Ever wonder why the people who are most afraid of illness occurring seem to regularly get sick? And then there are those who live their lives to the fullest, confident of their ability to maintain their health even when placed in environments that some would consider risky…and miraculously manage to stay healthy? Many thought I was “crazy” flying five times last year, yet neither me nor my fearless family members have been sick.

The mind is an incredibly powerful tool with the ability to create both health…and illness…simply by its thoughts. Take that one in for a minute. Our mind—including our fears and emotional state—can make us sick. 

Most everyone has heard of the placebo effect…when doctors give patients a “sugar pill” or some other suggestion that they have received a treatment when in fact there has been no real medical intervention, yet the patient feels better. It is extremely well documented in medical literature, though sadly, the placebo effect is generally viewed by researchers as a nuisance that gets in the way and distorts the results of medical research. It’s kind of like drug companies’ definition of “side effects”—when symptoms occur that are outside of the intended effects of a given drug. These are not “side effects”…they are real effects of the drug that occur in an unintended way/place. We have been trained to dismiss and ignore side effects, when in fact they are real and powerful effects of the medication. Well, the placebo effect is not an inconvenient truth, it is a very real phenomenon that occurs when individuals believe that something positive will happen. The problem is that doctors don’t understand how the simple suggestion of, or belief in, wellness can create physiological changes in the body. In “science” if they can’t explain it then it must not exist. 

Not so. There are far too many cases of spontaneous remission of illness, far too many writings about the power of positive thinking, and far too many controlled studies about placebos to simply write them off as “not real.” Dr. Alia Crum, psychologist and Stanford University professor, has spent much of her career investigating the effect of mindset on our health. In her TEDMED talk she went so far as to talk about study participants whose bodies “created” poison ivy rashes from fake poison ivy and whose bodies reacted in different ways to drinking a milk shake depending on whether they thought it was high calorie or low calorie.

With that in mind, are diligent responsible individuals who have been following the rules set forth by the CDC for COVID at risk for creating their own disease as a result of the fear of illness? Or if not creating disease, lowering their body’s immune defenses to allow germs to penetrate? This would be a concept called nocebo in which patients create negative health outcomes merely from the suggestion that something negative will happen. It was a concept discussed in the award-winning documentary “Heal” about the power of the mind to create health and healing. Dr. Bruce Lipton, renowned stem cell biologist and author of “The Biology of Belief” poses the idea in the film that “everyone seems to be aware of the placebo effect, the result of positive thinking. The important question is this—what is the consequence of negative thinking? Guess what? It’s equally powerful in influencing your life, but it works in the opposite direction…” The message: our beliefs can create illness of all kinds in us. 

So here we are, desperately trying to get free from the pandemic, yet the mainstream media insists on continuing with their messaging of fear…because fear sells. We were told that the vaccines are about 70-95% effective at creating antibodies to fight COVID-19, depending on which vaccine is given, and yet Dr. Fauci and the CDC is saying that even people who were vaccinated must continue to wear their masks when inside and even if they are at an uncrowned museum or event and even if they are at a small indoor gathering of people (both vaccinated and unvaccinated).  And today the New York Times has reported a distortion in the CDC reports of the risk of COVID when outdoors, with the CDC significantly inflating the risk by the language that they used —what is the impact of that fear on the public? And what is it doing to their risk of infection from COVID or anything else? What will that power of suggestion do to fearful individuals? 

This past week I had two interactions that showed me the continued stress and fear being created by this messaging. In one I watched a family of fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks (including two healthy 20-something year olds) during a gathering with extended family members. I don’t mean 2nd cousins. I mean siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles all of whom live within 40 miles of each other and all of whom have been together intermittently in recent months. In another, a vaccinated friend was talking about her deep fears of going out in public because many are going unmasked, and many of those have not been vaccinated. As we discussed the 95% effectiveness of the vaccine that she received, she acknowledged her psychological fear of going out and great fear of the increased risk of death for COVID vs. flu or other common illnesses.  

A note to my dear loved ones who I just publicly “outed”—I am not mocking. I am fearful. Fearful that the nocebo effect can be equally powerful as the positive belief in the vaccine. However, negativity is clearly ruling the day for you since if you trusted the vaccine and its protection then you would be moving about freely and fearlessly, creating a sphere of health and strength for you.  

Like with the placebo effect, no one knows why the nocebo effect works per se. But they do know that negative emotions and stress, especially chronic negative emotions and stress, create a constant flow of the stress hormone, cortisol. In an interview, Dr. Lipton talked about cortisol as being so effective at suppressing the immune system that it is used by doctors to reduce rejection in organ transplants. This isn’t new…it’s just a powerful image of what cortisol can do to you… reducing your immune protection and defenses against everything, not just COVID. 

Our minds are connected to our bodies and our bodies to our minds. Science has shown it even though they can’t control it, package it or sell it. If you have the time, I highly recommend you watch “Heal.” If not, know that you and your mind are in control. Don’t let your mind send you down the path of illness with a swirl of fear…choose health.  

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