You are how you think you are.

Purple morning glory
Purple morning glory

Last weekend at Hong Kong University Dr Francesco Pagnini summarised these three experiments in Mind/Body science to demonstrate that,

‘Wherever you put the mind the body will (try to) follow…’

Our thinking about our bodies and the way we direct our attention has dramatic results on our physical condition.

Firstly is Langur’s Counterclockwise. In which a group of old people lived together in a house fitted out as it would have been 20 years ago and asked to act ‘as if’ they were 20 years older. Another group just lived with the retro-fit. Both groups improved but the experimental group had a much greater improvement on their gait, strength, self-esteem, joint flexibility, visual performance, mental acuity, physiological health, emotional well-being.

White and red hibiscus
White and red hibiscus

In another study a compelling video was shown to half the room attendants in a hotel, the video demonstrated that cleaning rooms has an equivalent effect on the body as going to the gym.

4 weeks later the rooms attendants reported no lifestyle change, but compared to control group who had not seen the video they had burnt significantly more calories simply because they were believed their bodies were were doing so. This lead to a number of benefits including decreasing blood pressure and fat levels.

Orange geranium

Another experiment saw that time perception was affecting blood glucose levels as well as the passage of time itself. In a study with type 2 diabetics, some people’s perception of time was manipulated by fake clocks while they did activities. People either believed they were there for 45, 90 and 180 mins but chronological time was the same. The blood glucose adjusted to their perception of time passed rather than the real amount of time. This seems to probably be because the people studied are so used to predicting their blood glucose levels over time that their glucose levels have learnt to respond to the anticipation. So their expectation may have been creating physiological change.

White star flower
White star flower

In the last experiment scientists asked the question, ‘Will I get a cold if I believe I will?’.

Can you ‘give yourself a cold’? A group of people were screened as free from cold, half were asked to pretend they had a cold and were treated as though they did. Their CRP and immunoglobulin levels responded as though they had the flu virus.

The same design was repeated with control group later, who were later told the test was wrong and they did have a cold and they produced one. Results are preliminary and are being replicated.

Perception changes physical reality. I am not suggesting that people who are sick are responsible for it, simply that our mind has more power to impact our bodies than would seem possible.

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