A terminal cancer patient is told he has days to live. He learns of an experimental drug and insists on participating in the trial. His doctor reluctantly agrees. His tumors shrink and he is discharged. Several months later he learns that research has shown the drug to be ineffective. Within days his tumors return. His doctor convinces him he can administer an improved form of the drug and injects him with water. His tumors again shrink and he remains healthy for 7 months until a newscast declares the treatment was totally worthless. He dies two days later.
This dramatic, true story illustrates the power our thoughts and beliefs have on our physical health. The bible declares: For as he thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). Scientific research agrees that the mind and body are intricately connected.
Science is Catching On
Millions of dollars in research have been funded by The National Institute of Health and other private foundations to investigate this mind-body connection. HIP USA now covers mind-body practices and some hospitals even have mind-body clinics.
This is not a new concept. Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine have incorporated these beliefs for over 2,000 years. Hippocrates believed that the moral and spiritual aspects of a person’s life affected their health. During WWII, Dr. Henry Beecher used saline injections because morphine was in short supply. The soldiers’ pain was relieved simply because they believed the medicine would do so. He coined the expression “placebo effect.” Further research he conducted revealed that up to 35% of response to any medical treatment could be attributed to the patient’s belief about it. This placebo effect has been proven to be an actual, measurable change in brain chemistry.
Your body undergoes chemical and physical changes when you experience something you perceive to be a threat or a challenge. We know this as the “stress response.” The physical effects are the same whether the threat is real or imagined. Chronic stress, however, causes our adrenal glands to constantly pump out hormones and other inflammatory chemical substances that negatively affect our health in many ways, from headaches and digestive problems to high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks.
Researchers at Ohio State University’s Institute for Behavioral Medical Research found chronic stress can interfere with the effectiveness of vaccines and weaken the immune system. Stress from a half-hour argument is enough to slow wound healing by at least a day. Fear triggers over 1,400 physical and chemical stress reactions and activates over 30 hormones and chemical substances. It is estimated that between 60-90% of all doctor visits are stress related. The CDC states that 85% of all disease is caused by emotions. According to Carol Ryff, psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “There is a science that is emerging that says a positive attitude isn’t just a state of mind. It also has linkages to what’s going on in the brain and in the body.” Positive emotions like love, care and serenity are just as powerful as negative, stressful emotions. In fact, they’re now understood to be physiological states that affect health as surely as obesity or high blood pressure do.
Dr. Candace Pert, a pioneer in stress research explains the mind-body process this way: “In the beginning of my work, I matter-of-factly presumed that emotions were in the head or brain. Now I would say they are really in the body. We experience emotions in the form of chemical reactions in the brain and body, which occur at both the organ and cellular levels.”
Every thought, emotion, idea or belief has a neurochemical consequence. Our brains produce and communicate with immune cells via substances called neuropeptides, which are chains of amino acids.
What Does It Mean For Us?
Results of a study presented at the Convention of the American Psychological Association revealed that faith-based positive religious resources can help patients recover from cardiac surgery. Duke University researchers found people who participate in religious observances tend to have lower rates of illness and hospitalization.
The Lord tells us in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you…” Everything begins as a thought. Words originate in our minds as thoughts before they’re spoken. Thoughts focused on become beliefs. Out of those beliefs we speak and act. 2 Corinthians 4:13 says, “We too believe and therefore we speak.” Those spoken, power-packed words are the “fullness of your heart” (Matthew 12:34).
Words are containers for power. In fact, Proverbs 18:21 tells us “death and life are in the power of the tongue” and science is confirming that truth. God created everything that exists by His Word (Genesis 1). We are the only creatures who can use our words as He does, by speaking them intentionally.
These thoughts, beliefs and spoken words then become expectations. Consider Jesus’ responses to these people who sought physical healing:
To the woman with the issue of blood: “Your faith has made you well.” Matthew 9:22.
To the blind men in Matthew 9:29: “According to your faith be it done to you.”
To the centurion seeking healing for his servant: “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” (Matthew 8:13)
It’s the Law
Mark 11:23 tells us that if we believe that the words we say shall come to pass, and not doubt in our hearts, we will have them. This is referred to as the law of faith. Pastor Creflo Dollar defines faith as “a practical expression of confidence in God and His Word.” Think about how you received salvation. According to Romans 10:10, “with the heart a person believes and so is justified and with the mouth he confesses and confirms salvation.” The same principle works in our physical bodies. The woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 9:20-22) illustrates it beautifully. She heard about Jesus and thought about what she heard. Her continual thoughts became a belief that He could heal her. That belief became the words she spoke over and over creating the expectancy of her healing. Then she put action to her faith (practical expression of her confidence) and touched the hem of His garment. Her expectation was fulfilled.
The Real Secret
There is a popular film and book called “The Secret,” which deals with what is referred to as The Law of Attraction: whatever you think about and focus on you attract. According to Matthew 9:29, this truth originated with God. After the first disasters struck, Job admits, “For the thing which I greatly fear comes upon me (Job 3:25).” We are admonished in Philippians 4:8 to fix our thoughts on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise. There’s good reason for this command. Meditating on and speaking the Word produces positive expectations in our lives. The Lord tells us to consider carefully what we hear because the thought, focus and attention we give it will determine it’s power in our lives (Mark 4:24). The more we focus on a thought, and imagine it, the more powerfully we believe it and then expect it to happen. Belief and expectation are powerful spiritual forces that go hand in hand, affecting every area of our lives.
What Are You Expecting?
Dr. Robert DeLap, head of the Food & Drug Administration’s Office of Drug Evaluation says: “Expectation is a powerful thing. The more you believe you’re going to benefit from a treatment, the more likely it is that you will experience a benefit.” Brain imagery techniques have shown that our thoughts and beliefs not only affect our psychological state, but cause actual biological and chemical changes in our physical body. “The brain is also a gland. It manufactures thousands of different kinds of chemicals and releases them into the bloodstream. These chemicals circulate throughout the body and influence the activity and behavior of all the body’s tissues.”5 Scientists are discovering that a person’s expectations can even alter the disease process itself.
Finding the Balance
1. If you are battling some disease or physical condition, should you feel
condemned because you think you may have brought it on by wrong thoughts or words? Absolutely not! We live in a sin-scarred, imperfect world. Romans 8:1
assures us that there is no condemnation to us in Christ Jesus. There is much we don’t know and won’t fully understand this side of heaven.
2.Can we eat every type of junk food, never rest, sleep or exercise, stay constantly stressed yet speak healing scriptures and remain vibrantly healthy. Again, the answer is no.
Remember faith without works is dead (James 2:26). We need both components. Yes, we must train ourselves to think and then speak positive, faith-filled words that create positive expectations and release health and healing into our bodies. We can
exercise 2 Corinthians 10:5 and take every negative thought captive to the obedience of Christ. However, if we don’t practice good health habits, we cancel out our powerful words and nullify our expectations. It must also be noted that God alone is sovereign and His ways and thoughts are far above ours and many times beyond our understanding. While doctors and health practitioners do their best in treating disease, God alone heals. Why some people are healed when others are not is a difficult issue and one which cannot be resolved here. We hear of instances where someone is healed of a terminal disease to live many healthy years, like Dodie Osteen, Pastor Joel Osteen’s mother, who was healed of cancer many years ago and remains healthy to this day. Dr. Bill Bright, a mighty man of God, suffered for many years with a degenerative lung disease and did not experience healing this side of heaven. We have no definitive answers except that there is to be no condemnation, only submission to God’s will in all things.
The Bottom Line
The mind-body connection is a valuable tool we can access in order to improve our quality of life. The bible gives us practical instructions on how to do this.
§The oldest and most basic type of mind-body therapy – prayer – is our foundation. As Christians, everything we do begins with prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Research has shown that prayer (90%) was slightly more effective than drugs (89%) in pain control.
§Meditating on and confessing scripture changes our attitudes, beliefs and expectations (Ephesians 4:23).
§Practicing forgiveness and refusing to be offended or harbor bitterness will positively impact our relationships as well as our physical health (Matthew 6:14).
§Developing an attitude of gratitude and believing the best of everyone changes the negatives in our lives into positives (Ephesians 5:20).
§Exercising faith in God and His Word and living in the joy of the Lord are powerful stress-busters! (Romans 10:17, Nehemiah 8:10)
It’s no secret. Let’s take advantage of our connection!
Ann Musico is a freelance writer, author of The King’s Daughter and Certified Biblical Health Coach. Visit her website www.threedimensionalvitality.com for more information