Take this example from a New Orleans hospital in the 1970s.
Dr Dabney Ewin, a surgeon specialising in burns, was on duty in the emergency room when a man was brought in on a gurney. A worker at the Kaiser Aluminium plant had slipped and fallen into a vat of 950-degree molten aluminium up to his knees.
Ewin did something that most would consider strange at best or the work of a charlatan at worst: he hypnotised the burned man. Without a swinging pocket watch or any other theatrical antics, the surgeon did what’s now known in the field of medical hypnosis as an ‘induction’: instructing the man to relax, breathe deeply and close his eyes.
He told him to imagine that his legs – scorched to the knees and now packed in ice – did not feel hot or painful but ‘cool and comfortable’. Ewin had found that doing this – in addition to standard treatments – improved his patients’ outcomes. And that’s what happened with the Kaiser Aluminium worker.
While such severe burns would normally require months to heal, multiple skin grafts and maybe even lead to amputation if excessive swelling cut off the blood supply, the man’s injuries healed in just eighteen days – without a single skin graft required.
Letting go of anger
As Ewin continued using hypnosis to expedite his burn patients’ recoveries, he added another unorthodox practice to his regimen: he talked to his patients about anger and forgiveness. He noticed that people coming into the emergency room with burns were often very angry, and not without reason. They were, as he put it, “all burned up”, both literally and figuratively.
He felt their anger actually interfered with their ability to heal. He acknowledged their anger and their right to be so and encouraged them to put it aside and let it go and redirect their energy towards healing. He told them, “When you know at a feeling level that you’re letting it go, raise your hand.” Then I’d shut up, they’d raise their hand, and I’d know that skin graft was gonna take.”
The power of positive thinking
While this may be an extreme situation, there are plenty of other examples of how positive or negative thinking can impact our physical health.
If we harness our imagination, we can learn to get ‘unstuck’ in certain areas of our lives.
In this four-part series, we give you some easy, practical tips on how to feel more focused and energised to maximise your productivity.
One way we can do this is through meditation. Research has shown that 5-16 mins a day of focused, meditative thoughts can shift our brain so that we are more likely to engage with the world and have a happier outlook on life.
Purposefully catching our thoughts can direct our brain’s rewiring, our neurotransmitters and cellular activity in a positive or negative direction.
So, the next time you are feeling angry or upset about a health issue, injury or illness, try channeling those feelings towards healing your body instead.
As difficult as it may be, imagine letting go of any anger or resentment you have towards your body. Picture your body full of love, warmth and healing energy. Really feel the warmth radiating from your head to your toes.
Enjoy the sensation as you use your imagination to put yourself back in a positive head space. After all, your imagination is a powerful thing – and it can play a powerful role in healing the mind and body.
How have you actively embraced positive thinking in your life? Tell us in the comments below.