Friday, 9 April 2010

Think Yourself Well

I was reading something the other day that was looking at what we know about how our mind influences our body, and in particular our health. The immediate reaction to hearing something like this for many  is to say 'What a load of rubbish' but there are many things in medicine which show this connection. I'm not talking about psychic healing or other such mumbo jumbo, but well known phenomena. The placebo effect isn't just people being fooled, there are actual physical changes which occur simply because someone believes they have taken something that will help. We've known about it for decades, but little is known about how it works. So how can thinking make us better?

The key is remembering that while we might talk about mind and body as separate things for ease of language, they aren't actually separate at all, the mind is just a part of the body. It controls many of your natural defences, including your immune system. For example, people who are stressed have lower immune cell responses and high levels of adrenaline after a stressful event can be fatal - dying of a broken heart isn't a myth. So if certain things can make you ill, would it be such a stretch to suggest others can make you better? If you can tweak the immune system through certain thought patterns then all sorts of things are possible. Reducing immune system inflammation could even cut your risk of cancer.

This is definitely an area that we need to research more to find out exactly what's going on and when the mechanisms are eventually found a whole new area of medicine will be opened. The mechanisms that are used by the mind could be altered with drugs, and it would give whole new emphasis to using psychological treatments in many diseases at the same time as physical support.

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