This is a guest blog post by good friend of mine Joanna Taylor – enjoy…
Exploring the Mind-Body Connection
Clinical Hypnotherapist & NLP Master Practitioner
Mind and body are part of the same system; what affects one affects the other. How we choose to think and represent our reality inside our heads has a profound effect on our state of mind and on the biology of our bodies. In essence, we become what we think about.
Imagine you are standing in your kitchen and in front of you is a wooden chopping board. In the centre of the board is a beautiful, big, ripe, yellow lemon… Imagine picking the lemon up – give it a slight squeeze and notice the ripeness and the feel of the waxy skin; bring it up to your nose and smell that wonderful, fresh lemony smell… Now to the side of the board is a small fruit knife. Put the lemon back down on the board, pick up the knife and cut the lemon in two… You can hear the sound of the knife on the chopping board, and some of the lemon juice gets on your hand; notice how it feels slippery… Now – bring half the lemon up to your mouth and squeeze four or five drops of lemon juice into your mouth… and as the juice rolls round under your tongue, it is the most sour tasting lemon you have ever tasted!
Now – what just happened? It is quite likely that, if you were imagining that at the same time as reading it, then your mouth would start to water at the thought of the sour lemon juice. In hypnosis, one of the major tenets – why hypnosis works – is that what the mind believes, the body will follow. Your mind believed there was lemon juice in your mouth and your body acted accordingly. In fact, your mind did not tell the difference between a real or an imagined event.
This is the basis of the Placebo Effect – when we truly believe that a drug will work, then it will – regardless of whether or not it is real. In the case of pain, research has shown that placebos can work as well as morphine in 51-71% of the patients.1 A further study has shown that the major factor influencing the results of the placebo effect is the response expectancy – the belief about what a drug will do.2 It is also the basis of Psychoneuroimmunology; an emerging field which explores how our mind – our psychological condition – and our nervous system affects our immune system. As Deepak Chopra states, “Every cell is eavesdropping on your internal dialogue.” So, in other words, when we change what we think, our body follows; our bodies are a reflection of our thinking.
Consider for a moment how mental stress affects the body; how frequently do you end up feeling extremely stressed through imagining “What If?” scenarios which, in reality, will never happen? When we worry or feel fear or anxiety, we cause our bodies to release stress hormones – the “fight or flight” response which was the survival mechanism of our ancestors. Most of the stress that we experience in today’s world, however, is not a threat to our survival, but caused by a multitude of worries about our jobs, personal lives and so on.
Physiologically, these day to day or chronic stressors have a greater negative impact on our health than do more acute, traumatic stressors that generally have a start and an end point (such as divorce or moving house). When the body’s energy is being used to respond frequently to these stressors, it can compromise the immune system’s ability to function properly. Research has demonstrated that almost every major illness that people acquire can be linked to chronic stress.3
Stress, however, is caused by a perceived lack of resources – events in themselves are not stressful; it is the way process the experience of the event inside our heads that makes us able to cope or not. Our stress threshold can be raised significantly through regular use of techniques such as self-hypnosis; giving ourselves positive hypnotic suggestions for calmness in any situation means that we can take that on board as a belief – and as we already know, what the mind believes, the body will follow.
Of course, sometimes we may have negative or limiting beliefs about the way our world works, or how we will behave in certain circumstances, and this can have a profoundly negative effect on our coping mechanisms. The good news is that any belief that we have “programmed” into our minds can certainly be “de-programmed” if it no longer serves us, using techniques such as NLP, Time Line Therapy or Memory Resolution.
So, start by paying attention to your thoughts – what are you telling yourself about your world? Remember that you have approximately fifty trillion cells in your body and that every one of those cells is being bathed constantly in the thoughts which you choose to offer it. Your thoughts are your own creation; and to quote cell research biologist Dr Bruce Lipton, “Our beliefs control our bodies, our minds, and thus our lives.” And if you don’t think you are in control of your thoughts, then who is?
1. F J Evans, “The Placebo Control of Pain”, in J P Brady et al, Psychiatry: Areas of Promise and Advancement (New York: Spectrum, 1977).
2. G A Marlatt et al, “Cognitive Processes in Alchohol Use” in Advances in Substance Abuse: Behavioural and Biological Research (Greenwich, CT: SAI Press, 1980).
3. Segerstrom and Miller 2004; Kopp and Réthelyi 2004; McEwan and Lasky 2002; McEwan and Seeman 1999. (From “The Biology of Belief”, Dr Bruce Lipton PhD.)