I used to think most situations were beyond my control. I’m now convinced that’s wrong.
I underestimated the power of our minds. It turns out the expression “mind over matter” makes an important point. Our minds control much of what happens to us in our lives.
The well-known placebo effect best illustrates this fact.
The placebo effect
The “placebo effect” describes how our belief about the efficacy of a treatment can impact the perceived impact of that treatment, even though the treatment itself consisted solely of taking an inert pill or an intervention that was of no medical consequence.
A recent article by Christian Jarett, published in the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, summarized some surprising findings about effect of placebos in various settings.
Here are two significant findings.
If those given a placebo were told it was an inert pill, surely it would have no effect, right?
In one study, a randomized group of patients with irritable bowel syndrome were either given “placebo pills made of an inert substance, like sugar pills, that have been shown in clinical studies to produce significant improvement in IBS symptoms through mind-body self-healing processes” or “no-treatment controls with the same quality of interaction with providers.”
The recipients of the placebo showed significantly greater improvement in their symptoms, even with the disclosure about the inert nature of the placebos they received.
A creative boost
A fascinating study involved the effect of telling participants they were receiving brain stimulation that would increase their learning capacity. They actually received non-invasive brain stimulation.
Nonetheless, they scored higher in learning tasks, and generally performed better, than a control group that didn’t receive the inert brain stimulation.
Studies on the impact of the placebo effect have broad ramifications on our daily lives. We have the power to set our own expectations, to think positively or negatively, to be grateful or embittered, to approach every situation with enthusiasm or cynicism.
Some of what happens to us is clearly outside our control. The placebo effect teaches us that much of what we thought just happens to us is really well within the awesome power of our minds.
Maybe it’s enough we understand that our belief something will work directly correlates with our perception that it does.
We need to harness the power of our mind.
Resource of the week:
The referenced article by Christian Jarrett is empowering and well worth a read.