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How Much Can Brain Retraining Really Do?

It’s easy to doubt and question the power of brain retraining. It’s common that we have a long list of symptoms that affect many different areas/systems of the body by the time we find our way to brain retraining. It’s natural to wonder how in the world doing some visualizations and noticing our thoughts is going to make a dent in chronic issues with our GI tract, our immune system, our hormones or other body parts that are far removed from the brain.

In 2007, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer did a study looking at the power of perception on health. To do this she recruited 84 women that cleaned hotel rooms for a living. She surveyed them and found that 67% of the women reported that they didn’t exercise at all, they did not view all of the physical activity involved with cleaning all day long as exercise.

What was even more interesting, was that despite the women far exceeding the U.S surgeon general’s recommendation for daily exercise, their bodies did not seem to benefit from all of their activity. When Langer measured their weight, blood pressure and body mass index, those indicators matched the women’s perceived amount of exercise, not their actual amount of exercise.

From there, Langer divided up the women into two groups. The first group was given information about how all of the tasks they did to clean a room actually counted as exercise. In addition, they were told how many calories each of those tasks burned and that their level of activity already met the surgeon general’s definition of an active lifestyle. The other group was given no information and served as the control group for her study.

One month later, the women in the group that were encouraged to see their daily work tasks as exercise had lost weight, lowered their blood pressure and “were significantly healthier” by all measures. The women did not report any change in behavior, the only change was that they now saw themselves as regular exercisers.

How do you see yourself? It’s common that we start to see ourselves as sick, weak or helpless when we have been dealing with limbic system impairment. Langer’s study shows just how powerful our perception of ourselves can be for our health. Starting to see ourselves as strong, healthy and powerful can have a positive impact on our brains and bodies.

The cleaning women were able to change their health by changing their mindset and viewing things differently. Reframing things and offering the brain a new way to view something is just one tool in the brain retraining toolkit. Imagine what they could have accomplished with visualizations, mood elevation, setting healthy boundaries, noticing critical self-talk and all the other tools that help get our bodies out of F/F/F. You have more power to change your health than you think you do!

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