Positive thought has been linked to less stress, happier moods, and enhanced health. A recent study now shows that when you think positive you can boost the effectiveness of medicinal drugs. When participants were told positive information about a migraine medication they reported 30% more improvement in symptom reduction than when told negative information, or no information at all. According to lead researcher Ted Kaptchuk, “Every word you say counts, not only every gram of the medication.”
The embodied mind philosophy holds that aspects of the body shape the mind, just as the mind influences the body. Boston researchers discovered that what you’re told impacts far more than the mind, extending through the body and affecting you on a physiological level. Studying 66 migraine sufferers, researchers set out to discover how symptoms changed according to expectation. To provide a baseline for comparison, participants were asked to endure a migraine attack without the use of pain relievers, and then note their symptoms. For six subsequent migraines, patients received one of the following:
- A migraine pill with a positive message of effectiveness
- A migraine pill with a false message that it was a placebo
- A placebo pill with a false positive message that is was an effective migraine drug
- Or a pill with a note attached that it could be either a placebo or a migraine drug
Interestingly, pain relief nearly doubled when patients thought the migraine drug was real compared to when they were, erroneously, told it was nothing more than a sugar pill. Even when they took a placebo with a false positive message, they noted almost as much pain relief! This might not just be psychological. Researchers believe that the sheer act of taking a pill could wake a dormant subconscious memory of a time when a pill supplied the craved relief.
It truly does physically pay to nip negativity in the bud. University of Pittsburgh researchers found that pessimists are more prone to high blood pressure and heart disease than those who think positively. Optimistic athletes are also more likely to avoid and bounce back from injury faster than those with a more cynical outlook.
In order to benefit both psychologically and physically from positivity, make a gratitude list. Researchers at Southern Methodist University found that when patients made lists of all the good in their lives, they enjoyed better moods, decreased illness, and fewer doctor visits.
A smile also helps activate physical benefits. A University of Kansas study showed that those who smiled had lower heart rates and stress levels. You don’t have to be happy while you stretch those facial muscles. Smiling triggers muscles that send messages to the brain telling it you’re happy, even if you’re not!