Are Your Thoughts Making You Sick?

photoThe placebo effect has long been recognized as a real phenomenon. When people believe that they are receiving something that is going to help them, it often helps them, even if what they receive is a sugar pill. This complicates drug trials because in order to show that a new drug is beneficial, drug companies have to be able to prove not only that the test subjects did better, they need to prove that the test subjects did better than people receiving sugar pills.

This effect goes way beyond sugar pills in scientific studies. Mondloch (2001) examined several studies about the placebo effect and found that under very different situations, positive expectations regarding medical procedures were associated with better health outcomes.

It turns out that the opposite is true as well. The “nocebo” or negative placebo effect was identified as early as 1961. If you think that medication will do you harm you are more likely to experience negative symptoms, even if it is a sugar pill (Barksky, 2002). If you believe that your treatment won’t work, you may be hindering the results.

In addition to this, Messina, et al, (2010) were able to show that skeptical people and those that harboured a generalized dislike, distrust, or hatred of other people did not do as well during cancer treatment. This effect was more pronounced than changing the types of medications that the individuals were given to treat the cancer.

So, if what we believe, our attitude and how we treat other people can have a positive or negative impact on our health, isn’t it time to pay attention to what we are telling ourselves about our lives?

224

 518TYyxqcyL._SL160_

This book follows “North Star” by Martha Beck. It goes deeper and further examines our connection with ourselves.

 

Can Stress Be Good For You?

IMG_4985As our understanding of how stressful our lives have become expands, more and more people are talking about meditation, leisure, slowing down and living in the moment. It is generally believed stress can hurt you and you should take every opportunity to reduce it in your life.

In a very two-dimensional way, this seems obvious. If you are worried, on edge and generally unable to relax, it must make you sick or at least tired. We can all think of someone who is so stressed their health and possibly their life has fallen apart. But this belief misses a larger truth. Many of our great accomplishments, enjoyable activities and even some of the pivotal and positive things in our lives are inherently stressful.

Worrying your true love will refuse your offer of marriage may be stressful, but that does not mean you should not ask. Standing up in front of a group of people to give a presentation, is also stressful, but it may be invigorating. People choose to sky dive for heaven’s sake!

So what is really going on? Kelly McGonigal, a doctor who studies the impact stress has on us has made an interesting discovery. In her TED talk 

she explains that if you “believe” stress is bad for you, it does more harm to your health. Simply put, it is our own brain’s interpretation of the effect of stress that ultimately determines how likely the stress will be harmful. Her study demonstrated that if you experienced a stressful event you were 43% more likely to die the following year ONLY if you believed stress was harmful for your health.

In contrast, those who experienced stress but did not believe it was harmful, actually had a lower risk of dying than people who had the least stress. Woah!! That is not what we have come to believe. Could this be because doing interesting things, taking chances, putting yourself out there makes life interesting and more enjoyable, even though it is stressful? I think that may be the case.

Is life worth living if we are constantly trying to be as risk and stress free as possible? I think not. We all know what that would look like and it would be incredibly boring. So, think of your heart pumping and your breathing increasing as your body prepping for action, not as something that is bad for you. Get out there. Take a chance, do something exciting, it may even reduce your risk of dying…

Don’t forget to call home….

IMG_2550Remember to take it. I shouldn’t have said that. I wonder what it will be like next year. And on and on it goes. There is a part of your brain that does nothing all day except generate words. This is similar to your digestive tract that spends its entire day processing food. You don’t need to be paying attention to your brain or your stomach for them to continue doing what they do. The word generating part of your brain is quite useful when you are speaking to someone, but if you have no one to speak to, you speak to yourself. This might take the form of reminding yourself about what you have to do, planning your day, counting calories, worrying about the future, rethinking the past, or other stories that you tell yourself about how things should or shouldn’t be.

The important thing that we need to recognize here is that the constant jabber is not who we are. We often mistake the word generating part of our brains as the one running the show. If we are kind to ourselves this can be a good thing. But if we are self critical, demeaning or depressed, the things that we tell ourselves can not only ruin our day, but they can be bad for our health. (Are your thoughts making you sick?)

If a thought is causing you pain (and I mean all negative emotions here as well as physical symptoms) there is little doubt that it is not true. We all face tragedy in our lives. Experiencing it, mourning it and letting it be, is the best that we can hope for. Pain and loss are unavoidable parts of being human. However, our past is just that, behind us, and reliving it wastes right now. The same could be said about worrying about the future. We have no way of knowing what will happen tomorrow. Why spend time thinking about things that make you unhappy when you could be paying attention to the world that actually exists in this moment?

As recently as the mid-80’s researchers have been able to measure how neurons fire in groups or neuronal assemblies. Gerstein (1989) has shown that neurons fire in groups and preferentially in patterns. So, you have this part of your brain that has nothing to do but generate words all day and words that you have thought before, phrases that you are familiar with, are the easiest words to generate. This same group of neurons gets in the habit of firing together all of the time, repeatedly thinking the same thing over and over again. Thought ruts form. It is easier for the word generating part of your brain to refire in this familiar pattern saying the same series of words than it is to think a unique thought. It then becomes difficult to believe that these words are not true simply because you’ve heard them so often.

Once you recognize that you can pay attention to what you are saying to yourself, you can examine the truth of it. Acceptance and Commitment therapy, affectionately called ACT, is a way of examining how language creates pain. It uses techniques to get past the literal content of what we tell ourselves so that we can be present in the moment (Hayes, 2005). By accessing our thoughts and bringing them into our awareness the thoughts can be examined rather than just taken as the truth.

The same thing has been discovered through spiritual channels. Byron Katie, a spiritual healer, discovered this on her own after a bout of serious depression and now teaches it. She uses the phrase, “Is that true?” to help people examine their thoughts. And the work begins. By asking yourself whether or not a thought is true and then examining when it possibly might not be true, you help rewire the cluster of neurons that have fired in a similar way for a long time. This helps to develop alternate pathways for thoughts to take and you can literally free yourself from the pain that the painful thoughts have been causing you.

So what do you say to yourself all day? Is any of it true? Is it always true? Can you think of an example where it might not be true?

 

51EayW0fCGL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU15_

 

This is the essential book for learning how to examine your thoughts.

 

How to Clean Up Your Whole Life MP3

A TELECOURSE LED BY MARTHA BECK

How to Clean Up Your Whole Life MP3

The pile of papers in your office, the long-unworn clothes clogging your closet, the tiny frozen quiches that have been in your freezer since the Carter administration…they’re all cluttering your outer life, but they’re also hogging a portion of your inner life.

Can Stress Be Good For You?

IMG_4985As our understanding of how stressful our lives have become expands, more and more people are talking about meditation, leisure, slowing down and living in the moment. It is generally believed stress can hurt you and you should take every opportunity to reduce it in your life.

In a very two-dimensional way, this seems obvious. If you are worried, on edge and generally unable to relax, it must make you sick or at least tired. We can all think of someone who is so stressed their health and possibly their life has fallen apart. But this belief misses a larger truth. Many of our great accomplishments, enjoyable activities and even some of the pivotal and positive things in our lives are inherently stressful.

Worrying your true love will refuse your offer of marriage may be stressful, but that does not mean you should not ask. Standing up in front of a group of people to give a presentation, is also stressful, but it may be invigorating. People choose to sky dive for heaven’s sake!

So what is really going on? Kelly McGonigal, a doctor who studies the impact stress has on us has made an interesting discovery. In her TED talk 

she explains that if you “believe” stress is bad for you, it does more harm to your health. Simply put, it is our own brain’s interpretation of the effect of stress that ultimately determines how likely the stress will be harmful. Her study demonstrated that if you experienced a stressful event you were 43% more likely to die the following year ONLY if you believed stress was harmful for your health.

In contrast, those who experienced stress but did not believe it was harmful, actually had a lower risk of dying than people who had the least stress. Woah!! That is not what we have come to believe. Could this be because doing interesting things, taking chances, putting yourself out there makes life interesting and more enjoyable, even though it is stressful? I think that may be the case.

Is life worth living if we are constantly trying to be as risk and stress free as possible? I think not. We all know what that would look like and it would be incredibly boring. So, think of your heart pumping and your breathing increasing as your body prepping for action, not as something that is bad for you. Get out there. Take a chance, do something exciting, it may even reduce your risk of dying…

Two and a Half Men

http://mashcultu.re/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/two-and-a-half-men.jpg
http://mashcultu.re/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/two-and-a-half-men.jpg

I sat down in the family room to watch television and noticed that “Two and a Half Men” was on. I flipped to that station so that I could have it on in the background while I checked the listings to see what else was on.

It was the episode of “Two and a Half Men” during which Alan is desperately trying to make extra money because Charlie has hit a dry spell. Charlie is confident that money will show up and Alan is panicking and subjecting himself to humiliating jobs. Alan is shown with a golf-ball sized lump on his forehead and partial hair loss. He had been selling himself as a human research animal.

Alan says, “I guess I’m not in the control group.” This is supposed to be funny because it is so obvious that he is having a reaction to the drug–hence the welt on his forehead and the missing clumps of hair. Then it occurred to me that he might have had the same response regardless of whether he got the control or not. The placebo effect is real. It is so real that it can cause adverse reactions to drugs as well. Simply the act of taking a drug (whether it is a sugar pill or not) can cause adverse symptoms.

The people participating in the trial would no doubt be told to focus on their bodies and report any unusual symptoms. The act of looking for and believing that there might be an adverse reaction makes one more likely to happen. Much the same as believing that the drug might help you makes your symptoms lessen.

So although Alan’s, admittedly neurotic, character figures that he knows for sure that he has the test drug, he may in fact have given himself the negative effects from believing that the sugar pill he was given would give him adverse side effects. Alan’s character on the show is obsessive about things like this and would be very likely to worry about an adverse reaction.

I go more into the evidence of these things in another blog, but suffice it to say if you tell yourself that you are taking better care of yourself and that you will feel better because of it, you will likely do both. Try giving yourself 15 extra minutes of sleep because you know it will make you feel better. It is an easy way to take better care of yourself. See how you feel in a week. What have you got to lose other than the last 15 minutes of your television show? It’ll go into reruns anyway, don’t worry.

 

Two and a Half Men

http://mashcultu.re/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/two-and-a-half-men.jpg
http://mashcultu.re/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/two-and-a-half-men.jpg

I sat down in the family room to watch television and noticed that “Two and a Half Men” was on. I flipped to that station so that I could have it on in the background while I checked the listings to see what else was on.

It was the episode of “Two and a Half Men” during which Alan is desperately trying to make extra money because Charlie has hit a dry spell. Charlie is confident that money will show up and Alan is panicking and subjecting himself to humiliating jobs. Alan is shown with a golf-ball sized lump on his forehead and partial hair loss. He had been selling himself as a human research animal.

Alan says, “I guess I’m not in the control group.” This is supposed to be funny because it is so obvious that he is having a reaction to the drug–hence the welt on his forehead and the missing clumps of hair. Then it occurred to me that he might have had the same response regardless of whether he got the control or not. The placebo effect is real. It is so real that it can cause adverse reactions to drugs as well. Simply the act of taking a drug (whether it is a sugar pill or not) can cause adverse symptoms.

The people participating in the trial would no doubt be told to focus on their bodies and report any unusual symptoms. The act of looking for and believing that there might be an adverse reaction makes one more likely to happen. Much the same as believing that the drug might help you makes your symptoms lessen.

So although Alan’s, admittedly neurotic, character figures that he knows for sure that he has the test drug, he may in fact have given himself the negative effects from believing that the sugar pill he was given would give him adverse side effects. Alan’s character on the show is obsessive about things like this and would be very likely to worry about an adverse reaction.

I go more into the evidence of these things in another blog, but suffice it to say if you tell yourself that you are taking better care of yourself and that you will feel better because of it, you will likely do both. Try giving yourself 15 extra minutes of sleep because you know it will make you feel better. It is an easy way to take better care of yourself. See how you feel in a week. What have you got to lose other than the last 15 minutes of your television show? It’ll go into reruns anyway, don’t worry.

 

Two and a Half Men

http://mashcultu.re/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/two-and-a-half-men.jpg
http://mashcultu.re/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/two-and-a-half-men.jpg

I sat down in the family room to watch television and noticed that “Two and a Half Men” was on. I flipped to that station so that I could have it on in the background while I checked the listings to see what else was on.

It was the episode of “Two and a Half Men” during which Alan is desperately trying to make extra money because Charlie has hit a dry spell. Charlie is confident that money will show up and Alan is panicking and subjecting himself to humiliating jobs. Alan is shown with a golf-ball sized lump on his forehead and partial hair loss. He had been selling himself as a human research animal.

Alan says, “I guess I’m not in the control group.” This is supposed to be funny because it is so obvious that he is having a reaction to the drug–hence the welt on his forehead and the missing clumps of hair. Then it occurred to me that he might have had the same response regardless of whether he got the control or not. The placebo effect is real. It is so real that it can cause adverse reactions to drugs as well. Simply the act of taking a drug (whether it is a sugar pill or not) can cause adverse symptoms.

The people participating in the trial would no doubt be told to focus on their bodies and report any unusual symptoms. The act of looking for and believing that there might be an adverse reaction makes one more likely to happen. Much the same as believing that the drug might help you makes your symptoms lessen.

So although Alan’s, admittedly neurotic, character figures that he knows for sure that he has the test drug, he may in fact have given himself the negative effects from believing that the sugar pill he was given would give him adverse side effects. Alan’s character on the show is obsessive about things like this and would be very likely to worry about an adverse reaction.

I go more into the evidence of these things in another blog, but suffice it to say if you tell yourself that you are taking better care of yourself and that you will feel better because of it, you will likely do both. Try giving yourself 15 extra minutes of sleep because you know it will make you feel better. It is an easy way to take better care of yourself. See how you feel in a week. What have you got to lose other than the last 15 minutes of your television show? It’ll go into reruns anyway, don’t worry.

 

Don’t forget to call home….

IMG_2550Remember to take it. I shouldn’t have said that. I wonder what it will be like next year. And on and on it goes. There is a part of your brain that does nothing all day except generate words. This is similar to your digestive tract that spends its entire day processing food. You don’t need to be paying attention to your brain or your stomach for them to continue doing what they do. The word generating part of your brain is quite useful when you are speaking to someone, but if you have no one to speak to, you speak to yourself. This might take the form of reminding yourself about what you have to do, planning your day, counting calories, worrying about the future, rethinking the past, or other stories that you tell yourself about how things should or shouldn’t be.

The important thing that we need to recognize here is that the constant jabber is not who we are. We often mistake the word generating part of our brains as the one running the show. If we are kind to ourselves this can be a good thing. But if we are self critical, demeaning or depressed, the things that we tell ourselves can not only ruin our day, but they can be bad for our health. (Are your thoughts making you sick?)

If a thought is causing you pain (and I mean all negative emotions here as well as physical symptoms) there is little doubt that it is not true. We all face tragedy in our lives. Experiencing it, mourning it and letting it be, is the best that we can hope for. Pain and loss are unavoidable parts of being human. However, our past is just that, behind us, and reliving it wastes right now. The same could be said about worrying about the future. We have no way of knowing what will happen tomorrow. Why spend time thinking about things that make you unhappy when you could be paying attention to the world that actually exists in this moment?

As recently as the mid-80’s researchers have been able to measure how neurons fire in groups or neuronal assemblies. Gerstein (1989) has shown that neurons fire in groups and preferentially in patterns. So, you have this part of your brain that has nothing to do but generate words all day and words that you have thought before, phrases that you are familiar with, are the easiest words to generate. This same group of neurons gets in the habit of firing together all of the time, repeatedly thinking the same thing over and over again. Thought ruts form. It is easier for the word generating part of your brain to refire in this familiar pattern saying the same series of words than it is to think a unique thought. It then becomes difficult to believe that these words are not true simply because you’ve heard them so often.

Once you recognize that you can pay attention to what you are saying to yourself, you can examine the truth of it. Acceptance and Commitment therapy, affectionately called ACT, is a way of examining how language creates pain. It uses techniques to get past the literal content of what we tell ourselves so that we can be present in the moment (Hayes, 2005). By accessing our thoughts and bringing them into our awareness the thoughts can be examined rather than just taken as the truth.

The same thing has been discovered through spiritual channels. Byron Katie, a spiritual healer, discovered this on her own after a bout of serious depression and now teaches it. She uses the phrase, “Is that true?” to help people examine their thoughts. And the work begins. By asking yourself whether or not a thought is true and then examining when it possibly might not be true, you help rewire the cluster of neurons that have fired in a similar way for a long time. This helps to develop alternate pathways for thoughts to take and you can literally free yourself from the pain that the painful thoughts have been causing you.

So what do you say to yourself all day? Is any of it true? Is it always true? Can you think of an example where it might not be true?

 

51EayW0fCGL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU15_

 

This is the essential book for learning how to examine your thoughts.

 

How to Clean Up Your Whole Life MP3

A TELECOURSE LED BY MARTHA BECK

How to Clean Up Your Whole Life MP3

The pile of papers in your office, the long-unworn clothes clogging your closet, the tiny frozen quiches that have been in your freezer since the Carter administration…they’re all cluttering your outer life, but they’re also hogging a portion of your inner life.

Are Your Thoughts Making You Sick?

photoThe placebo effect has long been recognized as a real phenomenon. When people believe that they are receiving something that is going to help them, it often helps them, even if what they receive is a sugar pill. This complicates drug trials because in order to show that a new drug is beneficial, drug companies have to be able to prove not only that the test subjects did better, they need to prove that the test subjects did better than people receiving sugar pills.

This effect goes way beyond sugar pills in scientific studies. Mondloch (2001) examined several studies about the placebo effect and found that under very different situations, positive expectations regarding medical procedures were associated with better health outcomes.

It turns out that the opposite is true as well. The “nocebo” or negative placebo effect was identified as early as 1961. If you think that medication will do you harm you are more likely to experience negative symptoms, even if it is a sugar pill (Barksky, 2002). If you believe that your treatment won’t work, you may be hindering the results.

In addition to this, Messina, et al, (2010) were able to show that skeptical people and those that harboured a generalized dislike, distrust, or hatred of other people did not do as well during cancer treatment. This effect was more pronounced than changing the types of medications that the individuals were given to treat the cancer.

So, if what we believe, our attitude and how we treat other people can have a positive or negative impact on our health, isn’t it time to pay attention to what we are telling ourselves about our lives?

224

 518TYyxqcyL._SL160_

This book follows “North Star” by Martha Beck. It goes deeper and further examines our connection with ourselves.