Our mind and our thoughts are a powerful force that can influence healing in our body. We’ve all heard of the placebo effect in medical studies. A placebo effect occurs when people believe they are receiving a treatment but really aren’t (e.g. a sugar pill) but respond with improvements in health. The conventional medical community is confounded by the powerful effect of what we think or believe can have on our body. We can also all relate to the physical symptoms or sensations we experience when we experience powerful emotions, like great sadness when someone we love passes or leaves our life, or the rush we get when we experience love for a new romantic partner or our newborn child. We’ve all directly experienced that our mind and body are interconnected. They are not separate operating systems. So why not use our mind and thoughts to send our bodies messages that encourage healing?
In my Reiki practice, many people come to me with chronic issues after they’ve exhausted traditional western medicine approaches for dealing with their health issues. Understandably, they are often frustrated, angry, sad and/or negative about their state of health and are desperate for a solution. Often when we are in pain or receiving frequent treatments for a health issue/condition, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with negative thoughts about our health or have our lives heavily focused on what’s wrong or unwell with us. We may spend a great deal of our time in pain or receiving or recovering from treatments. We become accustomed to focusing on being unwell, talking about being unwell, feeling sorry for ourselves, and sharing our story of being unwell with others…it can become all encompassing and define who we are. I also notice when I work with many of these same clients even when they are making notable improvements along their healing path, they continue to put their focus on their problems and being unwell. Some of their bigger issues have gone away and they switch their focus to some smaller issue(s). They are so habitually focused on being unwell instead of focusing on being well; they overlook improvements they’ve made and healing they’re experiencing in their body.
I believe our mind is a powerful force when it comes to healing and if we are sending negative messages about our body, outlook, lives, and/or selves it can affect us on a physical level. I encourage these clients to start to become aware of their thoughts and beliefs about healing and messages they are sending their bodies, so they can start to make a shift to more healing and empowering thoughts. Here are some tools you too can use to become aware and shift your thinking to encourage healing and enhance the treatments you are receiving to help make you well again.
First Step – Becoming Aware of Your Beliefs about and Blocks of Healing
Buddha wisely said “What we think we become”. Start to banish negative, disempowering and limiting beliefs and embrace the power of positive thought to empower your healing.
There are two approaches you can use to assess your beliefs and thoughts about healing. The first is a questionnaire and the second is a couple of visualizations you can try.
Here is a series of questions that can help you see what your true thoughts are about your health and condition and healing. Be brutally honest in answering these questions. Pay attention to what pops into your mind first. Don’t answer with what you think you should say or think.
- Do you think your health can be improved?
- When you picture yourself in the future doing things when you’re daydreaming or when you remember your dreams do you picture yourself healed or in your current or even worse condition?
- Do you think your thoughts can influence your health?
- Do you think healing is all due to external sources (like practitioners you are seeing or treatments you are receiving) or can you influence your healing?
- When you are experiencing a manifestation of your condition (e.g., pain, need to take medication, need to go for a treatment to deal with condition) what type of thoughts and emotions arise?
- Do you become angry, annoyed with or hate that part of the body or mind that is affected?
- Do you view your mind or body part where you have injury or illness as an enemy/outsider/invader?
- Do you think you are worthy of or deserve healing and medical aid?
- Do you identify strongly with your illness or condition? For example, when you talk to people is that most of what you talk about or when someone talks to you is that the first thing they ask about? Has it become the focus of your life?
- Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
- Can you picture yourself enjoying perfect health?
Now look at the answers to these questions? What overall picture do you see – is it positive or negative? Is there hope or distress? Do you see yourself as a victim who will never get better? Do you think you have done something to deserve this illness/condition? Has your illness or condition become who you are (is it the focus of most of your life)? Do you think change is possible?
B) Visualization Exercises
I often get feedback from clients when I do these visualization exercises during Reiki treatments that they identified a blockage during these exercises.
Healing Shower of Light – Visualize a pink shower of light coming from the crown of your head and washing down to your feet. The light you picture will flow through your body like a river, clearing away any debris and darkness. Pay attention to whether you see areas that are dark or grey or never get “cleaned” by the light or if you just can’t get the light to flow inside parts of or your whole body.
Chakra Meditation – Listen to this chakra meditation from the Wellness Experiment on You Tube.
Pay attention to what thoughts come to you during the meditation. What do you sense? You may find there are certain chakras you can’t visualize as being “lit up” or chakras that feel heavy or dark.
The inability to visualize these colours/lights in either of these exercises is usually representative of a blockage (unless you are a completely non-visual person). Sensing darkness is a sign that you sense you have issues in these areas/chakras.
Second Step – Starting to Shift your Thoughts about your Health and Healing
Now you’ve assessed your thoughts and hidden beliefs about your health and healing. If you find your thinking is negative and disempowered or you have blockages identified through the visualization exercises, you can now start to shift your thinking to more positive trains of thought that are more empowering, enlivening, and hopeful.
To shift our thinking to a more positive train of thought regarding healing and our health, affirmations can be a powerful tool. Affirmations allow us to forcibly send new powerful positive messages to our mind and body and start to rewrite some of the old scripts and stories we have playing constantly in our mind. When we practice sending positive instead of negative messages we remind our body of its innate healing ability and the interconnection between our body, mind and spirit. For tips on using affirmations see my previous post (https://justbreathereiki.com/2012/04/25/the-power-of-affirmations/). It’s important when you read them they feel true. If they don’t you continue until they do (and use the lack of truth to alert you to your beliefs about healing).
Here are some to try:
- My body is full of healing energy (you can picture a vibrant light emanating from your body when you say this)
- My body’s natural healing abilities are turned on and grow stronger each day
- The healthy food I eat to nourish my body (supplements I take, exercise I do, fill in the blanks) help my body to heal
- The cells of my body are bathed in love and are clear of any negative energy and debris
- I am vibrant and healthy
- Each day I am getting better and better
Practice these at the start of your day or before you undergo a treatment. When you are in pain or a negative state/condition, pull these out and see if they can shift your thoughts and mood to a more positive place. When in pain, we can add an affirmation, “this pain is temporary and fades with my breath” (and do some deep breathing sending your breath to the area where the pain is, seeing it like a pink light, and continuing to the pain starts to subside); when we are in pain we tend to contract our breathing and taking big breaths helps to relax our body.
B) Talk a Different Talk
Start to change the dialogue you have with yourself and others about your health. Talk about your health issues truthfully and honestly with medical practitioners – your doctors, therapists etc. In your day to day conversations with family, friends, strangers, don’t have your health issue be the focus or the start of your conversations. If you saw in the above questionnaire exercise that there is a strong focus in your life about your illness, that your illness or condition now defines who you are, start to change that. Tell your family and friends you don’t want your conversations to focus on your illness – that you will share news with them when necessary but you want to start to focus on being well. Start to see yourself as more than your illness. Talk about the beautiful weather outside, a new book you’re reading, or your loved ones. Start to break the pattern of your ego identifying you as this illness/condition or a victim of this illness/condition. Talk about any healing or progress you are making. Talk about how great you feel (even if it’s only part of you). If you have people who share your illness you may want to share what you’re trying to do and ask them to join you in your efforts. Recognize there is nothing worse than spending time with someone who celebrates your weaknesses or illness like a badge of honour and brings you down when you spend time with them. Start to see the light that shines in you again.
If you have trouble finding things to talk about at first or it seems awkward, that’s fine. It will be a bit uncomfortable making that shift because sometimes we become so identified with our illness/condition and talking about it, we can find we have nothing else to talk about. That our health has become all that people ask about or we talk about that we lose our well-roundedness. Know that you will find you start to feel a little sigh of relief when you start becoming more than your health issue. Start to cultivate some new interests that you can talk about. Start to find some things that delight you or entertain you again. Start to embrace life again, even if it’s only for a few minutes to start. These new interests can distract you when you’re in pain or getting or recovering from a treatment that’s uncomfortable too. Start to embrace life again with your mind in a new place of being.
You will find as you take your attention off your illness and focus on the goodness in your life, the beauty around you, the people in your life, and being well, that you feel your life and your mood shift to a more positive place. It may take some time so be patient with yourself (and others) as you make this change.
C) See Yourself Being Well and Your Body Healing
We must remind ourselves that our body has amazing healing capabilities; that healing happens inside us, not outside of us. We can get outside support such as medical help, medication, and treatments to help us heal, but the healing happens inside our body. Think of something simple, like how we get a cut and our skin regrows and heals over a short period of time. How amazing is that?
There are numerous visualizations you can do to empower your healing. One big thing is to picture yourself in the future being healthy and healed (stopping picturing yourself in current or worse condition). Deal with the realities of your condition in the present but stop seeing your future as a bleak one.
You can become informed of your condition and visualize your cells, organ, part of your body being healed. Adam Dreamhealer has some amazing visualization CDs you can practice customized for various diseases/conditions. Our cells are constantly being renewed, so start to picture the damaged cells dying and being eliminated from your body then coming back as healed vibrant cells. Send that message to your body.
You can also repeat the above visualizations you used to audit your thoughts (the pink healing light shower and the chakra meditation). See if you can see a change in the “strength” of your visualization.
D) Dealing with Your Emotional Wounds
If you carry a lot of emotional damage around with you and have a chronic health issue, seriously consider seeking professional help/counseling be it traditional psychotherapy or alternative approaches (like those discussed by authors such as Brene Brown, Byron Katie, Ekhart Tolle, or Brandon Bays). I am intuitive and an empath and can often sense emotional wounds/hurts in people when I am treating them, usually in their area of illness or injury. You cannot dismiss the effect of carrying emotional pain on your physical health. If you start to clear some of the emotional wounds away and allow them to truly heal you may find your physical health starts to improve. We can hold emotional pain in parts of the body and this can slows or stop our healing. If you know you have stuff you carry around with you that you relive over and over, regardless of your age, do start to look inside and start to address the source of the negative emotions you may carry with you (grief, sadness, hurt, low self-esteem). Our bodies and minds are interconnected and emotional wounds can manifest as physical symptoms in the body. That’s not to say there’s not a physical component to your illness or condition. It is to recognize that being emotional healthy and healed can help us heal our physical bodies. There is work we have to do to heal that is internal and not always from outside. Read the work of some of the authors I noted above and see if they start to shift your thoughts about who you are, were, and who you can be.
E) Have an Attitude of Gratitude
When we put our focus on things we are grateful for it shifts our thinking to a positive place (see my previous post on this topic). We can end our day by naming the things we are grateful for…the parts of us that feel well, the things we are able to do, kind people in our lives, the beauty around us, having clean drinking water that comes from our taps, having a warm and soft place to sleep…. Practice listing 10 things to be grateful for when you go to bed each night.
F) Being Compassionate with Yourself and Leaving the Pity Party
When you are affected by an illness/condition you may have limitations in what you can do in your life and may not see yourself as “normal”. What we have to realize it that most people aren’t “normal”. Virtually everyone has something that is a problem for them. You may not see it. It’s human nature to hide your struggles. People may have an injury or disease that’s not apparent, or mental health issues that aren’t apparent, that they struggle with everyday. You may try to do things so you don’t disappoint people in your life that aren’t best for your health or you may beat yourself up for having to rely on people or being a burden. Learn to let go of that and be kind and compassionate to yourself. You are a lovely being and when you are tired or in pain, know your limits and listen to your body. Don’t do something to please someone if it’s going to mean you having to leave midway through an event or being in twice as much pain the next day. Start to listen to what your body is telling you and respect your body. Treat your body with care, eat nourishing food, get the rest you need, get treatments that help you and send yourself love. You can send the parts of your body where you have an issue love instead of hate, frustration or anger. Treat it like a baby you are nurturing. Picture you body and its cells being filled and bathed with love washing away any grey areas or debris. Treat yourself with as much kindness and compassion as you would a loved one.
Now feeling compassion for yourself is very different from feeling self-pity and like you’re a victim. Think of what it’s like when you’re on the receiving end of these two emotions from another person. Compassion is lovely and pity is icky. When we see ourselves as a victim and feel self-pity we attach to the feeling of being powerless, of being at the whim of the world, everything is out of our hands, the world is our enemy. When you share your victim story too it can be exhausting and toxic for others to be around. People get addicted to being a victim and when the source of their victimhood goes away they just find another source. Compassion is about being kind and loving to ourselves and making empowered choices that support our health and well-being.
G) Seeing the Gift in your Condition/Illness
You may not be able to do this at first, but as you travel down the road of healing yourself physically and emotionally you will be able to see a gift in your condition or illness. Maybe you were a workaholic who was career driven and didn’t have time for your family, then whoa, the brakes were put on your life. Maybe you were not really compassionate towards others until you experienced pain and illness yourself. Maybe you didn’t really connect with your loved ones on an emotional level until you were ill or injured. Illness and injury make us hit the brakes on our lives and stop and look. Just like any crisis in life, it forces us to observe where we are and see what is truly important. Illness and injury can greatly change who we are, open us up to being vulnerable, being needy, being loving, being grateful, being compassionate and letting go of our emotional wounds and who we thought we were. Try to see if you can see your transformation as it happens or after it’s done and be grateful for it.
H) Be Open to Trying Other Treatments
When you’ve seen a lot of practitioners or tried a variety of treatments for a problem you can experience burn out and you give up hope. Or perhaps you’ve only tried only one approach (medication) so far for your issue/condition. Always be open to trying a new treatment. If the treatment won’t harm you, give it a try. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the right practitioner or treatment for our issue. There are countless alternative treatments and practitioners out there (especially in a city like Vancouver). Do your homework. If you’re unsure if it’s right for you, consult with your physician before trying out a new treatment. If someone has a strong recommendation based on their own personal experience, talk to them about their treatments and their issues to get an idea if it might help you. Do your research on the internet on the practitioner (sites like RateMD.com and even Yelp have reviews for various practitioners) and the potential risks/benefits treatment (stick to the more reputable sites). Then discuss any questions you have with the practitioner and discuss the anticipated treatment schedule and effects.
It is a very good idea to stick to trying only one new treatment at a time; otherwise you won’t be able to tell whether a new treatment is having a positive, negative, or no effect on your health. A lot of alternative health clinics will have multiple practitioners and modalities offered. When they get a new client a practitioner might recommend seeing other practitioners in the clinic/getting other treatments. This cross-referral helps the practitioners expand their client list and clinic gain more income, but isn’t always in the best interest of the patient. Ask to stick to one treatment at a time, so you can figure out if it is helping. Once you figure out if the new treatment is working, you can always try another.
The end goal of the exercises and advice in this post is to help you to shift to more positive thoughts so you can start to focus on becoming well again, reignite hope and possibility, and start to disentangle your identity from your illness/condition. You can start to see yourself as an empowered warrior instead of a victim. Just give this a try. You truly have nothing to lose by starting to change and harness the power of your mind and thoughts towards healing.