Posted by: keherenf | November 21, 2007

The Power of Positive Thinking

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The relationship between cognition (thinking) and physiological (bodily) response is one that is still very poorly understood. In fact, the brain in general seems to be one of the least understood aspects of medicine by the fact that such a relationship exists. Whereas in other parts of the body where there is a clear cause and effect, a broken arm means pain the arm,  extra mucous in the lungs produces a cough, etc, this link between mind and body varies on an individual basis and therefore is much more difficult to understand. Doctors cannot explain why some people lose or regain memory in the way that they do, why some stimuli affect people in different ways, why certain psychotropic drugs affect some but not others, etc.

However, many people in the field agree that there is some positive correlation between positive thought and positive body response. The more anxious or negative someone is, the more likely they are to complain of pain or develop illness. Although scientists knew that this relationship existed, they could not figure out a biological basis as to why.

Some scientists started to look at the placebo effect for an explanation. Placebos are pills that have no true medication in it. Also known as “sugar pills”, they are given to a patient when the patient actually believes that he/she is taking true medication. In many circumstances, the patient would return to the doctor reporting that they felt better and that they were getting healed. From a biological standpoint, this would be impossible.

This brought them back to the power of positive thinking dilemma. Could this pretend medicinal effect be purely psychological? How can a simple thought produce actual physiological changes if there were no changes in the biology or chemistry of the body?

Upon further investigation, researchers have found a link between positive thinking and the positive physiological response. When a person tells the brain that the should be getting better from medication, the brain releases hormones, lymphocytes, and endorphins to the “inner pharmacy” of the body, signaling it to wake up and spring into action. In fact, our bodies are better equipped to attack illness than any medications we put into our body. However, it may need a simple trigger, a message from the brain telling it to get going, that can produce this effect.

So, there is a definitive scientific link between positive thinking and a positive somatoform (bodily) response. Guess I better start thinking more positively….

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