Absolutely yes!!! At the core of alternative and complementary medicine is a concept that may be difficult for many to accept — that the mind is one of the most powerful system in the body. The mind has the power to make us sick and the power to make us well.
The mind is a monumentally powerful agent. Even if it cannot be quantified in a research laboratory, positive thoughts can promote healing — stabilizing hormonal levels, enabling stronger immune responses, and infusing a sense of calm and well-being. It is this positive mind energy which is the key that enables alternative and complementary therapies to help restore health. If you eliminate the positive attitude and the conviction that the therapy can and will help, chances are that the impact of therapy will be less compelling.
Your thoughts and feelings can and do impact your body on many levels. Emotional ups and downs are known to influence the levels of hormones in the body. For example, extreme stress or depression can reduce a woman’s estrogen level so dramatically that she can stop menstruating. These negative emotions also cause a surge of stress hormones, which impair the body’s immune system.
On the other hand, positive emotions help keep hormone levels consistent and boost the immune system. When we think and feel positively, our bodies work more smoothly and efficiently.
One of the most compelling examples of the mind’s impact on the body can be witnessed in scientific laboratories across the world. Researchers conducting experiments with sub-atomic particles have found that the molecules actually behave differently if they are being watched. Think about this phenomenon. If a person can influence how subatomic particles behave by just passively watching them, imagine what effect a person can have by actively concentrating on the particles. This phenomenon holds true for every cell of your body. Your thoughts, emotions, fears, and anxieties change the chemistry of your body.
But the mind’s effect on the body is just part of the complex interplay. Your body also influences your mind. Chemical changes at the cellular level impact your emotional state. The simplest example of this is food. When you eat a sugary treat, you feel a temporary rush of energy and euphoria. When your blood sugar level drops soon after, you feel a wave of depression and fatigue. Chemical reactions in your body are driving your emotions.
After you understand how completely interconnected the mind and body are, you begin to recognize that the healing process can never be just about the body or the mind or the spirit — instead, the healing process is a combined effort of all that makes us biological beings and human beings.
Our immune system is affected not only by what happens at the cellular level in the body. Our immune system also is impacted by our thoughts and our general outlook on life. If we are pessimistic about our chances of recovering from cancer, our immune system will not be as potent. Similarly, if we are optimistic about our ability to recover, this positive energy will help strengthen our immune system and aid in our healing.
Consider the story of Norman Cousins who actually “laughed himself well” from a connective tissue disease (that was unrelated to cancer).
In 1964, Norman Cousins was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a collagen illness that attacks the connective tissues of the body. Doctors told Cousins he had only a 1 in 500 chance of recovering, and that he would have to spend the rest of his life bedridden and heavily medicated with pain killers. Instead, Cousins opted to prescribe his own cure: huge doses of vitamin C and positive emotions. Cousins searched for every funny movie he could find and searched widely for funny jokes. He literally laughed himself well. Eventually Cousins was able to completely reverse his illness. Cousins later documented his story in his book, Anatomy Of An Illness.
Cousins observes: “The life force may be the least understood force on earth…and human beings are not locked into fixed limitations. The quest for perfectibility is not a presumption or a blasphemy, but the highest manifestation of a great design.”
Several years later, Cousins accidentally ran into one of the doctors he had consulted with at the onset of the disease. The doctor had warned Cousins at the time that he should cease almost all physical activity and remain practically bedridden for the rest of his life. Cousins reported with glee that upon seeing the doctor again, he gripped his hand in a vice-like handshake and told him he had cured himself through laughter and happiness.
Fifteen years later, Cousins suffered a massive heart attack. As he was carried into the hospital on a stretcher, he sat up and said: “Gentlemen, I want you to know that you are looking at the darnedest healing machine that’s ever been wheeled into this hospital.”
Today, interest in the effects of humor on the mind and body has grown so much, that there is a new field of research and medicine -- psychoneuroimmunology, the study of how psychological factors, the brain, and the immune system interact to influence health.
If you are interested in reading more about the healing powers of the mind, you may wish to read the following books:
Dr. Bernie Segel’s Love, Medicine and Miracles
Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life.