The Placebo Effect And How YOU Can Use It To Your Advantage

Mind over matter comes into play in our lives on a daily basis, whether we are aware of it or not.

Professor Alia Crum has done extensive research on this and how the power of your mindset can alter the course of your health, for the better or the worst!

Alia Crum - TEDx - Harnessing the power of placebos

Understanding Placebo & Nocebo
  • A Placebo Effect is defined as a beneficial effect on health that is induced through having a positive expectation about a treatment, medicine or prognosis.
  • A Nocebo Effect is the exact opposite, describing the induction of adverse health effects due to a negative expectation of a treatment or medicine.
  • Both of these effects were first recorded in history around the 1700s, where doctors prescribed fake medicines to patients who healed through believing it would work.

    Many cases of patients with ‘incurable’ mental disorders have healed through shifting their perceptions, revealing that the nature of their diseases was mostly self-induced by their views.

    This is true of hypochondriacs as well, who believe that they are physically ill to the point that they create their illnesses through the power of their belief.

    The placebo effect extends out to more than just taking a fake medicine and reaping health benefits via believing it works.

    Scientists have tested this phenomenon out with fake surgeries, false injections, non-effective pills of different shapes and sizes – all of these yielded different levels of positive results depending on how the patient perceived the treatment beforehand!

    The same applies to negative perception through nocebic treatments.

    If a patient perceives something as bad, even if it does not have an inherent effect, the outcome is bound to affect them negatively due to the weight of their perception.

The Factors Involved In Healing Through Perception
After years of research, science has only just started to understand a few underlying mechanisms as to how placebo or nocebo effects work.

It seems to be connected to the environment, the body’s own healing mechanisms and how we perceive both of these.

1. Environmental Imprints
As discussed in the previous article on the subconscious mind, our brains are constantly imprinting information from the environment and storing these imprints away for later use.

These imprints begin to compound in our subconscious minds (in the amygdala actually) and start to form the basis of our initial reactions to every situation we encounter.

If you had a negative experience inside a doctor’s office which caused you to feel stressed, then the next time you go into a similar doctor’s office, you would likely feel a measure of anxiety.

This unconscious imprinting is one factor that will influence whether you believe something will work or not as it directly correlates to how you feel about a situation.

If it is your first time experiencing something, then as Alia Crum points out in the video, the human mind starts to assess the situation; already predetermining if something will be good or bad, if it will work or not and ultimately, what to expect.

It is interesting to note that when born in a hospital, the doctor takes the baby and gives them a light smack to ensure they’re breathing and performs an examination of all vital signs.

Already at this moment for most people, fear or respect for those in white coats is established and sets a subconscious tone for how they will respond when they next encounter a doctor in a sterile hospital environment. Just some food for thought!

2. Your Mindset
While we are imprinted subconsciously, the conscious mind also plays a huge role in how placebos (or nocebos) will affect us – perhaps even more so!

It is apparent that the body responds to your thoughts, which means that you actually have a varying degree of control over how your experiences affect you. Some like to refer to this as ‘set and setting’ – the way in which our minds contextualize experiences and how that affects us.

If you thoroughly believe that there is a problem, your body will start to respond as though there is a problem and you will begin to feel stressed.

In the same way, if you believe all is well, your body will respond by maintaining a balanced, relaxed state of being.

This is not to say that you can just wish away a tumor or some chronic illness in the blinking of an eye. It does, however, mean that having a positive mindset about it will contribute towards recovery. The same can be said in reverse about having a negative outlook.

In other words, you have nothing to lose by remaining positive and affirming positive thoughts!

The placebo effect also sheds light on how some people have managed to heal using ‘miracle cures’ that science has otherwise deemed ineffective.

3. Your Immune System
This is the last factor that has been identified in playing a role in healing through perception: how well does your immune system function or respond to your environment or condition in relation to your perception of it?

The immune system is a sophisticated network of signals that cause the body to release helpful compounds which fast forward or trigger healing.

In many cases of chronic disease, the immune function is impaired one way or another, making the process either slow or non-existent and that plays a role in affecting how we perceive the outcome.

Luckily science has come to the table in recent years with a wealth of research dedicated to showing how one can improve the immune system through diet and lifestyle measures.

If you bring your immune function back into balance, it will be far more noticeable just how much power your mind exerts over your body and the way it heals itself!

Tips For Enhancing Your Powers of Perception
Based off of the factors outlined above, there are two primary ways you can help yourself to maintain a positive mind over matter.

1. Minfulness Meditation
The first is through mindfulness meditation.

Meditation helps you to reduce stress, which immediately helps you to keep a clear, open mind and prevents anxiety from clouding your judgment.

In a study done, it was shown that meditation was better at reducing pain than a placebo[1]Mindfulness Meditation Trumps Placebo in Pain Reduction!

Enhance your focus, reduce stress, and get a grip on how you perceive the world through learning how to meditate!

2. Nutrition
The second is through improving your immune system.

There is a lot you can do to improve the way your body responds to your mind and environment. For now, here are some preliminary interventions you can take to kick-start the process.

It is very easy to fall into the trap of not getting enough nutrition in our diets these days, with the allure of convenience and fast food around every corner.

The truth is that your immune system depends on the compounds found in wholesome old-fashioned vegetables to function and regenerate the body!

Green vegetables contain an especially high level of these nutrients. By adding this into smoothies or raw food every day, you can start to boost your health.

In combination with brightly colored spices, fruits and vegetables, you can give your immune system the sustenance it requires to help you remain in balance.

Something to note is that unhealthy fats and artificial additives found in fast foods and more tend to suppress immune function. Healthy fats, on the other hand, help your body to absorb even more nutrients from your food!

Trade out your fats for these beneficial oils and start to reap the benefits of heightened nutrition in your everyday life.

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