The most impressive healing force – one that is universally accessible – is the power of the individual to cure him- or herself.
Modern medicine has many effective medications and procedures that target specific diseases. Both physicians and patients need to recognize that these techniques work best when they are used in combination with the patient’s own inner beliefs.
The Placebo Effect
Doctors have long known that many patients will show improvement if they are given a placebo – a “dummy” pill – simply because they believe that the pill prescribed by the doctor will be effective. Much of the success physicians had before the modern era of scientific medicine probably came from this effect, because most of the medicines they used back then had little or no pharmaceutical value.
The placebo effect shows how powerful belief can be in summoning the body’s own curative powers. When patients trust their doctor, a treatment he or she recommends can be remarkably effective even though scientific medicine says it should not work. The same holds true when it comes to spiritual belief. Trusting and believing in God, for example, to not only guide the doctor’s hand in surgery or to heal them without medicine has worked for some people.
Mind and Body
This deep-seated belief that one will get better is a powerful tool for restoring health. You can use it purposefully by training your body to enlist the mind’s power of belief. Brain researchers have found that thinking about a particular event produces the same pattern of activity in the brain as actually experiencing the event. The brain sends signals to the body that make it react the same way to the mental image as it would to the actual experience.
For example, if you continuously watch food commercials on TV, you may find yourself becoming hungry or thirsty. The images we feed our brains with can cause powerful bodily effects. Watching people being killed on movies or the news may incite fear, anger or sadness. It’s no wonder a lot of people are under stress, with all of the tragic events that are constantly going on around us.
One particularly effective method to counter the effects stress has on the body (depression, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, anxiety, anger, etc.) is to practice the “relaxation response.”
Let the Healing Begin
The relaxation response is the result of practicing mental focusing techniques that prevent an agitated mind from jumping from one stress-producing thought to another. When the mind calms down, the body follows suit. The relaxation response slows the body’s metabolism and produces slow brain waves that are associated with pleasurable feelings.
To produce the relaxation response, do the following: Sit in a comfortable position, with your eyes closed. Relax and breathe slowly and naturally while silently repeating a particular phrase you have chosen. The focus phrase can be a religious word, phrase or prayer of particular significance to you, or a secular term that has a calming effect.
For example, you could repeat the “Serenity Prayer” which is often used in addiction support groups and simply states: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
If your mind begins to wander, calmly disregard the disturbing thoughts and return to your focus phrase. Continue this for 10-20 minutes; then allow other thoughts to return to your mind, open your eyes and sit for another minute before getting up. Free of distraction, the body will be encouraged to use its own recuperative powers.
The Lifesaving Power of Belief
When people believe that life is meaningful and that they have a mission to accomplish, they are strongly motivated to commit all their inner mind/body resources to help them fight illness. That combination sometimes produces medical miracles.