The placebo effect
The placebo effect is a particular result (often improved medical condition) produced by a stimulus (commonly a drug or treatment) that has no physical impact on an individual.
The most common theory in scientific literature is that a placebo treatment works because of the individual’s belief in it.
It is anything that seems to be a “real” solution (or problem) – but, in reality, isn’t. Or is it?
Some suggest that it’s possible for the mind to impact the body’s own chemistry in order to replicate the effects of medication.
So if I were to give you a practice that improved your energy, sense of wellbeing, clarity of mind and overall happiness, with no physical consequences, would you try it?
Placebo effect examples
Placebos are often associated with the medical world; for example: sugar pills, fake injections and inactive medical devices.
You also see them marketed in the wellbeing industry; for example, chiropractors, apple cider vinegar and crystal healing.
As well as in scientific testing and marketing material, you also make them up yourself; for example:
- Clear desk, clear mind – Do you concentrate better and get more done when your desk is clear? Do you really?
- Vinyl just sounds better – Do your vinyl records, played on a £35,000 turntable, sound better than their digital counterparts? Do they really?
- Performance superstitions and rituals – Do certain superstitions or performance rituals make you perform better? Do they really?
- Paper makes you smarter – Does someone’s PhD make them smarter than you? Does it really?
The point is, placebos are real!
They are based upon your perceptions of the world and, when you can get them to work for you, they become extremely powerful tools…
Control your mind to go further
Your brain has no concept of reality!
It doesn’t speak English and it does not understand danger.
Just listen to this spooky music for example…
You know you’re not in danger, but you still start to feel tense!
You may not feel it, but your heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels all spike.
The same goes for when you’re watching horror movies!
You see, your brain is irrational! It acts on emotions, signals, chemicals and electrical messages that can bear no resemblance to reality and are often a reflection of your perceptions.
But what if you could control those emotions, signals and perceptions? What if, rather than your brain controlling you, you controlled your brain and used it to do things you couldn’t possibly imagine?
What if you purposely pursued positive placebos (try saying that quickly!) for cures, avoiding sickness and ultimately improving your life?
Everything you need is already inside of you and placebos can be the easiest, cheapest and safest way to advance and enjoy life!
Placebos work better over time because your brain gets used to them – they are like habits or cues!
The power of ritual
The more a placebo becomes a ritual, the more powerful it becomes because it signals to our brain – it is time!
An example of this is the anchoring technique to deal with anxiety, fear, apprehension or lack of focus in our Ultimate Beginners Guide To Practical Meditation (coming soon).
A note for the cynics
Some people will argue that “if I know I’m taking a placebo, surely it won’t work!”
Go back to the spooky music or the horror film.
You still feel tense even though you are even more conscious that there is no danger now!
Your brain has no concept of reality!
It does not speak English!
Don’t get me wrong, placebos aren’t going to cure cancer or give you wings but it has been proven that openly telling patients that they are taking a placebo can help treat conditions that are defined by “self-observation” such as pain, nausea or fatigue.
The nocebo effect
There is one lifeline for the cynics!
Placebos can be “bad!”
“Bad” placebos are called nocebos – things that don’t physically exist that make us worse or dishearten us by sending signals to the brain that say “it’s over,” “I’m not feeling well,” “I don’t like this” or “this is a problem!”
Examples of the nocebo effect include:
- Age concerns – Believing that your age means you can’t do something.
- The professional opinion – Believing something can’t be done or you’re incurable because you’ve been told that by a professional.
- Fear – Not living life fully due to the anticipation of negative outcomes or pain.
- Categorising – Associating yourself with negative traits because that’s just “who you are.”
You have to approach nocebos with a positive but realistic perspective.
Only you know how you feel, only you may have the vision and only you can control your mind to go further!
I don’t know why people get so hasty when it comes to placebos!
They exist and they work so there’s no need to hide from them!
Ignoring placebos will not make them go away and embracing them could help you do things better. In fact, they may be the cheapest, most efficient way of getting where you want to be!
As long as placebos are used to improve yourself, or others without harming them, deceiving them or treating them unethically, I think they’re a good thing!
A change in your mind is just as real as a change in your body!
Life is not a double-blind test! It is an experience of sensations through perceptions and emotions, so why not make it better by controlling your mind and embracing placebos!