How to think yourself well

There's a lot to be said for thinking yourself well. By this I don't mean telling yourself you're fine, doing too much and ending up in a more serious condition. What I mean is that if you tell yourself that you are feeling better you probably will be. If you tell yourself you're feeling worse that will probably be true too.  

Whatever we focus on tends to grow so it makes sense to use your thoughts to your advantage.

Here's a little story to demonstrate what I mean. A few years ago when my son was nine he slipped and fell on the ice. The weather had turned very cold unexpectedly during the night and as he left for school in the morning, he ran down the path, his feet went from under him and he did a comedy (although clearly he wasn't laughing), feet-over-his-head fall. I picked him up, checked for breakages, of which there were none, kissed him better and sent him off to school.

When he returned at the end of the day I could tell that all was not well. He was tearful and just not himself. As the evening wore on he developed a high temperature but had no other symptoms; no headache, no sore throat, nothing, just a temperature and the need for lots of cuddles and a nest on the sofa. I used cold compresses on his forehead, gave him plenty of water and some children's Paracetemol but it had no effect. As the evening wore on he was still the same. His temperature was over 100.

What to do? Before I bundled him off to A and E I thought I would try one thing. My son has a very vivid imagination so I asked him to imagine that he was on a journey. I took him (in his mind) out in to the cold, frosty night. I described the crackling ice, the glistening treetops, the smell of the cold night air and how it felt as he breathed it in to his body; how wonderfully cooling it was. I took him flying over the rooftops, all the time suggesting his body was feeling more and more comfortable.

I described the twinkling stars and invited him to pick one that was just for him. One that would help him to feel well. I then brought him back to the comfort of the sofa. The whole 'journey' lasted no more than 15 minutes. When I checked his temperature it was normal. And it remained so.

His temperature was a result of the shock he'd had when he slipped on the ice so there was no infection present, but even if there had been the visualisation could still have helped reduce his temperature. Our minds don't make a distinction between what's real and what's imagination, so when he was imagining that he was outside in the cool air his body responded as if he was.

This story demonstrates how physical symptoms can respond to thoughts. And it's not just that we can reduce them. We can produce them as well. Have you ever listened to someone talking about head lice and started to itch? Or heard someone coughing and you've started to cough too?  It make you think doesn't it? Just to what extent can we prolong or reduce our symptoms just by the way that we think about them?

So the next time you feel a cold coming on instead of reaching for the drugs why not try a more thoughtful approach? 

After you've suffered the undoubted discomfort of snorting salty water and drinking the contents of the spice rack (see my natural cold remedies) you could give your nose and throat a virtual treat.

Use your imagination in any way that seems appropriate to you. You could imagine that you've shrunk in size and have traveled right in to your throat; see the roughness and the inflammation and imagine that you are soothing it with warm, liquid honey or cooling blocks of ice. As you breathe, imagine the air around you is a beautiful colour that heals everything it touches. You could even kiss yourself better. It doesn't matter. It's whatever seems right to you.

And as you go through the day try to think and talk positively. Put aside any 'woe is me' thoughts and replace them with the understanding that your body has the wisdom to heal itself and the message to yourself that you are returning to good health. Avoid phrases such as 'sore throat', 'blocked nose', 'feeling rubbish'. And instead tell yourself that your throat is healing, your nose is feeling clearer and you are feeling better all the time.

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