When my oldest child was diagnosed with metastatic brain cancer, he endured unbearable procedures daily. Needles plunged into his chest to deliver life-saving chemotherapy, and then once the medicine started, his stomach wretched in sickness. In the beginning, he fought the nurses; he was scared. So was I.
I watched him in the hospital as he stayed isolated in his room, unwilling to participate in activities. I felt that if he could escape that room--the white, sterile reminder of his illness--and be a kid again, happy and smiling, then his body would help him fight.
I encouraged him to go to the hospital’s playroom to play Bingo (he usually played from his bed). The walk down the hall into the elevator and to that playroom felt like a victory. When he arrived at the playroom, something changed. He changed. He was happy.
Positive thinking has miraculous power over the body’s response to stress. How we view things, our anticipation of pain and suffering, of joy and elation triggers our body to react in certain ways. We can’t control a difficult situation, but we can control our response to the situation.
Studies have revealed that cancer patients who maintain a happy outlook don’t survive any longer than those who fail to remain positive. The American Cancer Society even warns against putting too much emphasis on positive thinking, stating that “some people feel guilty or blame themselves when they can’t “stay positive,” which only adds to their emotional burden.”
Others, however, view positive thinking and positive energy as a means for the mind to affect the body. Dr. Deepak Chopra, in a guest column for the New York Times, maintains that the mind body connection is real, stating: “There is no harm in assuming that your mind affects your genes, because there is abundant evidence to support this attitude.”
Dr. Chopra believes that while perhaps positive thinking may not be able to cure a fatal diagnosis, the positivity of the mind can help our bodies fend off future illnesses and help promote wellness. In his column, he urges that more studies need to be done and that positive thinking can only help the body, not harm: “The upshot is that medicine cannot be definitive on how mood affects wellness. But if I wanted to enhance a state of wellness before symptoms of illness appeared, there is much to be gained and no risks involved in trying to reach the best state of mind possible.”
Even while the medical community doesn’t support the curative effect of positive thinking, doctors still embrace the idea of looking on the bright side to help improve other areas of life like staying physically active and maintaining relationships with loved ones. A positive attitude creates a happier life experience which helps patients channel the energy to face and manage the illness.
Many conduits open the mind to positive energy or positive thinking. The power of prayer is a spiritual means to harness positive thoughts and feelings and to open up to the divine. Each religion treats praying in a unique and special way.
Meditation helps guide the mind to powerful positive energy by focusing on calming, relaxing imagery or words. Just releasing the mind and holding on to a special thought, photograph or word can release feelings of calm and allow the mind and body to feel at peace.
Yoga also channels the power of positive energy to create a powerfully positive mindset. Meditation often is part of many yoga practices. The power of yoga remains in the breath. By focusing on the rhythm of the breath, the body can contort into perfect postures of great strength. Yoga creates mindfulness allows the individual to understand that through the power of the mind, the body can overcome pain.
The mind holds power over the body. While the mind might not have the ability to cure a disease, positivity promotes happiness and helps an individual to face—and sometimes even overcome—the most difficult circumstances.
My son is living proof.
Cassie Brewer is a health professional in Southern California. In her free time, she enjoys writing about her passion (healthy living of course!) and everything beauty related. Nothing makes her happier than helping other be the best version of themselves they can be. You can read more on her website and follow her on Twitter @Cassiembrewer