Life & Style Weekend - - MIND - MIND YOU WORDS: ROWENA HARDY Rowena Hardy is a fa­cil­i­ta­tor and coach at mind­

Be­liefs. We’re not born with them, they build and de­velop over time based on our ex­pe­ri­ence of the world through fam­ily, ed­u­ca­tion, so­cial­i­sa­tion, cul­ture and many other in­flu­ences. They may change over time, some may strengthen, some may dis­ap­pear, some are em­pow­er­ing and oth­ers dis­em­pow­er­ing but that doesn’t stop us hang­ing on to them.

A be­lief could be de­fined as an ac­cep­tance that some­thing ex­ists or is true, it doesn’t re­quire proof and also as trust, faith, or con­fi­dence in some­one or some­thing. Es­sen­tially be­liefs are one of the key driv­ers of be­hav­iour yet they are of­ten faulty, ill-con­ceived, poorly re­searched or with­out tan­gi­ble ev­i­dence.

There are many ways I could write about be­liefs and the im­pact they have on us and oth­ers through our be­hav­iour but this week I’ve cho­sen to write about their im­pact on our health through the placebo and no­cebo ef­fect.

You may be fa­mil­iar with the placebo ef­fect, the be­lief that a sub­stance or treat­ment that has no ther­a­peu­tic value – sugar pills, ster­ile wa­ter, sa­line in­jec­tions, fake surgery and other pro­ce­dures – is ben­e­fi­cial. Re­search has proved that any of these can pro­duce real, pos­i­tive re­sults on a per­son’s health and align to the per­son’s ex­pec­ta­tions of the suc­cess of the treat­ment.

Their ex­pec­ta­tions can be in­flu­enced by their med­i­cal pro­fes­sional, if the pro­fes­sional is pos­i­tive and con­vinc­ing, the pa­tient is con­vinced. Es­sen­tially it’s driven by the pa­tient’s be­lief and one ex­am­ple is with pa­tients with os­teoarthri­tis need­ing surgery. One group re­ceived the ac­tual surgery and the other went through the anaes­thetic and thought they were hav­ing surgery when all they had was a simple in­ci­sion that looked like surgery but noth­ing more. The two groups re­ported the same level of pain re­lief.

What may be less known is the no­cebo ef­fect, in other words, the op­po­site of placebo and it’s equally true, if we believe that some­thing is harm­ful, it will be. The trans­la­tion from Latin of no­cebo is ‘I shall harm’. There are clin­i­cal tri­als (Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Jour­nal, March 2018) that have shown that the same num­ber and type of neg­a­tive side ef­fects are seen in pa­tients who did not re­ceive any in­ter­ven­tion; they had only read the in­struc­tion let­ter that out­lined those side ef­fects.

It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the mind has a pow­er­ful ef­fect on the body, some­times too pow­er­ful, to the ex­tent that we trust our mind more than our body which is the wrong way around. Our body doesn’t have the ca­pac­ity to lie but our brain does or at least to stretch the truth and find ev­i­dence to sup­port our ex­ist­ing view of the world, one that is uniquely ours.

With a fo­cus on health, are your be­liefs largely pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive and how do they im­pact you, those around you and your view of your abil­ity to stay healthy and thrive?

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