The power of your mind to influence your health is perhaps best demonstrated by the placebo effect. That’s the ability of a fake treatment—such as a sugar pill or sham surgery—to improve a patient’s condition simply because the person believes the treatment will work. Studies show that the placebo effect exerts a very real beneficial impact on health 18-80% of the time!
But in the same fashion, negative thoughts can undermine our health.
Consider the outcomes of a study published in The Lancet. Researchers evaluated the death records of about 30,000 Chinese Americans and compared them to the death records of approximately 400,000 Caucasian Americans.
- Their assessment showed that Chinese Americans who had a disease and were born in what Chinese astrology deemed an inauspicious year were far more likely to die earlier…by as much as 5 years!
- The incidences of premature death could not be clarified by genetic variables, lifestyle behaviors, the expertise of doctors, or any other factors.
Researchers concluded that Chinese Americans who truly believed in their ill-fated birth years died much younger.
The Suggestive Influence of Negative Thoughts
Medical Students’ Disease is a very real phenomenon in which medical students experience the symptoms of the diseases they are studying. Researchers at McGill University reviewed records from the student health service and found that 70% of students fell prey to the illnesses they studied. A University of Southern California study found that 80% of medical students were incorrectly self-diagnosing serious diseases such as tuberculosis and cancer.
That’s how powerful negative and worrisome thoughts can be!
An overall sense of pessimism and negativity can steal years away from your lifespan. A 2014 study published in Neurology revealed that people who were the most cynical later in life were at greater risk for dementia than were their more trusting counterparts. Cynicism’s negative health effects persisted even after researchers ruled out other risk factors, such as smoking, lack of physical activity, age, gender, and health markers.
How Negativity Hurts Health
Negative emotions don’t just stay in the mind. They tell the amygdala—the brain’s processing center for emotions—to activate the fight-or-flight response. When your brain and body are on red alert, your body’s self-repair processes and immune function are impaired, leaving you vulnerable to illness. While positive thoughts stimulate the production of feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin, negative thoughts unleash stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. Stress, and subsequent chronic levels of stress hormones, has been linked to a greater risk for depression, heart disease, heart attack, type II diabetes, and infectious diseases.
Powerful Technique for Thinking More Positively
Negative thoughts have a direct impact on your metabolism, hormone regulation, and immune function, but they can also indirectly influence unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity.
Ridding your mind from the constant onslaught of negative thoughts begins with awareness. Negative thinking is a firmly ingrained habit for many of us.
The first and most powerful thing you can do to change that habit is to become more observant of your own thoughts. When you have a negative thought, try to be aware of it, acknowledge it, and replace it with a positive thought. This will gradually retrain your brain to toward more positivity. Be patient with yourself and the process, and you will reap many rewards, including better physical health.