Can we talk ourselves into sickness?

Man holding a hanckerchief against his nose
Photo by Brittany Colette on Unsplash

We all know what the placebo effect is right? You give a patient a medicine but don’t tell him it’s not the real medicine but some sugar pill. The patient doesn’t know and so his mind thinks he’s getting the real deal. The real medicine.

And people can get better with placebos. That’s the beauty of it! So it’s already a proven fact that our mind can cure diseases we also try to cure with real medicine too. To some extent at least.

In fact, every clinical trial of a new drug has to outperform the placebo, in order to go to the next stage.

There’s also its little evil twin brother. The nocebo effect.

The nocebo effect is the same principle but then with a negative outcome in mind. So when a patient anticipates the side effect of medicine it can increase the likability of getting it and even how strong the side effect will be.

Scientists in the US examined data from 12 clinical trials of Covid vaccines and found that the “nocebo effect” accounted for about 76% of all common adverse reactions after the first dose and nearly 52% after the second dose. — source: theguardian.com

So this means that our mind beholds great power to make us healthy and make us sick. As long as we truly believe it will happen. Because that’s the secret sauce. We have to believe it is the real medicine we’re getting and then your body does the rest (in the placebo effect).

Faith, belief, and trust. They have to be in full alignment with each other. If there’s any doubt, even a little, the effect doesn’t work.

So, let’s do a little questionnaire on some of today’s challenges we have.

Answer them for yourself with either a yes or a no. Whatever you believe is true. There’s no right or wrong here, so just follow your instinct.

- I can get COVID when hugging someone. — Yes or no?
- I can get COVID when I talk to someone without wearing a face mask. — Yes or no?
- I can get COVID from someone that coughs near me, even out in the open. — Yes or no?
- I’m in a good shape and have a strong immune system. — Yes or no?
- I will get COVID at some point. — Yes or no?
- I never got sick so I see no reason to change that. — Yes or no?
- The placebo effect is real. — Yes or no?

Now think about the answers you gave. What do they say about your beliefs? Is it just a belief or is it real? Is it true, or is it a placebo or nocebo?

Knowing that the placebo and nocebo effect work (that was a trick question), the question becomes: how do you ‘program’ yourself with the beliefs you have? Well, in essence it is about repetition and trustworthiness. If you get a pill from a doctor, it makes you believe you’re getting a medicine.

So the information you’re using to reprogram yourself, has to come from a trustworthy source and you have to believe it more than the old belief you had. Sometimes you have to prove it to yourself. We see the result of a belief in our perception of reality and we believe it worked.

Often it’s also a stacking of different sources that form a belief. And maybe this article is one of them.

When you believe that you will get COVID one day anyway, do you think it will prove you wrong? Not likely, because you believe you will get it. Some day.

The point I want to make here is that for a significant part we can influence how vulnerable we make ourselves to external influences, like with COVID.

I’m not saying you should ignore the risks, or when you believe you won’t get it you won’t get it. No, what I am saying is that for the part of the placebo effect it will for sure help you lower the risk if you truly believe you are healthy, have a strong immune system, and are planning to stay healthy. That actually lets you take the right actions for it. Eating healthy, exercising, enough sleep, and mental clearness.

You become what you think. That’s for sure. So be aware of what you think, because it might come true.

Language matters.

So the way you talk to yourself matters a lot. A big mistake many people make is that they use the words “no“ “don’t“ or “not“ in what they want. But our minds can’t cope with that. “Do not think of a pinguïn” first lets you think of a pinguïn.

So saying or thinking “I don’t want to get sick” doesn’t do the job. Without the no, you’re saying I want to get sick. “I want to be healthy” or even better “I am healthy” works better.

We do this in many cases, however.

“Don’t forget the keys.”
“Don’t spend too much money.”
“I don’t want to stay up late today.”

Instead, say “Remember to take your keys.” “Let’s spend a maximum of X today” “I’m going to bed early today”.

The placebo effect works on us every day. Watching the Corona numbers every day in the news will program your beliefs. Talking about it online is programming you what your beliefs are. Complaining about it definitely does that.

I have a friend, and with every little pain she has, she says “Maybe I have corona…”. Someday she’ll probably be right.

Update: Only a week after publishing this article this friend did get sick and tested… positive on COVID-19. Coincidence? Who knows…

So are you using the placebo effect? Or are you setting yourself up for the nocebo effect?

It’s what you believe works for you.

I wish you good thoughts.

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Maurice Zondag

Maurice Zondag

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I help men create their desired life as a certified Life Success Coach and LoA Coach. I love sharing ideas on how you can improve your life. Follow me for more