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Positive Thinking: The Power Of Suggestibility

Updated: May 7

If a person believes in an outcome, they are more likely to automatically achieve that outcome. This is the basis for the power of suggestibility. This phenomenon is used in psychology and healthcare to greatly improve the lives of people.

Shalmalee Gadgil


meditate for maintaining mental health


What is Suggestibility?

Suggestion has been defined as a form of communicable ideation or belief, that once accepted, has the capacity to exert profound changes on a person's mood, thoughts, perceptions, and behaviours. The prefrontal region (the region of the frontal cortex anterior to the motor areas) of the human cerebral cortex appears to play an important ro le in suggestion.

Suggestibility works more efficiently in a controlled environment and with a consenting individual during a deep unconscious process-work or synonymously called as a hypnotic state. (A hypnotic state is also known as a state of hypersuggestibility)

But suggestibility also works on a conscious level. Across many studies, research has shown that deliberate suggestion can influence how people perform on learning and memory tasks, which products they prefer, and how they respond to supplements and medicines, which accounts for the well-known placebo effect.

But what can explain the powerful and pervasive effect that suggestion has in our lives?

The answer lies in our ‘response expectancies,’ or the ways in which we anticipate our responses in various situations. These expectancies set us up for automatic responses that actively influence how we get to the outcome we expect. Once we anticipate a specific outcome will occur, our subsequent thoughts and behaviors will actually help to bring that outcome to fruition.

For example, a socially reserved person expects that a glass of wine or two will help him loosen up at a cocktail party, he will probably feel less inhibited, approach more people, and get involved in more conversations over the course of the party. Even though he may give credit to the wine, it is clear that his expectations of how the wine would make him feel played a major role. What if the glass of wine he drank was not actually alcoholic? Would he still react the same way?

This is, of course, how the placebo effect works – the belief system knowing what should happen and ensuring that it does. It is so powerful that medical trials of new drugs have to take it into account. They do this by the now-established method of including one group of volunteers who are being given nothing more than a sugar pill (though, of course, they believe they are being given the drug) to compare their reactions with those who have been given the real thing. Amazingly – or not, once you understand the workings of the mind – some of the volunteers on placebos actually derive greater benefit than those receiving the chemical. And, even more amazingly, continue to do so even after they have been told that they had received a sugar pill.

Another example is that of The University of Washington. Researchers gave a pill to a group of people and told them that it would improve their level of intelligenceIn reality, it was a placebo, and it didn’t increase any cognitive ability whatsoever. Nevertheless, the participants’ state of alertness and attention increased, and they achieved better results on the tasks that the researchers gave them.

Do not try this at home, but - if you put someone in a room, release smoke from a novelty fog machine, and tell them that it’s a toxic gas, they’ll probably gasp for air, think they’re going to die, and experience the symptoms of someone who’s been poisoned.

But it’s not just deliberate suggestion that influences our thoughts and behaviors –

Suggestions that are not deliberate can have the very same effects. Simply observing people or otherwise making them feel special can be suggestive, a phenomenon termed the Hawthorne effect.

The Hawthorne Effect is one of the most well-known effects related to the power of suggestion. It’s based on the idea that when we’re being observed, we act differently. As such, employees work harder and more effectively when they think their boss is watching.

Experiments with security cameras that weren’t actually functioning (but the people being “watched” didn’t know this) concluded that if you think someone is watching, you’ll do everything better!

Using The Power Of Suggestibility To Overcome Limiting Beliefs -

Before we venture into changing our beliefs or creating new ones, we first need to understand how these limiting beliefs were created. A Belief can be formed as a result of multiple similar experiences over a period of time or even a single experience that was highly emotionally charged.

Basically, it's a suggestion imprinted on our minds via the repetition of similar external sensory stimuli as well as internal thoughts. This belief is a combination of ideas or statements about self, others, or situations that our mind has now accepted as true. It acts as a basis for the decisions we make and the actions we take, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy i.e. once you believe in something you end up doing things in a way that the resulting outcome will support your original belief.

Some beliefs, conscious or unconscious, can help us grow, make it easier for us to face difficulties, and take consistent actions toward our goals. At the same time, some beliefs can limit us, make us feel helpless, and stop us from taking action.

So in order to change these limiting beliefs, one needs first identify the limiting beliefs and then use suggestibility to help change the identified beliefs and/or create new ones that help you grow.

Positive Thinking: Positive Suggestions

Giving yourself positive suggestions eliminates negative self-talk and works on proactively changing these identified limiting beliefs. So, to help you train your mind, all you have to do is keep it focused on uplifting thoughts until you form the same types of neural pathways that are created when you establish a new habit. With focused practice, you make a habit of more positive thinking.

Here are some ways you can replace pessimistic thoughts with positive thoughts:

  • Instead of saying, “I don’t want to do that, I’ve never done it before,” say, “I’ll try it because I may learn something new.”

  • Instead of thinking, “I’m never going to get better at this,” say, “I’ll try again until I figure it out.”

Positive thinking creates positive emotions, positive attitudes, and positive results, whereas negative thinking will keep you stagnant.

The power of positive thinking is remarkable. In fact, the idea that your mind can change your world almost seems too good to be true. Rest assured, longitudinal studies have shown that enhancing self-efficacy leads to strong self-transformation.

Self-efficacy is a person's belief in their ability to complete a task or achieve a goal. It encompasses a person's confidence in themselves to control their behavior, exert an influence over their environment, and stay motivated in the pursuit of their goal.

Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. To date, the following benefits have been noted:

  • Increased life span

  • Lower rates of depression

  • Lower levels of distress and pain

  • Greater resistance to illnesses (physical and mental)

  • Better psychological and physical well-being

  • Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and stroke

  • Reduced risk of death from cancer

  • Reduced risk of death from respiratory conditions

  • Reduced risk of death from infections

  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Positive thinking or suggestions can truly transform every aspect of your life.



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