How Your Thoughts Affect Your Health

If you’ve ever felt your heart pound prior to a big presentation or your face warm after saying something embarrassing, then you’re already familiar with how powerful that thoughts can be on the body. The “nocebo” effect (“I will harm”) and the “placebo” effect (“I will please”) have been regarded as such powerful forces that credible scientific research often require control groups to rule out results that may have been altered by them. Studies have shown time and time again that the effects of the mind over our bodies are profound. So the question arises; what implications does this have on our health?
When thinking negative thoughts, we can cause our bodies to release chemical signals that do harm. In a 1997 study conducted by neurophysiologist Fabrizio Bendetti, consenting patients were injected with normal saline but told that it was a pain-triggering medication. Some of those patients also received anti-anxiety drugs to block negative thoughts. Only the group that did not receive the anti-anxiety drug reported experiencing pain. This study highlighted the idea that our thoughts are powerful enough to impact our health in negative ways and lead to things such as stress and pain. Thoughts are powerful enough to trigger these experiences even if they would have otherwise not occurred. Although this can be a scary thought, the opposite is also true.
Thinking positively can have just as powerful an impact on our health as negative thought. In a 2004 study conducted by psychologist Dr. Tor D. Wager, patients who were already suffering from pain conditions were given a plain lotion and told that it was pain relieving cream. MRI studies indicated that they experienced natural pain relief from hormones that pain medications are artificially made to mimic. We all have the power within us to think positively and impact the overall health of our bodies in this way.
If you find yourself in a loop of negative thought, strategies exist to stop them: 
1. Try going shopping with your mind! Imagine a grocery store aisle and shop for things that you like. 
2. Occupying yourself with other thoughts can take your mind in another direction. If this doesn’t help, try reframing your thoughts. Instead of dwelling on something negative, think about what you’ve learned from it and how it helped you to grow. 
3. Make a list of all the things in your life that you are grateful for like food to eat, clean water to drink, the opportunity to attend college, etc. 
4. Are negative thoughts becoming a more chronic issue? Try our Koru Mindfulness meditation classes or our Yoga for Mood groups! Contact the Health Resource Center by phone at (562)985-4609 or by e-mail at for more information.

By Clara Chang


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