the reason depression and physical health seem to correlate so closely is the effect of the former on the body. People with mood disorders experience altered biochemistry which makes them more prone to diseases in the future. It sounds like a bizarre concept, but there is plenty of evidence to back it up. 

It also could explain why healing is such a fundamental part of most religious traditions. In the absence of pharmaceutical solutions, people used the power of the mind and spirit to correct the body. 

All of this means that doctors also need to be very careful when issuing prognoses. Telling the patient that they might die because they have a problem may actually increase the chances of a negative outcome. It’s important to have a positive outlook, both on the practitioner and patient side.

How To Heal

So what should you be doing personally to heal? One answer is to engage in healthy rituals. Make sure that you’re eating right, engaging in regular exercise, and doing mindfulness practices like meditation, prayer, or yoga. It also helps to spend time with people you connect with and feel safe with. The role of community is an often neglected part of a healing journey. 

The biggest takeaway is to be positive in your mindset. Avoid the temptation to wallow in misery. Accept that things sometimes go wrong in life but things always get better. Life is cyclical and change is the only constant. Once this becomes a fundamental understanding, you can take on any challenge!

If you are struggling emotionally, get the support you need. Find individuals who can provide a listening ear or a provider who can address your mental health needs. 

In Conclusion

In summary, health outcomes vary dramatically from person to person. A lot of it has to do with how we think, both consciously and unconsciously. If you’re thinking in a positive way, it changes your body’s biology and makes healing more likely. You’re far less prone to bouts of fear and anxiety and the body has the space it needs to fix itself. 

With that said, the mind isn’t a panacea. There are times when positive thinking simply won’t work. But, it is a powerful tool and you should use it alongside everything else in your personal health “toolbox”. I hope these tips help you along your healing journey! Leave a comment if you have any other tips that work for you!

xoxo, Arielle


life style blogger

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