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Mindfulness explained... How to Harness the Healing Power of Mindfulness

How to Harness the Healing Power of Mindfulness
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Your Beliefs and Values Become You

Our individual beliefs and values become our unconscious thinking, and our unconscious thinking literally becomes us. One study shows that how we perceive the dollar value (or cost) of a pain reliever determines its effectiveness. In other words, the subconscious power of our beliefs, or “placebo effect,” extends not only to the brand name of the pill we are taking but the cost of that pill. If a consumer believes that a $2.50 pill will relieve pain better than an identical but generic $0.10 pill – the more expensive pill does relieve pain better. If the mind believes in and places value on an expensive treatment, that expensive treatment has greater “placebo value.”  If one believes in a direct connection to an all-powerful and all-healing God, that belief has great “placebo effect.

The subconscious mind exerts exacting effects on the body. One double-bind study revealed the power of belief over a specific response of the immune system. Placebo effect experiments in healthy humans showed that the immune system can even mimic specific immune responses of what the subject believes to be the effects of the immunosuppressive drug Cyclosporin A. Subjects believing they were taking the drug and knowing its effects, but taking a placebo instead, showed a suppression of their immune responses. What subjects were told to be the immunosuppressive symptoms of that specific drug became their specific reactions. Similarly, women with false pregnancies show the exact symptoms of what they believe to be the symptoms of pregnancy.

What we believe and expect about our own health often has greater medicinal value than medications. If we believe ourselves to be healthy, vibrant, and involved – able to ward off disease and control our environments – that belief about our power to stay healthy has great preventative power.Through the practice of mindfulness we can consciously choose positive beliefs about our health, beliefs which will train our unconscious to work wonders in the body.

What Do You Expect?

What researchers have termed “expectancy” – expecting a shot in the arm, a hard fall, ice-cold water – anything the subject believes will be painful – can actually relieve pain before it begins! Just the idea, or expectation, of pain releases natural endorphins in the brain. Our “natural opiates,” a brew of neuropeptides enkephalins and cholecystokinin (CCK), go to work in advance, neutralizing any increase in pain. These “natural opiates,” or neuroenhancers, are released by our subconscious beliefs about pain.

Subconscious “expectancy”  plays a similar role – in our stress response. If we believe a situation like a job, or a person like a boss to be psychologically stressful, it also becomes physiologically stressful. Like animals we react to danger with a split-second rush of adrenalin. We can even imagine what might be a prolonged threat, and release a set of more lasting hormones that prepare us for an extended “fight-or-flight.”

Over the short term a little stress is a good thing, improving our fight-or-flight performance, while enhancing neural pathways. The thought of a possible grizzly bear attack, however remote the possibility, may facilitate and potentiate neural circuits short-term. But long-term exposure to an impending grizzly bear attack produces a slew of chronic stress adrenal hormones that block the growth of new stem cells and even shrink the brain. Prolonged stress causes things like colitis, Addison’s disease, arteriosclerosis, sexual dysfunction, and neurological damage. For children living in abusive families, ongoing stress shuts down their growth altogether; put anyone in a chronically stressful situation and they shut down altogether.    

Each moment we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.


Buddha, circa 485 BC

Categories:   Brain Plasticity, Guides, Mental Health, Mind-Body, Mindfulness, Preventive Measures

Published by

Burt Glenn

Burt Glenn

Burton Glenn is a former Biology and Chemistry Professor and world traveler. He studies and writes about the effects of aging on the body and mind, as well as his personal experiences transitioning into retirement.