The placebo effect is a phenomena wherein a person suffering from an illness gets better solely based on their faith in the treatment, unaware that there is no actual medicine being provided. In a sense, the medicine, is their mind.
This has given rise to an entirely new field of psychology, wellness and alternative healing. For decades, traditional medicine has written off placebo as irresponsible, dangerous and over-simplistic.
However, they are missing a key piece in the formula for wellness; the incredible power of mind over matter. This is precisely what Lissa Rankin, (MD, author of 3 books, speaker and physician) is trying to bring to the attention of the scientific community.
Let the expert take the lead, here’s Lissa’s TED talk
The Physiology of Placebo Effect
“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.” ~ Steve Maraboli
Scientists believe there is a link between the body’s relaxation response and the placebo effect. It is basically when we do, think or feel things we prefer, that relax, motivate or inspire us; our parasympathetic nervous system turns on and releases the love and wellness hormones like Oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins etc.
They allow the body to fully ease into healing. We can release them with the simplest activities like meditation, exercise, getting a massage, making love, laughing or playing with animals.
“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.” ~ Herophilus
Rankin explains this to be the opposite of the Placebo. If you become hopeless, faithless and pessimistic, your chances of overcoming an illness drastically drop. On a physiological level, Rankin explains that our brain communicates to all the cells of our bodies via hormones and neurotransmitters.
Whenever we are depressed, hopeless, lonely or worried, our amygdala perceives our bodies to be in a state of threat. This alerts the sympathetic nervous system that then puts us into fight or flight mode.
This is a natural occurrence that develops to alert us on impending danger, and our bodies become too busy defending these ‘threats’ to actually keep up our immune system.
A Fuller Wellness Model
“Your body hears everything your mind says.” ~ Naomi Judd
The Care Giver
Rankin goes on to say that a lot of healing not only comes from the mind but from the health care professional. A discovery was made by Ted Kaptchuck a Harvard researcher revealed that having a pessimistic or fear-inducing doctor is extremely crushing to one’s sense of self-preservation and healing.
It’s imperative to take help from those that have great empathy and faith in your recovery. The road to recovery itself can be a hard and scary one, so to have someone holding your hand while going through it is of utmost importance.
Inner Pilot Light
The term coined by Rankin, relates to the part of you that lies at your core; your higher self, soul, intuition, inner healer. She urges us to follow it, as it always knows which choice is the right one. It is a master healer.
When we come into contact with it, and really start listening, we will realise that a lot of aspects of our life are out of balance. The fuller wellness model is about shedding those aspects that give us stress, stifle us and come in the way of our happiness. The more we resonate with our lifestyle, the less we are at risk of illness.
She ends by explaining that we need to respect nature again. Health-care professionals need to stop making nature our enemy and instead avail of all its resources, using it as a tool to be worked with and not against.