The placebo effect is a surprising, drug-free fix
Visualization, and that our belief that the mind affects the body, can create miracles. This extraordinary wonder is something called the “Placebo Effect.”
So what is the placebo effect? It’s a beneficial result, produced by a misrepresented drug or treatment that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself. A fake remedy, if you will, and one that sometimes works. Since there’s no chemical reason for the remedy to work, the idea is the positive result must be due to the patient's belief in that treatment or idea. In fact a 2010 survey conducted by the NCBI (The National Center for Biotechnology Information) of more than 400 doctors found that 56 percent said they'd prescribed placebos to their patients.
That’s a stunning statistic.
Here’s a simple example of the placebo effect: An individual is suffering from a headache and is prescribed something they believe to be ibuprofen (but in fact are sugar pills). Often, the person will soon feel better having taken the pills because their mind believes that the drug will work.
Scottish chemist David Hamilton, PhD is a leading advocate of the placebo effect. He says it’s powerful, citing stroke and spinal cord rehabilitation patients. Those who visualize moving their limbs three to four times a week recover considerable more movement than those who just do the physical therapy.
And here’s the kicker: You can create the placebo effect yourself to benefit your everyday life.
In the morning, convince yourself that you’ve slept well. A study conducted at Colorado College has shown that subjects who were told they were well rested performed better in cognitive tests than those who were told the opposite. Placebos seem to work in large part "because they are given by authority figures," says study co-author and psychology professor Kristi Erdal.
A study conducted by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer in 2007 correlated the placebo effect to fitness. She found that people who were told they were getting exercise in their daily lives actually became healthier without increasing their activity outside their jobs. In one month, the subjects lost an average of two pounds, lowered their blood pressure, and improved their body fat percentages. The takeaway? When you move around during the course of the day, do so with purpose. Feel like you’re exercising.
"Thinking positively, which is an extension of the placebo effect, is related to a whole host of good health outcomes," says Erdal.
So focus on the positives--it does have the power to make you feel better on a daily basis. It takes visualization, belief, and repetition. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.