This week I want to share two articles about the incredible power of our brains. The first article is about body language and its impact on our emotions (and vice-versa). The second article discusses how the placebo effect works. Below you’ll find these articles and my thoughts on their implications.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed below are those of Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Preferred Medical.
Body language is important, especially when things are not going as planned. However, just as our thoughts and emotions can impact our body language, our body language can impact our thoughts and emotions. It’s easy to show positive body language when things are good, but it’s just as important to show the same positive body language when things are not.
Substitute “human being” for “athlete” and the advice is the same. Body language when things are going well is easy—not so much when things are not—but it’s so important in either case. One of the first things I was taught as a professional was to smile while I was on the phone. Initially that made no sense because the other party couldn’t see me. What I quickly realized, though, was that if I was physically smiling my tone and words and attitude were different…positive…uplifting. Smiling wasn’t for the other party. It was for me. How much more important is it when they CAN see you? Do you look defeated or like an overcomer when there’s lots to overcome? It’s your (my) choice. I know “fake it till you make it” is a trite phrase (“imitating confidence, competence, and an optimistic mindset, a person can realize those qualities in their real life“), but sometimes that is what it takes. Mental toughness is staying in the game regardless of the current “score” or your personal performance. And it is just as applicable for life as it is for sports. This is the advice given to athletes that in reality can be applied to every area of our lives:
When you are not doing well in a game, try to show the same body language you have when you are playing well:
* Keep your head up
* Encourage others
* Clap, cheer or congratulate teammates
* Keep eye contact
The placebo effect is seen when patients take a “fake” treatment but still report feeling the effects as if they took the real thing. This is because the brain is convincing the body that it is real. However, the placebo effect (or it’s opposite, the nocebo effect) is less about just thinking about it and more about establishing a brain-body connection. The placebo effect may not cure an illness by itself but it is an important component to pain management (even if you are taking the real thing) because it means your brain is part of the solution.
- Placebo definition (Merriam-Webster): “A usually pharmacologically inert preparation prescribed more for the mental relief of the patient than for its actual effect on a disorder.”
- Nocebo definition (Merriam-Webster): “A harmless substance or treatment that when taken by or administered to a patient is associated with harmful side effects or worsening of symptoms due to negative expectations or the psychological condition of the patient.”
- “The placebo effect is more than positive thinking – believing a treatment or procedure will work. It’s about creating a stronger connection between the brain and body and how they work together.”
Scientists are learning constantly about the impact of the brain on the effectiveness of EVERYTHING. Placebo / Nocebo are real and start with the attitude / expectations of the patient (often as set by their clinician). If you don’t believe me, check out these other resources:
- “How the Placebo Effect Works in Psychology” – verywellmind
- “Placebo Effect” – American Cancer Society
I’ve said it multiple times in multiple ways—Your brain is your biggest asset (or liability) in managing chronic pain. Proactive, engaged, self-directed positive thinking is a key attitude that helps the brain be an asset.
To read everything on my mind this past week, please visit me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marks-musings-december-2-mark-rxprofessor-pew/.
Until Next Week,