In the past, I often observed that I did not feel connected to my body in case of illness, but thought „the pill or the doctor will take care of it!“ So I trusted in external factors from which I expected healing. At the same time, in my role as a doctor, I sometimes had the feeling during patient contacts that some of them would have preferred to hand over responsibility for their health to me/the doctors: „You studied medicine, you have to make me well again!“ And yes, in some cases, such as emergency medicine and (trauma) surgery, that may be approximately true. In most other cases, however, the doctor, with his or her empathetic and reassuring demeanour at best, and the tablet, are primarily responsible for strengthening the patient’s self-healing powers.
But what do we actually mean by self-healing powers?
It is „the ability of the body to heal both external and internal injuries or diseases. The use and intensification of the self-healing powers, on which ultimately every therapy is based, represents an important aspect of every therapeutic treatment“ (1). The self-healing of the body ranges from a small cut to rehabilitation after a major operation or serious illness. What fits in with this is the concept of salutogenesis („emergence of health“ in contrast to pathogenesis, „emergence of disease“) by Aaron Antonovsky (1923-1994). The core concept here is coherence, i.e. the connection between events. Health occurs when the sense of coherence is positive. This means that life is seen as understandable, manageable and meaningful. All the resources that the patient brings with him contribute to the sense of coherence. These include life experiences, relationships, social networks, education, financial resources, etc. It is therefore beneficial for our recovery in case of illness to surround ourselves with all our positive resources in order to strengthen our psyche and our immune system.
We all know that when we are stressed, worried and eat poorly, we get sick more quickly. I have already explained here what stress does to our immune system. If, on the other hand, we are in a good mood and release happiness hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, the immune system is activated (2). So, in order to take our health more into our own hands again and not wait for healing from outside alone, let’s look at how we can strengthen our self-healing powers.
How can we strengthen our self-healing powers?
- Use the power of thoughts: imagine the healing process, believe in your body that it can do it. There are studies that prove the influence of a positive mindset on lifespan (3) (4). The placebo effect also proves the power of thoughts. If we are convinced that this medicine will make us healthy (even if it contains no active ingredient), we are much more likely to become so than if we are negative or sceptical (5).
- Try to understand how the disease came about in order to change any unhealthy conditions. Is there something you are worried about that you are suppressing?
- Reduce excessive stress. Some stress is normal and good, but when it becomes too much, it damages our psyche and our immune system. Maybe try relaxation exercises, yoga or meditation to calm down consciously.
- Strengthen your immune system! This includes a healthy, balanced diet, exercise, good relationships, a meaningful task and a mindful daily routine. Be sure to check out my post on this for more detailed info!
- Free yourself from overwhelming negative thoughts and endless brooding. These can weaken the immune system or, in the worst case, lead to depression or dementia (6)! Strengthen your good thoughts and focus on everything that is good and healthy. And be grateful for it!
With these little tricks, we can all exert an enormous influence on our health and the recovery process when we are ill. We do not leave this exclusively to external forces, but participate significantly ourselves through our inner attitude, thoughts and actions. We therefore take responsibility and do not relinquish it!
I hope I have been able to inspire you a little to pay more attention to your self-healing powers in the future. And don’t get me wrong – they are by no means meant to replace medical treatment, but to complement it in a meaningful way in order to increase the success of the therapy!