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5 Steps to Harness the Placebo Effect & Improve Your Health

Your mind is a powerful tool, with the ability to heal you and help you reach your goals: even if it’s being fooled under the placebo effect.

placebo_pill_bottle_mind_picThe placebo effect remains a bit of a mystery, even in our modern age of scientific reason and discovery. Most of us are still rather familiar with what a placebo is, and we’re used to hearing about placebos as a part of medical trials. Often during these experiments a group of patients are given an inert substance as a control. This lets those running the trial compare and contrast our reaction to the drug versus this inactive placebo. If a drug does better than the placebo, it is considered an effective treatment.

What we often don’t hear is how effective the placebo may have acted during these trials. Often a placebo will work as well as a drug or medication. Placebos tend to work on about 30 to 40 percent of those treated with them. This is a pretty powerful statistic. It means more than one third of the population responds to an inert compound, not a drug, with less pain, improved symptoms, or even complete healing. A placebo doesn’t have to be a compound pretending to be a drug either. A placebo can be a treatment, an operation, a food, or even an activity. These all can fool the mind into activating the healing and pain fighting processes of the body.

For years, doctors assumed a placebo relied on ignorance, but a recent study shows that even those told they were being given a placebo could still reap the benefits. In this study, participants were informed they were being given an inert substance without any active ingredients, but that these placebo substances could still improve symptoms through belief. Surprisingly, many believed and showed improvement with this foreknowledge.

This study altered the way we look at placebo. The long standing belief was that placebo had to be a deception for any benefits to appear. We now know this is not the case, and we can put it to use on ourselves to heal, reduce pain, lose weight, or accomplish many physical or mental changes we would like to achieve. Here’s how to get started.


believe_belief_picIt’s important you believe in the treatment, food, medication, or activity that you’re using. Placebo effect works best when we convince our brains that what we are doing will have some benefit. Placebo effect also compounds the benefits of things that are commonly accepted as good for us. Exercise, eating well, losing unnecessary weight, quitting a bad habit, or learning something new—these all work better when we believe in them and in the power they have over our health, our bodies, and our minds.

Avoid Negativity

There’s a dark side to the placebo effect, where negative expectations are realized by the brain and the body. This is often called the nocebo effect. Negativity is the enemy of the placebo effect, but it is also just a poor way to live. Try to see the best out of everything. Not only will the placebo effect work better, but you will be more pleasant to be around.


Do research into the beneficial nature of the foods, treatments, medication, or activities you are using. Knowing how something works and seeing evidence behind it will reinforce your positive expectations. Explore how vitamins and minerals interact with other nutrients in the body, which studies have shown promise, whole foods that promote healing, and which activities will best aid you as you work toward your goals.


Your brain is a powerful tool that is capable of more than any of us truly knows. Athletes will often spend hours visualizing the perfect goal or swing and it has been shown to improve their performance. You can apply these same tactics to your health. Visualize your symptoms improving, the healing process, weight loss, or whatever you are trying to achieve. Your brain will work hard to make it reality.

Make Goals

goals_goal_woman_archer_archery_picMake solid goals and start the changes necessary to achieve them, no matter how small. If you tell a group of workers that their job is intense enough that they should be losing weight and showing improved cardiovascular function, they will begin to lose weight and show improved cardiovascular function, well above other workers in the same field. Apply this to what you do. If you believe that parking farther from the grocery store will help you lose weight, you will begin to lose weight. If you believe that eating more fruits and vegetables will make you feel better, it will. Doing good things for yourself while believing in the value of them will make them work better and faster.

Meditation, energy work, tapping, acupressure, acupuncture, massage, using natural cures, exercise, and many other activities partially rely on the power of your mind to make them fully effective. The placebo effect isn’t magic though and it isn’t going to work for everything. Believing someone will drop a million dollars in your lap isn’t going to make it happen, but never underestimate the power of the mind, especially when it comes to mastering your own body. The brain is capable of releasing endorphins to fight pain, ramping up immune function when needed, creating hormones and enzymes to get things going in the right direction, and doing much more. Believe in that and let your body and mind work together to do some amazing things for you, your health, your fitness, and your well-being.

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