Have you ever wondered just how much your own frame of mind influences your physical health? Many of us can attest to having a friend that always stays positive and, sure enough, doesn’t seem to struggle with common colds and other ailments that slow us down.
There is a growing body of research supporting the idea that a fascinating and complicated link exists between the mind and the body. In January of 2016 Terry Gross interviewed Jo Marchant on NPR’s Fresh Air to discuss “How Meditation, Placebos and Virtual Reality Help Power 'Mind Over Body'”. Jo Marchant is an award-winning science journalist and author who holds a Bachelors in genetics and a PhD in microbiology. Her newest book is entitled Cure: A journey into the science of mind over body.
For those that have the time to listen in to the recording, you can find it and an abbreviated article of the talk here. Among other things, the talk explored how our attention is limited and might be one way we can change how our body experiences pain. Marchant says "if you've got something that's really commanding your attention, there's less attention left over for experiencing the pain."
Her talk also explored the complex nature of human reactions to placebos. According to her research, if we believe a form of treatment can help us, it can actually “cause biological changes in the brain that actually ease our symptoms.” Even when we know we’re taking placebo pills, she says, our body can still benefit from these fake pills. Marchant’s research suggests that “the healing power of the brain could offer a powerful complement to modern medicine.”
Lastly, Marchant touches on the growing evidence within the field suggesting that “mindfulness and medication can make us more resistant to infection.” She suggests that we slow down our breathing in order to get the body to a more relaxed state that can reduce our anxiety and reactions to stress in our environment.
This article reinforces some of the beliefs we have at TOPPS, including the idea that the mind and body influence each other. Our #TOPPSTIP for you is to spend 3 minutes every morning training your brain to be mindful. Begin by sitting comfortably with your eyes closed and take several deep breaths that fill your belly. Pay special attention to your breathing and try to become aware of your body, your emotions, and your thoughts.