A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending a workshop by Bruce Lipton, an American cell biologist. His research shows that genes don’t actually run the show; instead, it is our perceptions of the world that shape our biology. How empowering is that?! 🙂
A simple example is stress, something which we are all familiar with. When we are stressed our blood is literally flooded with stress hormones, chemical messengers whose job it is to tell all the cells that there is a perceived threat to our existence lurking outside our body. One of the many things to happen is that our immune system shuts down. After all, why spend precious energy sorting out a bacterial infection when you could be using it to flee the tiger? The idea is that if you haven’t ended up as lunch for said tiger, the immune system can resume its work then.
Now look back to a time when you were in love 🙂 Then your blood was flooded with chemicals such as oxytocin (helps us to bond), serotonin, endorphins (our feel-good factors), growth hormones etc. Did you ever get sick during this time? The likelihood is that your health was at its best. Compare that to a time when you were stressed. At such times, you would have been more likely to feel run down and tired, and in turn, become ill.
Whatever is going on in the brain (whether fear or love or something in between) has a direct impact on your blood chemistry. Where does the blood go? It arrives on the doorstep of every single cell in your body delivering nutrients and messengers. This means that each cell has a sense or perception of that fear or love which your brain first registered. A cell which has been delivered “love” welcomes it with open arms; it grows and repairs and goes about its daily job; you can almost imagine it singing as it does so. :). A cell which has been delivered a message of “fear”, however, shuts down, it goes cold and contracts, and it certainly doesn’t function as well.
Unfortunately this space isn’t big enough to go into a lot of detail, but the bottom line is that our perceptions effectively trump our genes. Our genes are merely blueprints; static instructions that don’t control anything. They are simply referred to when the cell needs, for instance, to rebuild a bit of itself.
It’s worth considering the placebo and, lesser known, nocebo effects.
A placebo is a positive belief which leads to a positive result. For example, someone taking a placebo pill will often get better simply because they BELIEVE that they have been given the real thing. The problem is that, for some people, “placebo” is a dirty word, used to dismiss a therapy as bunkum. The mind, however, plays a huge and integral part in our healing. After all, adopting a “truth” which we see as positive will flood our blood with more health-giving “love” type chemicals, described above.
The nocebo effect works the other way. A nocebo is a limiting belief which you have taken on board, possibly because an “expert” has told you a particular “fact”. For example, a person given an incorrect diagnosis can become ill or even die because they believe that this will be the case. Being told that they have 3 months to live can often result in someone dying on time, even if the diagnosis was incorrect!! In this case, a death sentence (which is pretty much what it is) understandably launches a cascade of “fear” chemicals, as described above, and with those coursing through your bloodstream, chances of recovery are greatly reduced because the cells are far from being in healing mode. There have been recorded cases of cancer patients being given a saline solution but, believing it to be chemo, they experienced nausea and hair loss!!
The mind creates coherence between beliefs and “reality”. We should not underestimate the power of the mind and, used correctly, it can be positively health-giving.
We live in a fearful society. The media and even the government tell us we should be afraid of this and afraid of that. You have only got to think about the disgrace that was the swine flu scare a few years back. Our cells were told to go on red alert. They waited and waited ……….. and nothing. A lot of expensive vaccinations were sold (££ to the pharmaceuticals) but all it did to us as individuals was to sustain our stress levels. Do we really want to live in a constant state of stress? Very few of us can live a fluffy stress-free existence, but we need to learn to minimise it as much as possible for our health’s sake. My advice is to ignore the mainstream news. Instead, find things that you LOVE to do; things which will make your cells open their arms fully and sing! That way you can boost your health at all levels: physically, emotionally and spiritually.