The Placebo Effect
When scientists study the effect of a new pharmaceutical drug, medical treatment or herbal supplement, they use at least two groups during the human testing phase. One group is given the treatment, while the other is given a placebo. The placebo simply tricks the mind into believing that the person has been given the treatment, to see if the results that the other patient’s experience is real.
The placebo effect describes when people feel results after believing they have been given the treatment. One specific example of this occurred during a study that tested a new medicine for Parkinson’s disease. One of the key symptoms of Parkinson’s is a decrease in the amount of dopamine that the body produces. The two groups of people had their dopamine levels tested before taking either the treatment or placebo. After a period of time and continued treatment, the dopamine levels of the two groups were tested again.
The dopamine levels had risen, interestingly enough, in both groups. This means that simply believing that the medicine had been taken was enough to encourage the body to produce higher dopamine levels. This biological change was triggered simply by thinking that the medicine was working to treat Parkinson’s.
Phenomenon like this prove the power of belief. When you believe something hard enough, it can even physically change the chemical composition of the body. The physical reality changed for the people who took the placebo treatment, even though nothing had actually changed in their body. Self-help works in the same way if people believe in it hard enough. As they believe that the self-help techniques will change their lives, their self-help techniques are able to make that change.
Self-help also can be influenced by auto-suggestion, or self-suggestion. This is especially effective when trying to break an especially difficult habit, like overeating, over-thinking or smoking cigarettes. Auto-suggestion is related to the field of hypnotism, in the way that it makes automatic suggestions to the mind.
Techniques like positive thinking, visualization, and the law of attraction make constant suggestions to the mind. You can see that many of these ideas are built on revisiting your ideas, keeping them inside your mind and focused as you go through the day. You do not will your desire into existence, necessarily, but you do constantly suggest the desire to yourself. By doing this, it becomes almost automatic that you suggest these things to your mind. This encourages you to start taking steps and actions that are necessary for bringing whatever that desire is into existence, even on a subconscious level.
The law of attraction may also work because moods are easy to spread. Have you ever noticed that when you are out with a group of friends having fun, you are more likely to have a positive, enjoyable experience? Or, when your significant other is upset, you are saddened as well? This happens because of mood contagion—a phenomenon where we mirror the moods of the people around us.
Moods can easily affect others, especially if they are close or are together in large groups. This allows the mood to spread. So, if you are trying to be more outgoing and you act in a friendly way, then you are willing others to reach out to you as well.