Epigenetics, Self-Hypnosis, and Healing

The idea that positive thinking can have great impact on our lives has been around for thousands of years. But now, scientific studies and experiments have demonstrated that your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings can actually change the way in which your genes express. Epigenetics is a relatively new field of study often defined as the heritable changes in gene function or expression without a change in DNA sequence. Simply put, your genes (and thus your body) express differently and it's not always the result of DNA. So what factors can actually alter the way your genes and body express themselves? Thoughts, beliefs, feelings, childhood nurturing (or lack thereof), and diet are some of the factors that can alter gene expression.

Epigenetics lets us know that we can make changes in our lives and that we can also participate in the healing and health of our bodies. So, if you want to proactively make changes, self-hypnosis can function as an epigenetic tool to help create change. Dawson Church, Ph.D., has written an informative, award winning book about epigenetics called The Genie in Your Genes. According to Dawson, "What you are thinking, feeling, and believing is changing the genetic expression and chemical composition of your body on a moment-by-moment basis." (p. 75)

Desires, Intentions, Emotions and the DNA Molecule

So how do our thoughts and beliefs and expectations affect our body's health and healing? The following is a list of excerpts from studies and experiments whose results reflect the impact these factors (thoughts, beliefs, desires, expectations, etc.) have on our health and healing. These quotes are also from Dawson's Genie in Your Genes:

An intriguing series of experiments on the effect on DNA of intention and emotion was performed by researchers at the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, California, led by Rollin McCraty, PhD. The HeartMath experiments show that measurable molecular changes in the DNA molecule can result from human desires, intentions, and emotions. (p. 164)

The researchers also noted how our consciousness can influence healing:

...Consciousness, acting through the body, can generate the molecules required for healing. Our brains are themselves generating drugs similar to those that our doctor is prescribing for us. (p. 170)

The Placebo Effect

What's a placebo? This definition comes from medterms.com, " A remarkable phenomenon in which a placebo -- a fake treatment, an inactive substance like sugar, distilled water, or saline solution -- can sometimes improve a patient's condition simply because the person has the expectation that it will be helpful." The notion of a placebo is important because it illustrates how your belief can help to heal you. The power of a placebo is really the power of your mind at work. Here are a few quotes from The Genie in Your Genes regarding placebos:

Placebos cure patients in about 35% of cases. A drug has to do significantly better for it to be worth taking. Few drugs are up to the challenge. A recent trial of St. John’s wort, an herb, found that 24% of depressed patients got better taking it. Zoloft did marginally better, producing improvement in 25% of the patients. But the star of the study was the placebo, which produced improvement in 32% of those taking it. In 2006, the US federal government released the results of two large-scale studies of SSRI drugs. They found that the tests, “failed to show that the drugs were safer or more effective than a placebo.” (p. 177,178)

Here's a second study showing similar results:

Kristol later published a second study, a meta-analysis of forty-seven studies of antidepressants from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) database. He found that "an average of 80% of the effect of the drugs was due to the placebo effect. This ranged from a low of 69% (Paxil) to a high of 89% (Prozac). In four of the trials that Kristol studied, the placebo exhibited better results than the drug. The mean difference between the placebos and the drugs was a 'clinically insignificant' difference."

These studies clearly illustrate how our thoughts and feelings are much more powerful than we often realize. So how can we harness the power of our minds and create positive changes for ourselves?

Self-Hypnosis as an Epigenetic Tool

Self-Hypnosis is a powerful epigenetic tool because it creates a state of mind (relaxed and highly focused) conducive to effectively changing beliefs. And when you're able to change your thoughts and feelings and focus your intent, you have a great opportunity to create change--within your mind as well as your body. Here's a story from The Genie in Your Genes of a woman who used the power of her mind to heal herself from terminal cancer:

Nancy had been diagnosed with metastasized Stage IV uterine cancer in 1972. Though her condition was terminal, she had rejected conventional medical therapy entirely, reasoning, "My body created this condition, so has the power to uncreate it too!" She quit work, exercised as much as her physical energy allowed, and spent hours lying in the bath. She came up with a visualization that tiny stars were coursing through her body. Whenever the sharp edge of a star touched a cancer cell, she imagined it puncturing the cancer cell, and the cancer cell deflating like a balloon. She imagined the water washing away the remains of the dying cancer cells. She focused on what she ate, how far she could walk, her baths, and the stars. Nancy began to feel stronger, and her walks became longer. She began to visualize what her future might look like many years from that time. She went back to see her doctor three months after the diagnosis. She did not make the appointment until she had a firm inner conviction that the cancer was completely gone. To the astonishment of her physicians, tests revealed her to be cancer-free. Curiously, many patients who use similar techniques report an inner knowing that the disease is gone, long before it is confirmed by medical tests. (p. 71,72)

Nancy used her imagination through her visualization to eliminate the cancer cells from her body. It's also important to note that she was extremely persistent and committed to her process of self-healing. Her process is completely consistent with self-hypnosis. And whether you choose to see Nancy's experience as prayer, or the power of the mind, or as self-hypnosis, the process and results are the same.

To sum it up, self-hypnosis qualifies as an epigenetic tool because it focuses on changing your mind about who you are. And by changing your thoughts and beliefs, as well as your energy (feelings), you can change the way in which your genes express. But it's important to learn how to practice self-hypnosis effectively. I've written an article, Five Keys to Successful Self-Hypnosis, which outlines the keys to using self-hypnosis effectively to make changes in your life.

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