The value of positive thinking is well documented. Recently I was having a discussion with a friend about presidents. He shared with me that there are a large number of presidents that died on July 4th.
Initially I was skeptical so I did a little research and found this to be true. Throughout the history of the United States, there are numerous presidents who died on July 4th.
My curious mind initially started to think, “how is this possible?” But the more I thought about it the more I realized that this isn’t strange at all.
The mind is extremely powerful. Scientists have been studying death for years and have found that there is a mental component where the patient is able to hang on for a short time in order to reach a significant milestone. Whether it be their birthday, a holiday or even the Super Bowl, time and time again someone on their death bed is able to hang on just long enough to reach this milestone.
But it isn’t just during our final days where drive and hope matter. It also happens during clinical trials for medications. The placebo is given as a control to make sure that the drug being tested is actually working and it isn’t just a mental change in the patient who improves.
To me this is incredible. The fact that our mind is so powerful that we can “trick” ourselves to heal is mind-boggling. Often drug companies find significant improvement in the placebo group who receive a simple sugar pill. In order for those companies to prove that their drug actually works, patients have to show more improvement than the placebo.
But how can we grab onto this powerful phenomenon and use it to help us grow and improve? If it is mental, why did it take the placebo for the patient to start to get better?
While our mind is incredibly powerful, much of our daily thoughts and behaviors are habitual. We drive to work daily yet most of the time we do not think about every turn signal and every stop. We simply allow the powerful driving habits we have created and solidified over time take over.
This is why people that have a habit of using a blinker use it regardless of what cars are around them. This is why some drivers rarely use their turn signal. Whether a driver uses a turn signal is more about that driver than that situation. It is a habit.
Because of this habitual part of brain, it can be easy to coast through our lives. We can be more reactive and only change when we are forced to. We can make simple decisions and make those same decisions over and over until they form patterns in our behavior.
So the placebo acts as a change agent. Our mental habits suddenly are faced with change. Suddenly we break from the habitual thinking and may find a slight hope that we thought was inexistent.
So be aware of your habitual behaviors and thoughts. Some habits might be easy to spot, such as the tendency to drink alcohol when stressed or to eat certain foods when anxious about an upcoming event. Some habits may be harder to spot, such as the negative thoughts that might creep in during a new situation or when meeting a person for the first time.
But these subtle habits are very powerful. Habitually thinking of the worst or giving in to our anxious mind can become a very negative habit and can cause extreme difficulty in life. Conversely maintaining hope and focusing on positive thinking can become extreme helpful.
If we can harness the power of the mind and the power of positive thinking while still making sure we are grounded in reality, we can start to build positive habits that can help us throughout our lives. We can start to identify those destructive habits and the accompanying thoughts and make changes. We can harness the power of the mind to maintain a positive mindset.