The Amazing Power of Suggestion on Your Health and Happiness9 min read
Do you know how much influence the power of suggestion has on your health and happiness? Probably more than you realize. It may be causing you to be unhealthy and unhappy.
As a child, I was fascinated by magic tricks. When a magician performed at one of our school assemblies, of all the tricks he performed, the Chinese linking rings got my greatest attention. As with most magic tricks, the magician uses the power of suggestion to produce the illusion that something is happening that is not. He manipulates large metal rings, about a foot in diameter, linking and separating them without a visible break in the rings. To the audience, it appears that metal magically passes through metal.
I wanted to be able to do that.
In putting together my Christmas wish list that year, I asked for the magic linking rings. When Christmas day arrived, I hit the jackpot. When I tore the red and green wrapping paper off a large box full of magic tricks, there were the shiny, metal Chinese linking rings.
Up until that point, I’d not had any idea how the trick worked. When I discovered the secret, I embraced the power to amaze my family and friends, and became a master of the linking rings.
I held the amazing power of suggestion in my hands.
And so can you. Not to do magic tricks, but to improve your health and happiness. But often we defer the status of our health and happiness to the suggestions of others.
It starts minutes after we’re born. The nurturing bond between a newborn baby and mother has a direct impact on the child’s immunity and happiness. If there is no bond between a baby and a caring adult, the child faces increased risks of illness and unhappiness.
You might be wondering where the power of suggestion fits in to this scenario. Suggestions that influence us aren’t delivered in words alone. Suggestions that influence our health and happiness are effectively delivered by behavior, as well.
Consider how you’d feel if you attended a party and you were the only one no one talked to.
Maybe that’s happened to you. Most people would experience a drop in their mood. That’s an ordinary reaction, but not the obligatory one.
Suggestions can be intentional and unintentional. While the power of suggestion may have negatively affected our health and happiness as children, how we respond to those suggestions as adults is optional.
Knowing the powerful influence of suggestion, we should carefully examine what we believe and how it influences our thoughts and behaviors.
Are you acting on evidence, or are you reacting to false assumptions or lies?
It doesn’t matter so much when the suggestions were made and received, as what we do with them once we become aware of how they’ve impacted our health and happiness.
Health and the Power of Suggestion
In one 1960s experiment, hospital patients were given sugar water and told it would make them vomit.
Guess what? Eighty percent of them puked.
In 1962, two clever scientists–Ikema and Nakagawa–brought into their laboratory people known to have skin allergies. They conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they touched the skin of their subjects with the harmless leaf of a chestnut tree. But they told them that it was a poisonous plant, known to cause allergic reactions.
Next, they touched their skin with the leaf of a poisonous tree known to cause an allergic reaction. But this time they told their subjects it was harmless.
When the experiment’s subjects were touched with the harmless leaf, but believed the leaf was poisonous, most developed a rash on their skin–an allergic reaction. When they were touched with the poisonous leaf, believing it was harmless, most had no allergic reaction at all.
Our belief in simple suggestions has an amazing power over our body, and our health.
Women in the Framingham Health Study who believed they were at risk for heart attacks were almost 4 times more likely to die of a heart condition than those who didn’t hold such beliefs. This held true whether they had real risk factors or not.
What we think about our health can cause poor health.
Do you ever read the list of possible side-effects on medicine your doctor has prescribed? Being warned of potential side effects increases the chance that you’ll have them up three times more than if you had no warning at all.
You’ve heard of the placebo effect–the positive health benefits a sugar pill can have when people believe it’s an active drug. Doctors call this response to side-effects or health fears the “nocebo effect.”
Regardless of what other people say, as an adult you possess the greatest power of suggestion to impact your health.
Recent research has demonstrated that optimism–a positive outlook–can improve your immunity, reduce your risk of heart disease, and increase your lifespan.
Happiness and the Power of Suggestion
Different things contribute to our happiness. Our health is one of them. But nothing contributes more to our happiness than what we think.
If what we think is influenced by other people’s suggestions, it will directly impact our happiness.
Perhaps your happiness depends on how smart you are. Scientists have artificially boosted people’s intelligence by giving them a phony, intelligence boosting drug.
Does food make you happy? If someone gives you chocolate and tells you it’s Swiss, chances are you’ll like the taste better than if they tell you it’s from China.
Are you looking for success? If someone treats you like a high performer, your performance is likely to improve.
The marketing industry is built on the power of suggestion. Selling stuff depends on convincing you that buying a product will solve a problem, and make you happier.
The power of suggestion can’t be separated from the power of belief. And what we believe directly impacts how we cope with life and its difficulties.
Researchers at Sweden’s Uppsala University took 25 people with social anxiety disorder and treated them with a sugar pill placebo. People with social anxiety disorder suffer from an extreme fear of being judged and scrutinized by others. The researchers assigned the people in this study to give two speeches during the time that they received the treatment with the placebo. Ten of those people reported decreased fear as they delivered their speeches, and attributed it to the “drug.”
These experiments show us how our perceptions can be directly influenced by simple suggestions delivered by words or actions.
What this means to you and me, then, is that if we master the power of suggestion, we can modify our mood and be happier.
Mastering the Power of Suggestion
Here are some simple actions you can take to master the power of suggestion and use it to improve your health and happiness.
1) Cultivate an attitude of curiosity.
At about 3 years old, children start asking “why.” Their sense of curiosity has developed. Unfortunately, parents in their frustration often discourage children from asking questions. “Don’t ask ‘why,’ just do it,” they say. So, at some point in our childhood, many of us stopped asking. We might have become curious again in our teens, taking some risks. But for many, by the time they reach adulthood, their curiosity is squelched.
Learn to ask “why” again. There may not always be answers. But if we’re always operating on forgone conclusions and assumptions, we may be working with inaccurate or wrong information.
2) Search for and embrace the truth.
With an attitude of curiosity, examine your beliefs one at a time. Make a written list of some of your most basic beliefs about yourself and God. Then ask yourself, “Why do I believe this is true?” Your answers may surprise you. When it comes to knowing truth about ourselves and God, we seldom have the complete answer. Truth often unfolds. But we usually have to dig. It doesn’t just pop up like a jack-in-the-box and say, “Here I am!”
We see the unfolding of truth in the Bible, particularly in the way the Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples. It was by spending time with Him that they began to know who He was. Even then, it wasn’t until they experienced the crisis of Jesus’ crucifixion, and the glory of His resurrection, that His followers really began to understand His mission.
For those that follow Jesus, He is the ultimate truth (John 14:6). To experience a total transformation of your health and happiness, devote time each day to learning Jesus’ words, understanding them, and applying them to your life.
3) Make your own suggestions.
As you get a grasp on what is true, you can begin to make suggestions to yourself that can improve your health and happiness. This will be especially true if you cultivate positive emotions, like cheerfulness, hopefulness, and gratefulness. Take favorite passages from the Bible and turn them into affirmations and write them in a journal or on Post-It notes where you can read them out loud frequently. And instead of referring to yourself in the first person, use your first name in each promise–it has greater influence.
Here are a few of examples to help you get started:
So I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NLT)
God gives [your name] joy, hope and peace when I believe in His promises.
Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close. (Psalm 27:10, NLT)
Even if [your name]’s father and mother abandon [him/her], the Lord will hold [your name] close.
I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. (Isaiah 58:7-8, NLT)
When [your name] acts generously towards others, God gives healing and protection to [your name].
Now, take one of your favorite passages from the Bible, write it as an affirmation and leave a comment to share it with the rest of us.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.