Remembering Wellness...and Take a Mini Vacation
Did you know that you can use the power of your mind to heal cancer, hypertension, asthma, ulcers, diabetes, depression, Parkinson's and even osteoarthritis?
It's true. Medical research has proven this repeatedly for over 40 years. The notion of using your mind to heal the body is woven into the very fabric of modern medicine. In fact, most drugs and medical devices on the market are tested against the power of your mind--the power of suggestion--otherwise known as the placebo effect. However, this was not always the case.
Please see "The Clinical Proof of the Power of Suggestion."
The mind is a powerful healing inner resource. Everyone has the ability to remember, deep within their bodies, the natural condition of wellness. This process is not a mystery, although it may seem magical that someone can reclaim their health by receiving skillfully-crafted suggestions or a placebo treatment. While it might be tempting to dismiss this potent healing tool as simply "in your head," the proof is that many people do recover from physical maladies -- in the body -- when given placebo therapies and hypnotic healing suggestions.
Stress Response vs Relaxation Response
Herbert Benson, MD, former professor at Harvard Medical School, offers a simple explanation for why suggestions are so effective. Dr. Benson coined the term, "relaxation response," to describe the ideal MindBody posture for encountering stress. In other words, respond with relaxation rather than stress when situations or people challenge or threaten us. After decades of clinical research helping people manage stress, he developed a profound understanding of how a placebo, which embodies the power of suggestion, instantly creates a positive healing response.
Understanding Dr. Benson's simple explanation may require suspending certain beliefs regarding health and wellness. This small shift is easier than you might think.
It begins here: Wellness is your natural state.
What we call dis-ease are physical, mental and emotional embodiments of disruption of this natural state.
While this notion may be unfamiliar, your very existence is a testament to it. Do you realize what an amazingly successful product of nature you are?
There is an unbroken genetic chain between you and the first spark of life. Embedded in your genetic code are the survival and thriving successes of all your ancestors, many of whom survived saber-tooth tigers, ice ages, famines and millennia of holy wars.
Nature has endowed us with wellness and balance as natural conditions of our existence, a function of our most basic level of survival.
Today's most common maladies, heart disease and cancer, didn't even make the top five 100 years ago. Yet many people fear or even expect that these challenges are a "normal" part of life.
Just as a positive suggestion can foster positive results, this negative expectation of future illness suggests to your entire system that it will occur. But disease is not inevitable; wellness is, provided we stop disrupting our natural propensity for it.
This helps clarify how positive suggestions and the placebo effect work: A properly crafted, delivered and received suggestion or dummy drug momentarily suspends the interpretation of the disruption in MindBody as disease, dysfunction or discontent.
The interpretation is itself a MindBody phenomenon, as explained by Peter Lambrou, PhD., consulting and clinical psychologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla California, and author of Self-Hypnosis: The Complete Manual for Self-Change and Instant Emotional Healing. Dr. Lambrou explains that in the instance of pain relief, a hypnotic or placebo suggestion produces relief quicker than the time it takes for the brain to deliver endorphins and squelch the pain.
Why? Because thoughts, i.e., interpretations, are patterns of neurons, which are connected to other neural networks, which are embedded in and influence every cell in the body on a continual basis.
The activity and consequences of your thoughts and feelings are inseparable from the activity and function of your body.
Reinterpretation can be instigated by a positive suggestion or placebo. At this instant, the potency of your remarkably efficient healing machine, your MindBody, remembers its normal condition of wellness. The momentary reinterpretation allows the flood of natural neuro-biochemical substances to affect healing and a return to the natural state. This is why Dr. Benson refers to the placebo effect as Remembered Wellness.
Thinking about wellness as a natural and normal condition of the Mind/Body will not only help you heal illness but enjoy wellness long into the future, without the many negative side effects of drugs.
Let's make practical use of this knowledge and examine what typically causes the disruption of wellness in the first place.
Simply put, it is stress.
Everyone knows that stress is a major modern blight, at the root of 80% of all doctor visits and nearly all chronic disease. It also costs Corporate America over $200 billion per year in increased absenteeism, tardiness, loss of worker talent, lack of productivity and loss of competitive edge.
To make mattes worse, burnout--too much high stress for too long--affects peak performers disproportionately higher than average performers, robbing companies of their best talent.
Considering this massive burden on our health and the bottom-line, why does stress still plague us? One would think that with its immense impact, sufficient resources would be directed toward managing stress to mitigate its damage.
Many people are ill-informed about the accumulative and insidious nature of stress, resulting in its management being improperly approached. By the time we notice the scattered thinking, stiff neck, pit in the stomach, hypertension, sleepless nights, mood swings, agitation or shortness of breath, we are already ensnared in the stress response. Our response to stress precedes our awareness of it. Stress must be dealt with at its source -- in the subconscious mind -- before it adversely affects the MindBody. Otherwise we remain burdened by modern living, where our health and performance are sacrificed and we find ourselves deprived of joy and creativity.
Take a Mini-Vacation
How do we stop this unconscious response to stress? By gaining awareness of four areas that are affected simultaneously by this automatic stress response: the body, the mind, the breath and the emotions. To illustrate, let's take a virtual mini-vacation to the beach on a warm sunny day. Read the next paragraph, then sit back in your chair, close your eyes and imagine yourself...
You are on the beach looking out toward the warm, shimmering water, sun warming your skin, the brightness filling your eyes, bringing a smile to your face. You inhale deeply the moist, fresh sea air, and as you exhale, relax into the rhythmic sound of the waves gently caressing the shore. The azure sky is clear, save for a few billowy clouds lazily drifting by. Find a cozy spot in the sand to sink into, but as you do, notice the warm, soft sand gently bristling against the bottom of your feet, between your toes. Using your hands, dig out a shallow trough in the sand to make a cozy recliner to sit in. Feel the warm sand in your hands as you do this. Pick up a handful of sand and toss it in the air, watching the wind breeze it away, and the seagulls screaming and swooping in eager hopes of finding discarded morsels. Take in another deep whiff of the sea air, filling your lungs with this calming nectar. Lie back in your cozy nest of sand, feeling the warmth of the sand deeply penetrating your body, the grittiness of the sand against your back, while warm, safe rays of sunshine gently warm your skin. Breathe in deeply again as you close your eyes there on the beach, feeling yourself becoming heavier with each breath, sinking into the earth in safety and release. Take a two-minute or more nap on the beach right now.
Do this now. If you believe that you are too busy to take this two minute vacation, it's a sign that you are on the slippery road to unhealthy stress accumulation.
When you have finished the mini-vacation, consider where in the body you feel the effects of this relaxation. Is your chest more relaxed and does it feel lighter? Has the tension behind your eyes released slightly? Did you relax your jaw or stop clenching your teeth? Is your breathing deeper, smoother, more rhythmic? Do your finger tips and toes feel warmer? Has the scowl on your brow become a smile on your cheeks? Has the incessant stream of thoughts slowed or even dissipated?
Hypnosis and placebos are so effective because your deep mind cannot distinguish between the real and imagined. To your subconscious mind, imagining yourself being on the beach is identical to being on the beach. Once there, your MindBody remembers similar past experiences and emulates the identical physiological state of actually being there.
That state translates to slower, deeper respiration, a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure, a decrease in stress hormones, normalization of digestive acids, the release of achy muscle tension, an increase in creativity and optimism, and a multitude of other benefits too lengthy to include here.
As you experienced in the mini-vacation, thoughts lead to emotions, which are physiological states, which you interpret as feelings, in this case pleasure and relaxation.
These feelings trigger new thoughts, connect to new emotions and feelings and instigate a cascade of positive mental, emotional and physiological effects that lead to a "relaxation response." This is the opposite of a stress response.
If a drug could be produced to achieve these remarkable results without side effects it would corner a multi-million dollar market. Amazingly, this regenerative power lies untapped within you until activated by your imagination.
The goal of various MindBody practices is to stimulate this imagination while releasing non-supportive actions and beliefs, regaining inner and outer balance, helping you remember wellness and reprogramming your neurobiology to make these changes new responsive habits. Some very effective techniques are hypnosis, self-hypnosis, neural reprogramming, thought field therapy, yoga, meditation, conscious breathing and creative visualization.
Ultimately we can all learn to make the choice for wellness at will: to experience relaxation over stress when navigating the twists and turns of modern life. When this becomes a new habit, we release what obscures the living memory of wellness in our MindBody, and begin to truly thrive. We become masters of change, embracing it consciously, while optimizing our personal potential.
Ultimately this is nature's imperative for us, and why it is more important than ever to remember wellness, so that we may indeed bring our unique gifts to the world.