Mindful Monkey.

What can the placebo effect tell us about the mind-body connection?


No one knows exactly how the placebo effect works! The more one considers this fascinating phenomenon, the more intriguing it becomes.

We know that if someone is given a tablet that has no active chemical in it but believes it to be an active substance, a certain number of people show a response (as if it were an active substance).  So a sugar pill can in effect work as an analgesic if the person taking it were to believe it is a pain killer. What is now even more puzzling is the efficacy of the placebo is further enhanced by a number of factors such as:

  • The colour of a tablet
  • The size
  • Two are better than one
  • The price (the more expensive, the more effective it is)
  • The trust and quality of relationship with the prescriber
  • If given as an injection (placebo here being just sterilised water for injections) rather than a tablet taken orally…

It would appear healing is more complicated than we thought. Of course there will be times when we need conventional medical interventions. In many situations, however, wouldn’t it be useful if we were to believe we are getting better, and then be on the way to being healed? This could have so many important implications for our day to day well-being. There are a number of chronic conditions around that could be helped. Think of psoriasis & eczema, IBS, insomnia or many other problems. If psychology and our mind can play a part in recovery and well-being then perhaps we should use it more often.

I leave you with this thought: What if stress, worry and striving are not nearly as effective in terms of getting things done as being in a flow state? Mindfulness, Guided Imagery and Relaxation skills may all help.  When calm you get things done even better; and you may well enjoy the process of getting things done. In difficult times is this an idea more important than ever?

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