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November 17, 2017
By A. Weinberg,  Featured Columnist

You’ve probably heard of the Placebo effect where people
think they are okay, so they are.

That has historically had a pretty bad reputation in science ---
many believe the placebo is synonymous with “fake” or
ineffective for actual treatment.

According to Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel
Deaconess Medical Center, the placebo effect isn’t just
thinking that everything is great. The psychological process
involves creating a stronger connection between the brain
and the body, so both can be healthier.

Kaptchuk clarifies that, "Placebos may make you feel better,
but they will not cure you."

That being said, the brain can slow down the progression of
a disease or stop illness from recurring. Pain and
psychological suffering can be lessened quite a bit.

Modern medicine and psychology has actually been
recognizing more and more the benefits of harnessing the
mind’s power to heal.

There are various techniques, including guided imagery
therapy, image rehearsal therapy, and hypnosis.

One of the main techniques, guided imagery therapy, involves
imagining a relaxing scene or a series of experiments.

Sounds a bit out-there for many people in a conventional
logic mindset. However, our thoughts can give our bodies a
serious boost.

Read on to find out some ways that the superhero team of
your corporeal being and your grey matter can fight off the
villains of disease.

Hypnosis and Natural Killer Cells

In 2007, Sharon Hudacek and researchers from the
University of Pennsylvania did a data analysis involving early
stage breast cancer and found something strange.

They found that when patients underwent a process of
hypnotic imagery, this yielded an increased number of natural
killer (NK) cells.  What? They imagined new natural anti-
cancer cells into existence?

This is significant because natural killer cells are the first line
of defense against both cancer cells and virus-infected cells in
general. If reduced in the early stages of a disease, the
progression of the illness can be slowed down.

Guided Imagery and Immune System Boost

Guided imagery is great; the practice can reduce stress and
elevate the immune system, according to a 2008 report from
Stanford professional E.C. Trakhtenberg and researchers at
the Institute of transpersonal psychology in Palo Alto,

Guided imagery was shown to reduce stress and elevate the
immune system. Specifically, cell-specific imagery affected
white blood cell counts, neutrophils, and lymphocytes.
Researchers found that the white blood cells decreased in the
initial stages; more investigations are required to see how the
practice affects the body in the long term.

Self-hypnosis and Chronic Herpes

Herpes simplex virus 2 is an unfortunately common condition
that can be exacerbated with stress. In 2002, JH Gruzelier
and colleagues from the Imperial College of Science in
London found that six weeks of self-hypnosis training cut the
recurrence of flare-ups by almost 50%.

Additionally, the practice reduced levels of clinical depression
and anxiety. Immune systems were up-regulated and natural
killer cell activity was notably functional.

Guided Imagery and Pain/depression Associated with

M.D. Oniera Zafra and researchers from the University of
Almeria in Spain examined the effects of guided imagery on
fibromyalgia in a 2015 experiments.

They studied 60 patients aged 18 to 70. Zafra and colleagues
split participants into two groups: the guided imagery group
(30) and the control group (60). The outcomes were
analyzed at the baseline, post-intervention (4th week), and at
the end of the study (8th week). Those in the guided imagery
group reported significantly lower levels of pain and
depression at the 4th week evaluation.

Guided Visual Therapy Combined with Music Therapy for

Guided visual therapy can help not only with slowing down
cancer, but also helping with the disease’s more traditional

Dr. Serife Karagozoglu and researchers from the Cumhuriyet
University Faculty of Health Science in Sivas, Turkey, looked
at ways to diminish nausea and vomiting associated with

In 2015, they tested 40 individuals to see what effects a
combination of music therapy and guided visual therapy had
on the condition. At the end of the study, they found that
40% of patients didn’t have anticipatory nausea and 55% of
patients didn’t have anticipatory vomiting during the third
chemotherapy cycle in which guided visual imagery and music
therapy were implemented.

Image Rehearsal therapy and Post-traumatic Stress,
Insomnia, and Nightmares

Image rehearsal therapy is a technique used to diminish
nightmares or recurrent bad memories.

With this therapy, you imagine the recurrent dream or bad
memory and construct a less frightening ending. This is a way
of reprogramming your brain.

Usually therapists will start with less scary dreams or
memories to ease patients into the process. In 2015, G. Seda
from the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, California
conducted a database search about the effectiveness of
image rehearsal therapy compared to the drug prazosin (that
treats high blood pressure) on nightmares, sleep disturbance,
and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Here is what they found. Image rehearsal therapy and
prazosin are almost equally effective. However, when
cognitive behavioral therapy was combined with image
rehearsal therapy, results improved, in cases of sleep quality
and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Guided Imagery and Depressive Disorders

Guided imagery can be great for various mental health

In 2009, J.L. Apostolo and researchers from the Coimbra
Nursing School in Coimbra, Portugal examined guided
imagery as a possible technique for decreasing depression,
anxiety, and increasing comfort for psychiatric in-patients
with depressive disorders.

The scientists studied 60 short-term hospitalized depressive
patients selected consecutively. Subjects were tested prior to
intervention and ten days later. The experimental group
listened to a guided imagery C.D. once a day for ten days.

Those treated had improved comfort, and decreased
depression, anxiety, and stress over time.

Guided Imagery and Music for Work-related Stress  

Long-term stress-related sick leave is an unfortunately
common problem.

Dr. B.D. Beck and scientists from the Aalborg University in
Denmark tried guided imagery and music on chronic stress,
combining relaxation, music, listening, and imagery on
biopsychosocial measures of work-related stress.

The team assembled 20 Danish workers, who were
randomized to either therapy or a wait-list control. Data was
collected from an occupational health ward between 2008
and 2010.

The combination of guided imagery and music turned out to
be effective: the therapy significantly improved stress, well-
being, mood disturbance, anxiety, and depression. 83% of
participants returned to work after a 9-month follow-up.

Relaxation Response Training and High Blood Pressure

Improving hypertension requires bringing down the systolic
blood pressure. There are various ways of going about this,
and one is relaxation response training.

In 2008, J.A. Dusek studied different techniques at the
Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at the
Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. They conducted a
double blind randomized trial with 8 weeks of stress
management: one group with relaxation response training,
the other with lifestyle modification. The requirements for the
experiment were to be 55 years old and to be taking 2
antihypertensive medications.

Both groups had similar reductions in systolic blood pressure;
however, significantly more participants in the relaxation
response group eliminated anti-hypertensive medication while
maintaining adequate blood pressure control.  

Improve Your Diet with Guided Visualization

Bärbel Knäuper, PhD., from McGill University in Pennsylvania
was interested in techniques in improving diet. In 2011, they
tested people who wanted to increase their fruit intake with a
specific test: The subjects imagined the whole process of
consumption. They visualized seeing the apple, reaching for
the fruit, smelling and then chewing the delightful comestible.
This technique proved twice as effective as simply envisioning
the eating part.

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Visualizing actually can create killer cells in
your body that fight cancer.
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