top of page

Becoming the Master of Your Mind: The Placebo Effect & Your Expectations

Point to Ponder: Do you focus on the best case scenario or worst case scenario?

A few months back, after listening to a podcast and hearing Tony Robbins go and on and on about new medical breakthroughs he wrote about in his new book, Life Force, I became intrigued and read the book. It's a dense and fascinating book detailing "discovering breakthroughs in medicine that can transform the quality of your life". It's packed with an abundance of information, but the two chapters I found most impactful were the last two, on mindset. What I found most inspiring and empowering is the undeniable connection between the body and the mind. So, over the next couple of weeks, as I write about mindset and most specifically, mastering our mind so we can live our greatest life, I'm going to share what I consider to be the best information. I, of course, encourage you to get the book because it's fantastic, but if not, I'll provide you with what I think are the best takeaways.

To set the stage and make the case for just how powerful the mind body connection is, I'll start with the placebo effect.

The history of the placebo effect (according to Life Force):

The placebo effect was discovered during World War II by an anesthesiologist named Dr. Henry Beecher, who’d run out of morphine in the middle of a German bombardment. Desperate to ease a soldier’s pain, Beecher’s nurse injected a syringe of salt water but told the wounded man he was getting the powerful painkiller. To Beecher’s astonishment, the saline soothed the soldier's agony and kept him from going into shock. After Beecher returned to Harvard Medical School after the war, he pioneered the use of “controlled” clinical studies from new medicines, where some of the test subjects would unknowingly get a placebo.

Tony goes on to share: In a Harvard study, one hundred medical students were enlisted to test two drugs: a “super stimulant” red pill and a “super tranquilizer” blue pill. Unbeknownst to the students, the drugs were purposely switched. Even so, the subjects who were given the “downer” experienced stimulation because of their expectations, while those who took the “upper” felt tired. The subjects’ expectations actually overpowered the drug and reversed its impact to the very opposite of what the chemicals normally create.

Another example: A trial at the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center enrolled 180 subjects with significant pain from osteoarthritis . ⅔ underwent arthroscopic knee surgery; the other 60 had a fake “placebo surgery” procedure. Both groups had the same prep and were cared for overnight by nurses who didn't know who had the real operation. The results: The placebo patients reported just as much pain relief–and functional improvement–as the ones who’d had the real surgery. One year later, the placebo group was doing better at walking and stair-climbing than the surgical patients. The results were so profound that the Department of Veterans Affairs told its doctors to stop performing the operation.

The Takeaway: Your mind can both hurt and heal your body. The expectations our mind generates can create your reality. As the placebo studies prove (and there's thousands more), the mind can even overcome the impact of drugs and get the body to react in the opposite way. Our mind can change our emotions, and therefore, our quality of life.

Action Item: Pay attention to your thoughts. Practice directing and controlling them towards the best case scenario desired outcome.


bottom of page