Friday, January 26, 2007


Positive thinking can go long way toward healing

“Amy, following this operation, you will feel comfortable and you will heal very well.”

These were not words I imagined in a dream but words spoken to me by Dr. Cindy Campbell, an anesthesiologist at Backus Hospital during surgery two years ago.
Backus’ Center for Healthcare Integration offers a one-hour workshop called “Prepare for Surgery-Heal Faster.” Every patient who takes the course and listens twice daily to the relaxation CD also hears these words, called healing statements, spoken to them during surgery.

Whether asleep or awake, studies show the words spoken during an operation and the outcomes that a person focuses on can significantly help the healing process and recovery.

Most of us, because we are human, become anxious as an event like surgery approaches. The negative images we focus on like pain and possible complications rob us of the inner chemistry we need to heal. During “Prepare for Surgery”, the negative images are replaced with positive ones. For example if I am afraid of pain, through guided imagery, I change that to imagining myself after surgery comfortable, safe and surrounded by loved ones.

An oncology patient shared that after receiving difficult news about her prognosis, she went home and wrote in large letters a sign that read, “I deserve to have hope”. She knew she needed to inspire herself with positive thoughts if she was going to begin to heal. If our attention is consumed with talking, thinking and worrying about our illness we are unknowingly perpetuating the illness. In the words of William James, the father of American psychology, “you attract into your life that which you expect, so expect only good.”

A study demonstrating the extraordinary influence our thoughts and beliefs have on what we manifest was done with patients receiving chemotherapy. Thirty percent of the control group who received a placebo and not the chemotherapy drug lost their hair. The patients lost their hair because they expected to. If someone is given a placebo drug instead of a pain reliever, and it works, it doesn’t mean they don’t really have pain, it means the body is capable of creating a pain relieving substance because the brain expects to feel relief. Think of the body as a pharmacy, creating chemical responses to thoughts, and think of our beliefs as the order we place.

It may be worthwhile to look for a day at what thoughts we spend most of our time focusing on. Is it about what we don’t have, how we are not happy, what we wish would be different? If that’s the case we are only helping to create more of the same in our life. If we are thinking “I’m always late,” or “I’m not organized or not attractive or thin or fit enough or healthy,” that’s the outcome we are perpetuating. Many people think about what they don’t want and then wonder why it keeps showing up in their life.

Words and thoughts like music create a vibration of energy and movement and the vibration causes a response. We attract back to us with our thoughts and words the same vibration that we send out. Conversely what is happening in each of our lives we may be attracting with our beliefs and thoughts. The good news is that once we are aware, we have a choice.

When asked if she would attend an anti-war rally, Mother Teresa said “no, but when you organize a peace rally let me know and I’ll be there”. She intuitively knew that an anti-war demonstration was bringing focus to war, not peace.

Japanese photographer and author Masaru Emoto in his book “Messages from the Water” freezes and photographs water crystals that are exposed to different types of music, kind words and prayers, pollution and disparaging words. The photographs reflect the effect of words and thoughts on water crystals ranging from symmetrical beauty to disorganization. If we consider that the human body is made of more than 70% water we can imagine that how we talk to ourselves, what we spend our time thinking about and the words we use when we speak to each other and our children has an effect that reaches even the cells of our bodies.

The words of the poet Hafiz offer another perspective. “How did the rose ever open its heart and show the world all its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its being, otherwise we all remain too frightened”.

Amy Dunion, a registered nurse and massage therapist, is Coordinator of The William W. Backus Hospital's Center for Healthcare Integration. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Ms. Dunion and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

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