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The power of suggestion and the placebo effect

A lucky rabbit’s foot. A glass of wine. A pill. What do all these things have in common? Their effects, which depend on the power of the mind.

An entire industry, built on the idea that we can change our lives for the better by imprinting positive suggestions into our (conscious and subconscious) minds, has developed around the effects of suggestion. Books, magazines, TV shows, they all offer advice and present rules according to which, with the help of suggestion and positive thinking, we can overcome addictions, we can achieve seemingly impossible goals and we have the chance to make our lives the way we want them to be. If it works for some of us, why would it not work for all of us?

Yet, to fully understand the power of suggestion, you need to have a good grasp on how it works and what its true nature is.

A golden rule to abide by when you work with your own subconscious mind is this: the suggestions you use should always be positive.

Use positive words, as these words will remain stored into your subconscious mind. It is pointless to repeatedly tell yourself that you do not have to worry. Once you have used the word “worry”, your subconscious will start to work against you and will focus on the meaning of this word. Similarly, it will do you no good to say “I don’t want to be ill anymore”.The right choice of words is:

“I feel better and better every day”.

Human brain does not process negations. It simply ignores them. What your brain will remember from the above-mentioned examples is “I have to worry”, “I want to be ill”, and “I am ill”.

How does the power of suggestion influence our lives?

Numerous studies have shown that deliberate suggestion can influence how people perform learning and memory tasks, which products they prefer and how they respond to certain medicines (a response called placebo effect).

What can explain the powerful and pervasive effect suggestion has in our lives? The answer lies in our expectations, or the ways in which we anticipate our responses in various situations. These expectations set us up for automatic responses that may influence the outcome. When we are set on seeing something… we actually see that thing.

Placebo and nocebo: how they work

The power of faith is still full of mysteries, even for experts. It is a known fact that if you strongly believe something is good for you, your belief will work in your benefit and that thing will actually have positive effects on you.

Doctors have been using for centuries the placebo effect as a form of treatment, and the effects of suggestion have been proved on every occasion. However, some patients also reported negative side effects, which scientists called nocebo effect. In other words, suggestion may also work to our detriment if we repeatedly send negative messages to our subconscious minds.

There are several theories that have been trying to explain the phenomenon. One of them states that when a person knows what the effect of a certain medicine should be, their body unwittingly modifies its reaction to reach the expected result. Moreover, as soon as they take a medicine, people also tend to experience a sense of relief, a state of relaxation. It is the state of absolute confidence that the medicine will do the trick and they will feel better.

How can this be? According to scientists, identifying a result before taking the medicine determines the body to set itself in line with the expected outcome. Another theory suggests that some people are genetically predisposed to respond to placebo while others are not.

The power of suggestion also depends on the person who makes that suggestion

As shown by certain clinical studies, in addition to the sense of power given by medication, the placebo effect “sets in” more quickly and successfully when the person comes into contact with an optimistic, friendly doctor, who manages to gain the patient’s trust. In such cases, using certain words and positive statements is also extremely helpful in the healing process.

Conversely, using negative statements in the patients’ presence will only make them feel worse. Anyone can induce the placebo or nocebo effect by simply speaking or by displaying certain reactions that carry implications capable to change other people’s behaviours.

For example:
– if a person next to you happens to yawn, you are very likely to yawn, too;
– if someone mentions fleas or lice, you will surely experience an itching sensation;
– if someone suggests that the food you are eating is spoiled, chances are that you get sick;
– if there is a rumour that the place you are visiting is cursed, you may experience discomfort;
– if on the box of the tea you drink is written that it will help you lose weight, you might lose weight, whatever the content of that tea is.

Here are a few simple exercises you can do to make sure that suggestion always has positive effects on you:
– pay attention to your inner dialogue and speak to yourself, as much as possible, in a gentle manner, using positive words;
– always focus on the desired result and never dwell on what you do not want to happen;
– have patience – this is a process that takes time and practice;
– channel your thoughts in the right direction and turn this into a daily habit;
– listen to inspiring messages from successful people as often as you can;
– read motivational books and settle on positive rituals you enjoy practicing;
– use affirmative statements throughout the day in order to channel your energy towards the results you want to achieve.

The fact that you are now reading this article means that you are interested in improving your life and ready to start working with yourself. Make this a habit. Use all your resources with the absolute confidence that every step you take, however small, adds up, and in the long run its effects will be priceless! The extent to which suggestion can change your life depends on how committed you are to positive practice.

You may also want to read:
The four great mental powers
The power our thoughts have upon us

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