Friday 22 April 2016

Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant

I have always been fascinated by the workings of the brain.

Not only the physical, measurable stuff about what our brain can do and how, but also the psychology of our minds - the stuff that's harder to measure.

"It's all in your head" or "you're imagining things" are two of the phrases we dread to hear when it comes to talking about our problems or our pains.

It is these two phrases that Marchant deals with in short shrift in her book, Cure.

She is not suggesting that all illness is in our mind or that illness can be cured by positive thinking. Instead, she thoroughly explores the idea that our minds can play a significant role in our overall well-being and health. In ways that we're only just beginning to understand and appreciate.

Marchant discusses placebo's and nocebo's (the negative effects of taking a placebo),
we experience placebo effects every time we receive a drug. Any benefits we ultimately feel are a combination of the active effect of the drug, plus its placebo effect.
Fatigue, exercise, depression, chronic fatigue, hypnotism, labour and birth, MS, autism, burns victims, meditation, cognitive behavioural therapy, faith and ageing all come under close scrutiny to discover how and why our minds affect our bodies.

From the simple (and dare I say, obvious) findings,
When we're receiving medical care, our mental state matters. Those who feel alone and afraid do not fare as well as those who feel supported, safe and in control.
To the fascinating,
It turns out that experiences of social exclusion or rejection...activate exactly the same regions of the brain as when we are in physical pain. When we're socially rejected or isolated, we don't just feel sad. We feel injured and under threat.
She exercises caution when she reminds us that "just because the mind plays a role in health, this does not mean it can cure everything....(however it is becoming clearer that) our thoughts, beliefs, stress levels and world view all influence how ill or well we feel".

If you want to find out more, check out Marchant's research on her webpage.

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