The term mind over matter probably isn’t a new term to most of our kidney community! If you have been on the journey with us for a while you know that here at Kidney Coach we place just as big an importance on the healing power of the mind as we do with dietary, lifestyle, nutritional, and herbal support. Having worked in the Dr. Joe Dispenza community from 2018 – 2020, prior to the global pandemic, I was privileged to witness many amazing miracle healings of people healing with the power of the mind and meditation. What I saw in those events changed my mind about what is possible when it comes to healing with the mind.
I also find it interesting that some people heal using this method and others don’t. Why is that? What makes it easy for one person to jump into meditation and get their eyesight back, for example, and not another? What is it about the mind and the way in which we interact with it that allows the potential for healing?
Let’s discuss some of the basics ways in which you can tune your mind to work with you towards healing, rather than against you.
The placebo effect
We have all heard of the placebo effect, right?
Well, just in case you haven’t, a placebo is anything that seems to be a real medical treatment, but in fact, isn’t. This could include a pill, a shot, or some other form of ‘fake’ treatment. What all placebos have in common is that they do not contain an active substance known to affect health.
Placebos are used during scientific studies to have a baseline to measure the effects that a new drug, medicine, or procedure might have on a particular condition.
Did you know that in 1940 it was so common for doctors to prescribe placebos that catalogs contained placebo pills of different colors and sizes to order?! So, what does this have to do with the mind, you ask? Well did you know that people taking placebos in medical trials for antidepressant medications can have improvements up to 50 – 75% on their symptoms for the population of the study?! That means that up to 75% of the study participants who took a placebo pill, that contained nothing but sugar, had improvements in their symptoms.
Just think about that for a moment: what exactly is happening here? And it’s not just antidepressant trials. A study done on a procedure to treat Parkinson’s disease showed a 30% improvement in motor symptoms for those who received a fake (or placebo) treatment over an 18-month period. Meaning that people felt better from having nothing done for 18 months after the fake treatment. In fact, these people showed an increase in dopamine production – the neurotransmitter that is depleted in Parkinson’s disease – meaning that their bodies started to make more dopamine as a result of a fake procedure! So, it’s not just a case of the placebo making you feel better so you think your symptoms are better. The placebo’s effect can actually alter your body’s production of its own natural pharmacy, as in the case of the Parkinson’s disease procedure placebo. This means that cultivating the power of the mind could actually cause physiological changes in the body.
The nocebo effect
So, just like we can have a positive result from being told we are taking a pill or having a procedure to cure a condition, we can also have a negative result from being told that something might cause side effects or harm us, even if it is a fake treatment or pill.
An example of this might be people getting negative side effects from a placebo pill or surgery. The word ‘nocebo’ comes from the Latin word meaning ‘to harm’. Where we see this nocebo effect really come into play is when a doctor or specialist, who we have placed in a powerful position, gives us bad news about a diagnosis or warns about side effects from treatment.
Many strange and extreme medical events have been attributed to the nocebo effect, including death. One reported case from the 1970s concerned a cancer patient who was told he had three months to live, only for it to be discovered in his autopsy that the stage of his cancer had been misdiagnosed. Cancer could not have been the cause of his death, which coincidentally was three months after his doctor gave him that prognosis. Another case, more recently, documented a man who overdosed on 29 capsules he was taking in a clinical trial. He was admitted to the hospital with severe hypotension, only to be told he was taking a placebo, not a real medication.
So, the state of your mind about your health condition and diagnosis, as well as any restrictions and outcomes your physician may have placed on you about your health condition, absolutely has the ability to shape your condition, and health outcomes. So my question is what did your specialist say to you about your prognosis? And is that shaping your future without you even knowing it?
Fascinating stuff hey? Well, at least I find this stuff fascinating. So if we know that the power of intention through a placebo can actually cause Parkinson’s’ patients to create more dopamine in their brains what else is possible? Could a placebo pill touted to increase Klotho levels (Important for kidney health – read more about Klotho here) improve kidney function and improve long-term outcomes for those diagnosed with CKD? Could a fake dialysis machine help kidneys function better?
All of these can be answered in the affirmative. But how do we as patients, wanting to take our health back into our own hands and improve our wellbeing, take this information and integrate it into something practical that we can implement into our daily lives?
Since it is unlikely that your nephrologist is going to give you a magic placebo klotho-producing pill, could using things like affirmations, meditation, gratitude, and visualization be just as effective? Or is it the pure belief that the things you are doing will cure you, and is that the reason placebos are so effective?
From personal experience, it is the belief that what you are doing will heal or help you, that causes the transformation in the body. So how do we get to a place that we can convince ourselves that we can heal using just the power of the mind?
For me, meditation has been the best tool for this. There is something about being in that space where you become no one, nothing, nowhere, in no place or time, that connects you to the infinite power that lies within and all around you. But meditation for many takes practice and time. It took me 2 years to get what I call competent at meditation. That being said I have seen beginners go to an event and heal instantly, so maybe that time is just me and the way my brain works!
Studies have shown that meditating for 20 minutes a day over a 30 day period has significant impacts on the health and size of gray matter in the brain, it also changes the way the prefrontal cortex works. The brain doesn’t actually know the difference between something you imagine or visualize and something that is real and happening in 3D! It is why so many athletes visualize before they compete, in fact, if you hook say a golfer up to a functional MRI and get him to visualize hitting the perfect swing, the same areas in the brain light up as it would if he were actually standing on the golf course hitting the gold ball! The brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imaginary. It is this that creates the magic in using the mind to heal. If you can visualize it and truly feel the emotions of how it would be to feel better, move better, have more energy and better kidney function then your brain doesn’t know the difference, it will follow by adjusting the chemistry that it produces to match your internal reality. The hard part is that you need to hold onto that belief and those emotions throughout the remainder of the day, even though your environment will be giving you different signals and information.
For example, I wake up and meditate for 1-2 hours, in that meditation I am seeing myself running, riding the horses, and climbing mountains (all things I cannot do with having Multiple Sclerosis) when I come out of my meditation I then take the dog to the park, now my external environment will show me that walking up to the car is hard and that I cannot walk for more than 20 minutes around the oval with the dog, all things that go against the visualizations, feelings, and emotions that I was creating in my morning meditation. The trick, for me at least, is to stay centered and stay in the moment, knowing that this current moment does not have to equal my future. That right there is the hard part!
So if you are waking up and visualizing your kidneys being healed and then you hook straight onto a dialysis machine, your external reality is going to be in opposition to your internal creation. Here is where you need to hold onto the power of your ability to create your reality and a different future and let me tell you it is not easy! But if you can chip away at it every day and take little moments out of your day to tune back into the feelings, emotions, and reality that you started your day within your meditation, then over time what starts to happen is amazing. You will start to see small things changing around you. Suddenly you have more energy to play with the grandchildren, suddenly your blood tests show your eGFR jumps 3 -4 points, suddenly you find you are sleeping better, urinating better, the lower back pain seems to have gone.
Many little practices add up and over time lead you to a better outcome if you can truly believe that your practices will pay off. One of my favorite quotes is “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” ― Vincent Van Gogh
In the end, for me, I do everything diet, lifestyle, meditation, herbs, nutrition, and more. I feel like it is the accumulation of these practices that have really helped improve my health, which has improved against what the neurologist told me would be my fate. And it is those small improvements that I am grateful for and what I use to power up my next meditation and visualization.
You have nothing to lose by adding visualization and mindful practice into your daily routine. At the very least we know that daily meditation, even for 20minutes, reduces stress. And we also know that the hormones of stress impact our health, so reducing these stress hormones in and of itself is useful in the healing journey.
Here are some basic things that you could try to incorporate into your daily routine to hone the healing power of your mind.
Meditation – 20mins – Feel and visualize what your life would look like if your kidney function improved. Before you start your meditation write this down. Would you have more energy? More time to spend with family? Would your skin be less itchy, would the back pain go? Write it down and get specific! Once you have that put onto paper then write down the emotions of how you would feel having these things. Would you feel grateful, empowered, energized, vital, happy, joyful? Once you get all of this clear that is what you take into your meditation practice. Visualize your future and feel the emotions that go with it. Embody it.
Gratitude journal – Every night before you go to bed write down 3 things that you are grateful for that happened that day. These can be simple things like being grateful for a family members’ support, or that you got an extra 10 minutes’ sleep, anything that you truly feel happy and grateful for. The trick to making a gratitude practice work is to feel the gratitude as you write it down.
Affirmations – I find these useful reminders to reinforce what I was visualizing in my morning meditation. For example, if I am visualizing riding my horses then I may have an affirmation that goes something like this – I am so grateful to be able to ride Mozzie (my horse’s name) easily and with joy. Then I feel the emotions of riding him while I say it. I will even stick post-it notes around the house to remind me. These help keep me aligned to what I am creating in my morning meditations and help when my external environment might be signaling challenges to me to stay in the emotions of what I am creating.
Accountability partners – I find having someone in my life reinforcing and reminding me of what I am creating really useful. I have amazing friends that I can zoom with or talk to, they hold me accountable for the life I am creating and call me out if I talk in a way that negates my creation. These people are really important to help cultivate belief in what you are doing. So get good friends who will speak the truth to you and include them in your new life creation.
Routine – I meditate EVERY DAY. If you are serious then these practices become like brushing your teeth every day. They just become part of your life.
Read good books – I find reading books that support what I am doing really helpful. I can highly recommend – Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself – By Dr. Joe Dispenza, in fact, any of his books will give you a good solid base to get started with. I also really like Mind to Matter by Dawson Church that goes through a lot of the studies that I mentioned above. The Brain’s Way of Healing – By Norman Doidge, which is a very heavy and technical read is also amazing if you truly want to see what our brains are capable of! There is even mention of a woman who learned to see with her tongue! Don’t believe me? Read the book!
So there you have it. This is what I do to include the healing power of the mind in my daily health routine. You have nothing to lose, apart from feeling less stressed, and possibly a whole lot to gain, so why not give it a go and let us know how it works for you.