Power of the Mind
Teh mnid si a poewrful thnig! As a writer and editor it bothers me to leave that sentence in an article (and it really bothered the automatic spelling correction feature in my computer). However, it demonstrates the point that our mind is able to discern a thought, even without reading actual words. The human mind possesses an incredible amount of power—much of which is often untapped or used in a negative fashion.
Imagine looking up into your doctor’s face and hearing him declare that you are going to live, but that there is no chance of saving your arm. It must be amputated. While those words would probably launch you on an emotional roller-coaster, consider your reaction if the doctor continued by stating: “Yes, and we are not going to use any anesthesia for the operation.” Most of us would rapidly get off the table and go find a second opinion—post haste! And yet, Dr. James Esdaille performed over 300 major surgical procedures without ever using anything except the power unleashed from his patient’s own minds. There are hundreds of examples similar to this one in which people have used the power of their mind to overcome what would often be considered insurmountable feats.
Does the mind really possess power to make physical changes in one’s life? Can the mind reduce pain or depression? Consider the case of a woman in her 30’s who was severely impaired from chronic fatigue syndrome. Most of her days were spent at home due to extreme lethargy. She was taken to the Laboratory of Clinical Investigation at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases where she was informed she was being enrolled in a new experimental treatment for individuals with her symptoms.
However, this young lady was not told that during the study she was only receiving a placebo—basically nothing more than a sugar pill. However, upon taking the pills she made a complete turnaround. Her symptoms disappeared and she was able to lead a normal life? Had the sugar pill actually cured her? No, she ate sugar all the time. The cure was initiated in her mind. She believed she was going to get better—and she did.
Often called the placebo-affect, there is a large body of research that has demonstrated the suggestive power of the mind is able to alleviate pain and cure various ailments. In 1955, scientist H.K. Beecher published a paper titled “The Powerful Placebo,” in which he demonstrated that in the 26 studies he conducted, an average of 32% of the trial patients responded to a placebo. Ten years later, it was shown that placebos could speed up the pulse rate, increase blood pressure, and improve reaction speeds of participants who were told their sugar pill was actually a stimulant. Likewise, the opposite physiological effect was observed when patients were told they were receiving a drug to induce sleep.
In the January 18th, 2007 issue of Time they featured a special issue on the mind. In one of the feature articles Jeffrey Kluger stated: “The 3-lb. lump of wrinkled tissue—with no moving parts, no joints or valves–not only serves as the motherboard for all the body’s other systems but also is the seat of your mind, your thoughts, your sense that you exist at all. You have a liver; you have your limbs. You are your brain.”
Four years earlier in another “Mind and Body” issue of Time (Jan. 20, 2003), staff writer Michael Lemonick noted: “More and more doctors—and patients—recognize that mental states and physical well-being are intimately connected. An unhealthy body can lead to an unhealthy mind, and an illness of the mind can trigger or worsen diseases in the body. Fixing a problem in one place, moreover, can often help the other.” This truth makes it vitally important to soberly consider what we are allowing into our minds.
It is no secret that the power of the mind can result in positive physiological affects. For instance, a study at UCLA focused on people recovering from melanoma surgery. Patients who were provided education on stress management and coping skills and who received an hour and a half of counseling each week for six weeks had almost half the rate of cancer recurrence and a third fewer deaths than other melanoma patients in the next five-year period that followed. It was not a matter of additional medication, but rather it was “mind therapy.”
In another study conducted at the Mount Zion Medical Center in San Francisco, 32 patients with heart disease were analyzed according to daily habits and diet. Thirteen of those patients also exhibited symptoms and signs anxiety or time urgency and they often experienced episodes of decreased supply of blood to the heart muscle. (These episodes are often a precursor to a heart attack.) Ten of 13 patients who presented symptoms of anxiety were given counseling for 14 months. They were encouraged to change elements of their lifestyle, and they did exercises intended to modify their anxiety. After counseling, their anxiety dropped 53% and the blood supply to the heart increased. Patients who did not undergo counseling and change their anxiety did not experience these changes, and they did not see a change in blood flow to the heart.
The power of the mind is real. In fact, a new branch of medicine known as biofeedback has emerged to take advantage of this power. Simply put, biofeedback uses the mind to control the body. Many responses in the body are considered involuntary—however, with proper training an individual can be trained to control responses such as heart rate, blood pressure, pain response, brain activity, muscle tension, anxiety, etc. Patients are given monitoring devices that allow them to recognize and control responses that are normally considered out of human control.
In order to clearly see the power of the mind, consider an example often given by motivational speaker Stephen Covey. He describes being on a subway train being surrounded by several unruly children. After several minutes he recognized his blood pressure was increasing and he was getting upset that the father was not doing anything to control the children. (I imagine most of us have witnessed similar situations.) So he decided to confront the father. It was then that he learned the family had just left the hospital—where the children’s mother had died earlier that day. His feelings toward this situation immediately changed. Instead of being mad or angry he suddenly wanted to reach out and help. Covey deems this change a paradigm shift. It’s a change in one’s mindset. Sometimes we can improve our own situation just by having a change in mindset.
Consider the mindset of a child (or spouse) who continually hears phrases such as:
You’re wasting your time.
You’ll never amount to anything.
You haven’t got a chance.
Why even bother?
You’ll never feel better.
What’s the use?
You’ll never win.
These negative suggestions plant powerful seeds in the hearts and minds of young and old alike. Every day you are consciously or subconsciously planting seeds in your mind that, if left undisturbed will germinate into external fruition. A mind constantly inundated with negative suggestions will eventually bear fruit and result in inactivity or an apathetic mindset.
Likewise, a person who constantly hears positive affirmations (e.g., You can do it. You will do great. I believe in you. You will get better) will approach challenges in life with a completely different frame of mind. Ask yourself: Are you constantly bathing your mind in negative thoughts or are you “thinking on these things?” (Philippians 4:8). Furthermore, what messages are your sending to others?
Spend a few minutes focusing on the life of Joseph. This young man was seventeen when we first read about him (Genesis 37:2). He went through all kinds of trials (e.g., sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused of sexual misconduct, thrown into prison, etc.) and yet the Bible repeatedly reminds us that God was with Joseph. Yes, he was in miserable conditions, but he did not allow that to change who he was.
When you woke up this morning what was your approach to the beginning of a new day? Were you thankful to God and ready to tackle the tasks before you? Or did you desire to stay in bed, sorry that you had to get up and start yet another day? God has given each of us 24 hours in each day. We can spend it as happy, hard working servants for Him, or we can focus our mind on daily concerns and negative thoughts. What will you do with the power of your mind?