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       Positive Thinking: (The Power of Positive Thought).

Modern experimental research into positive thinking is suggesting the presence of an underlying set of phenomena apparently operating between the unconscious mind and the physical world. One of the most obviously recognised forms of positive thinking can be seen in the strong traditions and dependency on prayer to heal or cure the sick, prayer being one of the oldest and most emotive means of attempting to alter the outcome of events by 'manipulating' the more obvious laws of nature.

In prehistoric times, the role of the Shaman is understood as operating as a link between the known and the unknown, perhaps in the same way as a priest today, but they also operated as healers. It is the relationship between belief and healing that is the topic of debate on this page, and what makes shamanism relevant in the context of positive thinking. A recent Lancet editorial said it would be premature to rule out the use of such therapies in modern medicine. It added: "The contribution that hope and belief make to a personal understanding of illness cannot be dismissed so lightly" ... "They are proper subjects for science".  (5)

The following examples suggest that the act of positive thinking itself can, and does influence events in the physical world.


   Positive Thinking: The Evidence.

Most people agree that positive thinking is effective, but just how much is debatable.


The Placebo Effect:

It is perhaps ironic that the gold standard of medical research has been the double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.  You give one group of patients a medicine you want to test, and another group a dummy pill that has no active ingredients.  Neither the patients nor doctors know who is getting which. Medical literature includes a great deal of testimony that the placebo effect routinely works 30 percent of the time, with Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard stating that it may work up to 90 percent of the time. The effectiveness of a placebo in any given circumstance also varies greatly.  In nine double-blind studies comparing placebos to aspirin, placebos proved to be 54 percent as effective as the actual analgesic.  From this, one might expect that placebos would be even less effective when compared to a much stronger painkiller such as morphine, but this is not the case.  In six double-blind studies placebos were found to be 56 percent as effective as morphine in relieving pain. In a recent study of a new kind of chemotherapy, 30 percent of the individuals in the control group, the group given placebos, lost their hair. (14)

Evidence from numerous studies on the placebo effect have revealed the fascinating fact that the belief of the patient that they are being cured appears to have more effect than many modern pharmaceutical medicines. In fact, the placebo effect appears to be getting stronger in people making it difficult for the drug companies to produce new drugs which show an improvement over it. The credit for the increased placebo effect is attributed to the increase in consumer marketing, which leads to people having a better belief in the product. Many of the existing drugs, such as Prozac, have been shown to falter when compared to the placebo effect. (13)

Placebo effects can arise not only from a conscious belief in a drug but also from subconscious associations between recovery and the experience of being treated�from the pinch of a shot to a doctor�s white coat. Such subliminal conditioning can control bodily processes of which we are unaware, such as immune responses and the release of hormones. Researchers have decoded some of the biology of placebo responses, demonstrating that they stem from active processes in the brain. (12)


The Experiments of Dr. Masaru Emoto.

Masaru Emoto, a researcher and alternative healer from Japan has given the world a good deal of evidence of the magic of positive thinking. He became famous when his water molecule experiments featured in the 2004 film, What The Bleep Do We Know?. His experiments demonstrate that human thoughts and intentions can alter physical reality, in this case the molecular structure of water. Given that humans are comprised of at least 60% water, his discovery has far reaching implications. The following two experiments were performed by Dr. Emoto, which he says demonstrate the metaphysical reality of positive thinking.


The Ice Crystal Experiment: In this experiment, water molecules which had positive thoughts 'projected' at it were shown to form into ice crystals which are both more complex and more aesthetically pleasing. The experiments consists of exposing water in glasses to different words, pictures, or music, and then freezing and examining the aesthetics of the resulting crystals with microscopic photography. Emoto claims that there are "many differences in the crystalline structure of the water" depending on the type of water source, which were taken from all over the world. For example, a water sample from a "pristine mountain" stream would purportedly show a "geometric" design that is "beautifully" shaped when frozen. On the other hand, "polluted water" sources will supposedly show a "definite distortion" and will be "randomly formed". (11)

Water crystals following positive thoughts (left), and following negative thoughts (right).

Photo Credits: Masaru Emoto: (Quick-link)

  • Article: 'Double-Blind Test on the Effects of Distant Intention on Water Crystal Formation': (Quick-link)


The Rice Experiment: The rice experiment is another famous Emoto demonstration of the power of negative thinking (and conversely, the power of positive thinking.) In this experiment, Dr Emoto placed portions of cooked rice into two containers. On one container he wrote "thank you" and on the other "you fool". He then instructed school children to say the labels on the jars out loud everyday when they passed them by. After 30 days, the rice in the container with positive thoughts had barely changed, while the other was mouldy and rotten.

It is widely reported that this experiment can be reproduced by almost anyone. In order to perform the test yourself, you have to spend at least 5 minutes, twice a day consciously intending negative thoughts or positive thoughts at the respective containers of rice. (Make sure you use cooked rice, as it is the water content that is said to produce the results).

The same experiment is also reported to be possible with plants such as growing carrot tops. In this version, it is suggested that you take 4 carrots all the same size. Cut them 1/2 inch below the green top and trim off all the foliage. Place them in 2 saucers, and label one dish with a (+) and one dish (-) and place them in a window for light. Keep them watered but every day look at the (+) carrots and think "you are beautiful plant, you will be green and lush" etc... and to the (-) carrots think "you are horrible, I hate you, you will whither and die, brown and disgusting". After a few weeks, the results are apparently visibly obvious.



Article: Can you Think Yourself Younger: (BBCNews: Feb, 2010)

An experiment in 1979 to see if thought patterns could affect the ageing process has turned out to have far reaching consequences in the field of positive thinking. Taken back 20 years through visual aids and other stimulus to see if it affected their group of elderly gentlemen were Prof Langer, who took physiological measurements both before and after the week and found the men improved across the board. Their blood pressure dropped and, even more surprisingly, their eyesight and hearing got better. Both groups showed improvements, but the experimental group improved the most. Their gait, dexterity, arthritis, speed of movement, cognitive abilities and their memory was all measurably improved. Prof Langer believes that by encouraging the men's minds to think younger their bodies followed and actually became "younger". (3)

(Link to Full Article)


The Love Study:

The following experiment was designed to determine if our consciousness has the capacity to reach out and connect to someone else in a way that's health-promoting?". Dr Schiltz has been conducting the study at the Institute of Neotic Studies in North Carolina, in which loving couples, married over a decade, are tested in the following way:

Schlitz takes one of the couple into an isolated room, where no sound can come in or go out. They settle into a deep armchair as Schlitz attaches electrodes to their right hand which measures blood flow in the thumb and skin conductance activity, both of which are measures of their unconscious nervous system. Schlitz locks the person into the electromagnetically shielded chamber and ushers the partner into another isolated room with a closed-circuit television. She explains that the screen will go on and off. And at random intervals, the images of the other partner will appear on the screen for 10 seconds. During the times when they see them, they are told to think about sending loving, compassionate intention.

The results show changes in the first partners blood pressure and perspiration when they sees the image of their partner, the steady lines suddenly jump and become ragged ... More interesting however, is that at the same time there's a change in the blood volume of the other partner. It is described as a sudden change like that associated with an orienting response. If you suddenly hear somebody whispering in your ear, and there's nobody around, you have this sense of what? What was that? That's more or less what they are seeing in the physiology.

After running 36 couples through this test, the researchers found that when one person focused his thoughts on his partner, the partner's blood flow and perspiration dramatically changed within two seconds. The odds of this happening by chance were 1 in 11,000. Three dozen double blind, randomized studies by such institutions as the University of Washington and the University of Edinburgh have reported similar results.

Link to Full Article; (Quick-link)

So how are we to explain this 'quantum entanglement'? The current theory is as follows:

Once two particles have interacted, if you separate them, even by miles, they behave as if they're still connected. So far, this has only been demonstrated on the subatomic level. It is proposed that the same effect could be working on people in close relationships -couples, siblings, parent and child, not just emotionally, and psychologically - but also physically. This idea, that we may be connected at some molecular level greatly echoes the words of the mystics.


Article: Scientists Show How Your Thoughts Can Cause Specific Molecular Changes To Your Genes...

'According to Dr. Bruce Lipton, gene activity can change on a daily basis. If the perception in your mind is reflected in the chemistry of your body, and if your nervous system reads and interprets the environment and then controls the blood�s chemistry, then you can literally change the fate of your cells by altering your thoughts... In the simplest terms, this means that we need to change the way we think if we are to heal cancer.'.

Link to Full Article: (Quick-link)



   Faith Healing.

The jury is still out as to exactly what is being witnessed with faith healing. There are numerous claims of 'miraculous' healing in the literature but results of clinical trials vary from trial to trial with one claiming that remote 'intercessory' prayer has a positive effect on patients (4), another saying it has no effect whatsoever (5), and the next saying that it even has a negative effect on the patients outcome (6), so what exactly is the truth behind faith healing. The results of faith healing tend to be ascribed to the projection of positive thought, but this is yet to be satisfactorily established, as there is also evidence suggesting it is the thoughts of the 'patient' that are at the heart of any witnessed phenomena.


Spirituality And Health:

In a long-term case study of patients with HIV, Prof. Gail Ironson began to notice that certain patients never got sick. She decided to investigate the matter and found something surprising. If you ask people what's kept you going so long, what keeps you healthy, often people would say spirituality," she says. "It was something that just kept coming up in the interviews, and that's why I decided to look at it." Prof. Ironson began to zero in on a patient's relationship with God in an attempt to predict how fast the disease would progress. She focused on two key indicators. She measured viral load, which tells how much of the virus is present in a person's body, and immune cells called CD-4 cells, which help fight off the AIDS virus. Ironson says over time, those who turned to God after their diagnosis had a much lower viral load and maintained those powerful immune cells at a much higher rate than those who turned away from God. "In fact, people who felt abandoned by God and who decreased in spirituality lost their CD4 cells 4.5 times faster than people who increased in spirituality," Ironson says. "That was actually our most powerful psychological predictor to date." "Just so I understand it," I confirm, "if someone weren't taking their meds and were depressed, they would still fare better if they increased in spirituality?", "Yes," she says. "Now, I'm not in any way suggesting that people don't take their meds," she adds quickly, laughing. "This is really an important point. However, the effects of spirituality are over and above."

Link to Full Article: (Quick-link)


Dr Charmaine Griffiths, spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation, speaking on the subject of faith healing said: "While this research suggests that prayer and alternative therapies do not improve the clinical outcome for patients undergoing heart procedures, there is increasing interest in the possibility that positive emotional states are beneficial to heart health". She said associations had been seen between positive emotional states and low levels of the stress hormone cortisol. "Further evidence is emerging that people with a more positive outlook appear to be less affected by stressful events, such as having surgery." She added: "Patients learning to relax by using breathing techniques and listening to music, and being aware that others are thinking of them may contribute to a more optimistic outlook. "Whether these effects are significant remains unproven." (5)


Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer:

Dozens of studies of the effects of prayer have been carried out in the last few years with mixed results.

Contrary to most experiments in this field, the result of a 10 year study on the effect of prayers offered by strangers showed that they had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery. In addition, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created, the researchers suggested.




   Lady Luck:

'Luck is believing you're lucky...' - (Tennessee Williams).

A variety of studies by Prof Richard Wiseman suggest that the outcome of an experiment can be affected by the perception of luck. The results reveal that although people have almost no insight into the causes of their luck, their thoughts and behaviour are responsible for much of their good and bad fortune. Research eventually revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four principles: They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good. Aside from the various experiments that demonstrated the existence of the transference of luck into result on a minute to minute basis, Prof Wiseman performed another experiment called the 'Name Experiment', which apparently shows one of the root causes of luck.

The results were announced at the opening of the 2008 Edinburgh International Science Festival. The experiment involved over 6,000 people indicating whether the most popular first names in the UK sounded successful, lucky, and attractive. Strong trends emerged, with James and Elizabeth being seen as the most successful, Jack and Lucy topping the luck table, and Sophie and Ryan coming out as the most attractive. Lisa and Brian were seen as the least successful, Helen and John as the least lucky, and Ann and George as the most unattractive.

Past research has shown that such perceptions can become self-fulfilling prophesies, with teachers giving higher marks to children with attractive names and employers being more likely to promote those who sound successful. These new findings could help parents wishing to find the perfect name for their children. Traditional names with Royal associations were viewed as highly successful and intelligent, and so parents hoping for successful offspring might want to avoid more unusual names. Attractive female names tended to be soft-sounding and end with the �ee� sound, whereas the sexiest males names are short and much harder sounding. Interesting sex differences also emerged, with women exhibiting greater levels of agreement than men about the most successful, lucky and attractive names. Women shared strong opinions about names, whereas men are more even-handed. If our opinions about people are influenced by their first names, then this data suggests that women may be more judgemental than men.

Superstition and Luck:

'Superstition can boost performance through confidence' - A new study suggests;  (9)

Superstitious ways of bringing good luck are found in cultures around the world, and it turns out they may be ubiquitous for a very good reason: To some extent it appears, superstitions work. New research shows that believing in, say, the power of a good luck charm can actually help improve performance in certain situations, even though the charm and event aren't logically linked.

This is what a team of psychologists at the University of Cologne in Germany report in the May issue of the journal Psychological Science. In a series of experiments employing tasks involving memory and motor skills, the scientists studied the effect of behaviour and "object superstitions" � which rely on good luck charms in college students.

The participants who kept their good luck charms set higher goals for what they wanted to achieve on the tasks, and said they felt more confident in their abilities. "Engaging in superstitious thoughts and behaviours may be one way to reach one's top level of performance," the researchers write in the journal article. (8)


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Further Research:

Scientists Show How Your Thoughts Can Cause Specific Molecular Changes To Your Genes: (Link to Full Article)



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