Does the Placebo Effect have the Power to Heal?

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Your Mind

Do we really have the power in our own minds to create change in our bodies and our lives? That answer is a resounding yes! It’s called the placebo effect, and it’s many times proven more effective than the drug it’s being tested against.

For example, in a 2012 article published in Women’s Health, the author talks about the power of the mind and how it can affect our physical bodies.

If You Believe

The gist of the article was that, if you believe a treatment or a medication will work, in most instances it does. Your mind can create physical change in your body—easily, naturally, and without side effects.  Take, for example, the study on the effectiveness of St. John’s Wort versus Zoloft. It was found that both treatments eased symptoms in patients at about the same rate; however, a placebo beat both by more than 8 percent! Why? Because the brain’s job is to solve problems. The expectation that something can and will work is, in many cases, enough to trigger the brain to solve the problem on its own.

Your body has its own pharmacy, controlled by the brain, ready and able to help you solve just about anything. It all starts with a positive attitude and an open mind.

Neurotransmitters – the Brain’s Natural Pharmacy

There are three main categories of neurotransmitters:

  1. “Small molecule” neurotransmitters(such as GABA, dopamine, and serotonin)
  2. Neuropeptides (such as endorphins and oxytocin)
  3. Other (small molecules like nitric oxide, adenosine, ATP, and glycine; or larger molecules like endocannabinoids)

In terms of total number of neurotransmitters, there are 10 known small molecules (less than 30 atoms each) and more than 100 neuropeptides (50 – 200 atoms each). These neurotransmitters are your brain’s internal pharmacy—and they are significantly affected by your thoughts.

Neurotransmitters travel a designated path in the brain and affect behavior and emotions. Endorphins, for example, are natural opiates released in response to pain and exercise. Acetylcholine and norepinephrine are excitatory neurotransmitters while GABA, dopamine, and serotonin are inhibitory. Each neurotransmitter can directly or indirectly influence neurons in a specific portion of the brain, thereby, affecting behavior.

Inhibitory neurotransmitters will balance your mood, but they are quickly depleted when the excitatory neurotransmitters are overactive. In other words, when we’re in an overly stressed state or thinking negatively, the excitatory neurotransmitters override those that keep our mood balanced—which can quickly lead to a downward spiral of poor mood, negative thinking, and ultimately poor physical and mental health.

Good News

The good news is, your brain is perfectly equipped to solve your daily challenges. No matter what you’re facing, the act of meditating, or becoming mindful, or simply focusing on gratitude, can promote a relaxation effect that will switch off the excitatory neurotransmitters and reawaken the inhibitory ones, thus balancing your mood and calming your nervous system. In other words, you can attain the positive attitude and belief necessary for your brain to do what it was created to do—all without the necessity for drugs or side effects.

Now, that’s not to say your mind can correct a serious medical condition without medical intervention, but it does suggest that meditation and mindfulness are a great complement to any treatment plan. Not only that, you can create the changes you need in your life, whether it be weight loss, smoking cessation, pain management, stress reduction, learning acceleration, and much more.  Your life can be anything you dream it should be–the answer lies within the power of your own mind.

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