I'm currently listening to an audio version of "The Happiness Advantage" and, in the most recent chapter, the author cites a very interesting study.
In this particular study, people with a known allergy to poison Ivy were blindfolded and told that their arm was being rubbed by poison ivy. The vast majority of them quickly developed a reaction on their arm as if they had actually been exposed to poison ivy. They were also told that the other arm was NOT being rubber with poison ivy (which it was) and except for two participants, the vast majority did not develop a reaction.
What came to my mind is how powerful expectation, thought, and our brains' ability to subjectively create "reality" is. This isn't my first time delving into metaphysics (yes, I know "the secret"), but I have been very focused as of late on what I am putting into my stomach and perhaps not as strident with what thoughts I have been putting into my brain.
While I strongly believe that paleo (plus science) gives us the best working framework for optimal nutrition, this can be seen as a "bottom-up" approach. A pure "top-down" approach (for example, convincing yourself that wheat bread is "healthy" thereby making it innocuous) would be ridiculous, so perhaps focusing solely on "bottom-up" is shortsighted as well.
The fact is, these studies show that pure thought CAN create objective biological changes and therefore a the optimal strategy might be to work from both the "bottom" and the "top".
An example of this might be to not totally freak out if a "non-paleo" food is consumed while still working to constantly improve and refine ones dietary habits.
So, what are your thoughts on thoughts?
I have been able to assist others in healing their bodies pretty quickly of painful but minor problems such as burns, scrapes, legs aches & pains just by calling the person's attention to the area of injury. All by gently touching the area of concern and being sure the person is feeling the touching. I don't know why it works, it is what is.
Personally I was able to blow the mind of a dermatologist surgeon when I was a lot younger. I had a fairly large cancer formation that was under the nose piece of my glasses. I never really thought much of it...this round looking wart type thing. Anyway, I had to have it cut out and the surgery left a big hole in the bridge of my nose that looked gross because it was down to the raw meat under the skin layers. I was warned that depending on how the skin filled in the hole, I might have a large amount of scar tissue built up higher than the level of my skin. The hole was about the size of a dime. I was sent home and told to come back in two weeks for an eval. I arrived at the surgeons office and walked into the exam room. He walked in, looked at me and turned around and left and ask the nurse to get the right patient into the next exam room. I didn't have a bandage on the wound because I had healed perfectly in those two weeks. Of course he didn't remember who he had operated on...he was only looking for a bandage on my nose.
I just thought the wound to be healed by constantly calling upon myself to recognize that I had a wound that needed to be healed.
I don't know about any pathways or DNA changing thought patterns I had...all I knew was that I could heal myself. Low carb was not even a thought back then for anyone.
The surgeon was not interested in how I did it. But he wanted a polaroid picture...since he had taken a polaroid of the cancer prior to surgery.
Mind over matter? Placebo effect? Moving molecules to the injury by thought process? I had read a book on the power of the mind...don't remember the title or author, but I did pick up the technique. It was back 40 years ago when I was exploring Eastern philosophy and religion.
It does require the full cooperation of the injured person/ I haven't done it in years...except on myself for the occasional sprains and one broken finger.
People seem to be pretty closed minded these days about such weird behavior. They would rather surrender to the failed medical establishment.
The placebo effect and nocebo effect are cool ways in which thoughts manifest as physical effects. Might I cite some important scientific literature on this? On an episode of House from a few seasons ago, Cuddy got sick because she thought she was sick. And she's the dean of medicine, so she even knew that such a thing exists.
But let me take this line of thinking one ludicrous step further. My theory is that our paleo ancestors ate differently than us, but THAT WAS THE MOST MINOR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US AND THEM. Well, not literally the most minor, but you'll see what I mean.
As any dummy knows, the brain is plastic/changeable. As even more dummies know, bodies not only evolve with time, but also change based on our parent's habits and our upbringings. Several years ago, I came up with a totally unsupported hypothesis. At some point, we had ancestors that were unimaginably different than us in thinking patterns--not at all conditioned and weighed down by internal mental struggles. Somewhere along the line, these people got selected against. Why?
You can map out the Prisoner's Dilemma on a minesweeper grid, having three classifications of people. 1) Nice people, 2) Mean people, 3) Adaptable people. At each point in time, the people move a block in a random direction, and experience the Prisoner's Dilemma with their neighbor. If you do this in a repetitive fashion, the nice people die off first. Then the mean people, and finally the adaptable people.
So here's what I'm trying to say. We compare ourselves and our thoughts/emotions/actions to those around us. Family, friends, celebrities, whatever. But there must have been people way back when who acted very differently than us, but either they did not survive or their traits are now very rare. Have you ever known someone who is totally selfless? Now adays, that is seen as a positive trait. But back in the day, they would have been murdered. I'm only slightly exaggerating.
In a similar vein, I tend to think that us modern people have been blessed (or cursed) with very self-involved minds. And self-involvement and need for accolades are traits that could have helped you survive back in the day. Power especially-- some people crave it. We want people to think we are great/smart/funny/whatever. Our minds convince our bodies of that, and make our bodies perform very strange actions at times. This might happen a lot more than it did in the past, because doing something to boost your ego won't usually kill you in modern life. In ancient life, feeding and housing yourself took up a bigger chunk of the life pie than feeding your needy ego.
Only when something very bad happens, or we take recreational drugs, or we are on our deathbeds, or we meditate or something, do our perspectives shift enough to get out of the quicksand of our heavily-conditioned minds. You can kind of tell who is not so wrapped up in themselves. Ellen DeGeneres for example. Bobby McFerrin. Richard Feynman. The Dalai Lama. Kim Kardashian.
It's such a vague and shifty concept, that I feel like a tool for giving "my perspective" on it. But we all have perspectives, and we all have minds. Only some people have the special ability to attain a view outside of their own minds. Like Being John Malkovich, but less dramatic. And that being said, I didn't the answer the question at all, even after all that typing. Not one iota!
While this makes sense to me because I also believe in magic, it is not an idea I am willing to apply tto others because it is a function of belief for me.
I am also leery of the effect of this sort of thing on people who are sick, it can lead to a" they did it to themselves" attitude which is not the sort of lack of compassion for suffering that I want to see us extend to the ill.
i absolutely believe this and so its true.....for me :)
i recall reading a fairly mainstream study on the subject of depression that found that thought can physically change brain cells. i tried to find a link, but alas, failed.
Yup - I agree that the thought process can be/is a powerful tool. I'm not into the whole Secret stuff but as I prepare for my grad studies in cognitive science, I find more evidence in the power of the mind to heal debilitating diseases. This isn't some metaphysical mumbo jumbo but there is real science in cognition. The science behind the way we learn and process the world around us is very important to our physical health and I believe that most people (myself included) do not take our thoughts far enough in terms of behavior modification (new diets are a form of behavior modification).
I am so glad to see this post because too often we focus on the physical and wonder why we aren't improving when a simple mental tweak is all we need. You mentioned paleo as science but there is a huge science to the mind too.
If you're interested in accessing some good articles, let me know. I'm more than happy to share with you :)
No doubt about it. Fortunately or unfortunately, the effect of thoughts tend to diminish over time. That's the reason ANY diet you name you will find rave reviews by people who have only done it for a few months or less. That's the reason why I am so skeptical of "testimonials" by Mr. and Mrs X about how their butts don't stink now that they started Paleo.
*Tara Palmer-Tomkinson: 'These days I keep my eye-mask in the minibar, not champagne' By Lynne Hyland 15/08/2008 * this is an article which appeared in The Mirror newspaper and is an interesting account of the effect of having a spiritual healer present in the operating theatre during surgery.
As promised, here are 4 articles to get you started:
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/emotions/self.html Good footnotes here.
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,969577-3,00.html Time article from 1990 but a good overview.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-12-25/can-meditation-cure-disease/2/ A buddist monk undergoes an MRI while in meditation. Links to a fascinating letter by a researcher in paragraph 4.
There is a lot more of course but I chose these because they are provide a basic introduction on mind/body correlations. While some people think Buddhism or Meditation are too "out there", western science has been stepping up research on the benefits of meditation. You may want to check out more on cognitive behavior modification too.
My interests are mainly in informatics and cognitive science looking at technologies for self-tracking and how we use that information to improve or change our thought patterns and actions.