Some people say that we can do anything if we really believe in it. We hear this type of thing all the time, and I wonder how much truth is behind it. I’ve come across three interesting cases recently that add fuel to this direction of thinking.
Belief overcomes stress?
There’s an interesting talk by Kelly McGonigal – Beneficial Stress? Is that possible? – where she cites a study showing that people experiencing high stress had a 43% higher chance of dying the following year, but only if the people believed that stress is harmful to them. If they believed that stress was not harmful, then they did not have an increased risk of dying, in fact, they even had lower risk than unstressed people. I’m not sure I really got the point of this when I first heard it.
What if the real message here is that what you “believe” is the most important thing. And I mean really believe. Not just a wish or a hope but a true belief. What if your beliefs are really what governs everything?
Belief can cure you or make you sick?
Then of course there are the concepts of placebo and nocebo. Everyone is very aware of the placebo effect. Someone one can be given a sugar pill but if they “believe” that they actually been given a powerful drug, they can be cured anyway. There’s that word believe again.
I read about the placebo effect in Lissa Rankin’s book, Mind Over Medicine : scientific proof you can heal yourself, and it appears that it works about 30% of the time. Lissa wonders about the placebo effect and considers that if it can work some of the time, how can we make it work more reliably? I didn’t realize it at the time of reading this book, but the title of part 1 is “Believe Yourself Well” and chapter 1 is “The Shocking Truth about Your Health Beliefs”. I didn’t realize how strongly this concept of “belief” was coming though.
Next, I saw this amazing video of an interview with Bruce Lipton, Subconscious mind power – Bruce Lipton, where he introduced the concept of the “nocebo” effect which is the exact opposite of the placebo effect. That is, if somebody “believes” they are going to get sick, they will. Apparently, this works about 30% of the time as well, just like the placebo effect in reverse.
In Mind over Medicine and in this TEDx talk, Lissa Rankin cites many amazing cases. One example of the nocebo effect is that people who were told they were being given chemotherapy, but actually weren’t, had their hair fall out and started vomiting anyway. That shows just how powerful the mind is.
There seems to be no doubt that you beliefs can have a very direct effect on your health.
Belief can protect you from hypothermia?
But can beliefs allow you to do more? I remember seeing the amazing feats of Wim Hof in this video – Our amazing mind power – the Iceman. He can sit in a bath of ice for 40 minutes when it’s normally accepted that a few minutes would kill you. This has been scientifically tested and he’s able to keep his core temperature high even though his skin temperature is very low. He’s also able to reduce markers that show up in blood tests, just by using his mind. Again, scientifically tested. And recently, on his blog in Jan 2014 (http://www.icemanwimhof.com/wim-hof-blog) it reported that he led an expedition of 24 people to then highest summit of Mount Kilimanjaro of 5895m in just 48 hours. To achieve that height in such a short time was considered impossible due to altitude sickness. All of this is achieved with the help of a form of meditation.
After the Kilimanjaro expedition, Wim Hof said;
In the course of time people forgot how much they are able to do with their own bodies, and they have become dependent of pills and powders. I want to show the world that they do not always need those and can do much more themselves! The general opinion about altitude sickness has always been that it could not be prevented, not even with medication. If people can control this disease on their own, what else could be possible?
To me it appears that Wim and his followers are doing amazing things because the “believe” they can. They “know” they can – there’s no doubt – it’s a real belief. The meditation technique might be the key reason behind this. It might be a good technique for getting the mind to truly “believe” that they can do it. Is the belief the key point?
How powerful is belief?
There seems to be plenty of evidence to show that our beliefs are truly powerful. Either in good directions or bad. Real, deep beliefs, not just wishes. Things that we really “know” to be true. In Nick Ortner’s discussion on EFT (or Tapping), the concept of “limiting beliefs” is presented along with how they can be so powerful and stop our progress no matter how hard we try.
My goal now is to try and get all my beliefs pointing in a positive direction. It’s hard, but it must be worth the effort. I’m trying to avoid believing what people tell me if it is only helping to add to a negative belief. I’m starting to think (believe?) that with strong positive beliefs that run deep, anything is possible.