Mind Over Matter – The Mind Matters

Can the mind heal the body?

Our mind’s matter. We need to nurture them like we would a small child or a beloved pet, but can we cure our ailments by tapping into certain areas of our brain? Can we mend our brains by doing exercise and treating our body like a temple? In this blog we will explore several theories that suggest we can do just that – but is it all just pseudoscience nonsense? Are the people posing these ideas merely out to make money and exploit vulnerable people? Let’s find out.

Can we heal our bodies with our minds?

Doctor Joseph Dispenza was involved in a serious cycling accident in 1986 in which he was told by doctors he may never walk again, and was recommended spinal surgery. He then took it upon himself to fix his body using his mind, and was able to walk again within 10 weeks, and was back at the gym by 12. This led him to focus on the mind-body connection. According to him, “with proper instruction and focused attention, you can produce real change in your biology”. Testimonials on his website boast that his “treatments” have cured cancer, multiple sclerosis, and infertility, and “profound and prestigious universities” in the US want to study these results. This sounds miraculous, and as a doctor, most people would be inclined to believe his testimony, but is it all too good to be true? Well, Dispenza is a chiropractic doctor, and although it’s a noble profession, he isn’t a licensed medical doctor, and probably not someone you’d go to to cure your cancer. In fact, when interviewed by The Daily Beast, Peter Wait – a theoretical physicist at Columbia University – described his use of language in seminars as “almost spectacularly complete nonsense”. Dispenza replaces “learning” with “forging new synaptic connections”, and “changing one’s behaviour” with “reorganising circuits”. This use of pseudoscience jargon may sound intelligent to the layman, but overcomplicating simplistic terms could indicate an awareness that his methods and treatments are more fantastical than scientific. 

But what if a medical doctor made these claims? Deepak Chopra, a Doctor of Medicine and author of over 90 books, also believes that the mind, body (and spirit), are inextricably connected, and nurturing all of them is essential to promoting good health. Chopra created the concept of “Quantum Healing” in 1989 and describes it as “healing the bodymind from a level which is not manifest at a sensory level… a shift takes place in the fields of energy information to bring about a connection to something that is out of balance”. Basically, Quantum Healing, (also referred to as spiritual healing), suggests the mind has the capability to heal the body through shifts in energy. Whether I look at his qualifications or simply choose to read his book and believe, there is a lot to be said for belief, full stop. Belief can motivate people to achieve magnificent feats of strength, endurance and bravery. I’d back my belief any day.

Can we heal our minds using our bodies?

As we all know, exercise is essential to maintaining good physical health, but can it also help to improve our mental health? According to the Mental Health Foundation, physical activity has huge potential to enhance our wellbeing. Exercise can positively impact our self-esteem and help reduce stress and anxiety whilst also improving our mood. We don’t have to do a 2 hour workout to reap the benefits, it can be as simple as going on a ten-minute walk or doing a yoga video on Youtube, and these benefits are backed by actual science, not just pseudoscience. 

Physical activity can also help create more chances for more socialising with friends, or help to make new ones. Socialisation is paramount to ensuring positive mental health, and doing exercise with friends is a great way to talk through life’s problems whilst keeping yourself physically fit. 

But physical activity isn’t the only way to help heal the mind. According to Harvard Health, regular practice of meditation can help your brain better manage stress and anxiety that can trigger depression, and it actually changes how your brain responds to these issues. There are several free meditation apps, podcasts and Youtube videos for a variety of different issues from work stress, to social anxiety. Mindful recommends apps such as mindfulness.com, Insight Timer and Smiling Mind that are all free to download on iOS and Android – you can also visit Calm People for our free Keeping Calm Resources. Perhaps we are only just beginning to touch on the minds potential to heal ourselves. My own personal view is that with the right combination of straight forward medical science and a positive, resilient focus on mental strength we can achieve healing results and outcomes for medical treatment that can be beyond what we dream of. I am in the process of proving that to myself now…more on that in a year or so when my personal based research is complete. 

Can other people shape our minds?

Sociological research shows us that the way people in authority treat us can actually determine our fate through self-fulfilling prophecy. The Pygmalion Effect, also known as the Rosenthal Effect, is a psychological phenomenon whereby a leader’s high expectations of their followers positively impacts the followers performance. The effect suggests that our reality is negotiable and can be manipulated by others – how we think, behave, and achieve can be influenced by the expectations of others. If we are nourished and positively encouraged, we are more likely to perform well in educational, work, or social settings. 

The opposite of this theory is The Golem Effect, which shows that if people in authority have lower expectations of someone, they are more likely to perform poorly. Both are examples of the self-fulfilling prophecy – the idea that a person’s expectations about someone can lead to them behaving in ways that confirm their expectations. Basically, if a teacher, parent, or boss has low expectations of us and their behaviour reflects that, we are more likely to perform poorly and live up to that expectation.

Transfer that to our expectations of ourselves and with the right attitude, mental strength and the tools we need, just imagine what we may be able to achieve.

In some ways, if you are feeling vulnerable, it is too easy to believe these so-called gurus, sign up for courses and conferences and, in the end, achieve nothing. At the same time, they have achieved what they have achieved and there are results and research in the background to back up a lot of their claims. These people can shape our reality for us through their benign influence, if we choose to believe and we commit to action. My view is that we are ultimately the force behind our own outcomes in life. Setting our intent, believing in ourselves and backing that up with action makes a massive difference to outcomes that we might otherwise believe we cannot influence. Never dismiss the power of the mind. It is easy to imagine and intuit that our mental state can negatively influence our physical state. The same goes the other way and it is in our gift to ourselves as to which way we lean in. Take greater care of your mind and you take greater care over all of you. 

Calm People are always here with free resources to aid in improving your mental health journey. If anything has affected you in this article, please get in touch for an in-depth, confidential discussion.

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