For many people, the idea that their thoughts have power is airy fairy silliness spouted by anti-science idiots.
“You believe your thoughts matter? That visualization is powerful? That consciousness has greater implications than we’re aware of? You idiot.” Scoffing and ridiculing are par for the course. This type of sentiment is standard amongst people who cling to science like a life preserver, refusing to consider anything that seems “out there” or improbable.
I understand people’s skepticism, to a degree. There are frauds and phonies and metaphysical con artists out there, but that doesn’t negate the legitimacy of this topic as a serious scientific endeavor. The mind-body connection has been rapidly gaining traction in the scientific community for the past several decades. In other words, SCIENCE BACKS IT UP.
Take the placebo effect, for instance. This refers to the fact that patients will often undergo measurable changes or improvements when taking a “dummy” treatment. While science can’t really explain this extremely widespread phenomenon, it’s widely attributed to the power of expectation. In other words, if people believe they’re being given something that’ll make them better — they’ll often get better. That’s the undeniable power of the mind.
Personally, I adore sciencey stuff as much as the next nerd, so for everyone that “f***ing loves science“, here are five scientific studies that prove that your thoughts have power:
Effects of Group Practice of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Preventing Violent Crime In Washington, DC In 1993, 4,000 transcendental meditation practitioners set up shop in Washington, DC. For six weeks, they meditated in an attempt to reduce violence by creating “a powerful influence on the larger level of consciousness.” It worked. The maximum decrease was 23.3%, and researchers determined that a permanent installation of meditators would have a long-term effect of reducing homicides, rapes and assaults by 48%. And what’s meditation but directed thought?
Ellen Langer’s “Counterclockwise” study
Back in 1979, Harvard Psychologist Ellen Langer tested a theory about aging and the mind. For one week, she took two groups of elderly men. The experimental group was told to act as though they were their younger selves, basically pretending they’d gone back in time 20 years to 1959. The control group, on the other hand, was told to immerse themselves in nostalgia, talking about what life was like in 1959 but not really living it. The results were remarkable. The men in the experimental group underwent positive physiological changes, just by THINKING and ACTING as though they were younger. “Their gait, dexterity, arthritis, speed of movement, cognitive abilities and their memory was all measurably improved. Their blood pressure dropped and, even more surprisingly, their eyesight and hearing got better,” reported the BBC. The other group saw far fewer positive changes.
Mind-body therapies for the management of pain
It’s not really news that mind-body techniques assist in the healing process, given that some of the world’s most prominent hospitals have adopted reiki, meditation and hypnosis as a matter of course. This 2004 study demonstrated that mind-body therapies including imagery, hypnosis and relaxation can (when employed pre-surgically) improve recovery time and reduce pain following surgical procedures. They also found that these types of therapies can aid in treatment for chronic low back pain, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis and recurrent tension headache.
Changes in Muscular Activity While Imagining Weight Lifting Using Stimulus or Response Propositions
This study showed that participants who simply imagined weight lifting underwent physiological changes in the muscles involved. “During imagined lifting, electromyographical activity (EMG) activity of the active arm was greater than that of the passive arm. In addition, in the active arm, a significant difference in EMG activity was found between 9 kg and 4.5 kg.” Wild, right?
General practice consultations: is there any point in being positive?
Here, researchers measured the effects of doctors’ positive or negative commentary on patients. Basically, they found that patient recovery can be increased by words that suggest he or she “would be better in a few days.” For patients given treatments, words like “the treatment would certainly make him better” had a positive effect over negative words such as “I am not sure that the treatment I am going to give you will have an effect”. As it turns out, “64% of those receiving a positive consultation got better, compared with 39% of those who received a negative consultation.”
Impressed yet? There are countless other studies where those came from.
Science is supposed to be about opening your mind to the possibilities, no matter how wild and improbable they may seem. It’s about a willingness to test and explore and uncover new and amazing aspects of this unimaginably awesome universe.
That’s what scientists like the aforementioned are up to, and these studies prove that it’s well worth the effort. We have so much to learn, but one thing’s for sure: never underestimate the power of your mind.
(For more on the science of mind, I highly recommend The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton, and The Intention Experiment by Lynne McTaggart. Eye-opening stuff.)