I am about to ask you a question. Think hard about it before answering.
How long do you expect to live?
If your answer is not forever, then you may be killing yourself.
You’ve heard of the placebo effect, which shows the power of the mind over the body. Whatever any healthcare provider provides, it includes a pinch of placebo, which is the patient’s belief that the treatment will work. This positive expectation actually helps it work, although sometimes the treatment has no therapeutic power on its own, and is purely a placebo effect, like a “sugar pill” .
But what if you have a negative expectation about the treatment? Well, you can then experience the nocebo effect.
Say you have a fear of doctors and medications, and you typically avoid doctors like the plague, but you feel desperate and get a prescription for a drug. You swallow the pill cautiously, concerned about all the side effects it can cause. Well, due to the nocebo effect, your negative expectations can create the side effects you fear.
The nocebo effect also caused some people who feared the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine to experience worse side effects, according to a recent report.
It’s clear from these placebo and nocebo effects that our expectations help create our responses to healthcare. The mind is powerful, and sets up our bodily response to things.
Put differently, our expectations set us up. They are self-fulfilling prophesies.
When I asked about how long you expect to live, you had to think about the fact that you will die. We live our lives based on our expectations about death. And as we get older, we see ourselves approaching the end, and expect our ultimate decay, deterioration, and demise.
But what if we’re wrong? What if our belief in death is setting us up for death?
I know it sounds strange to question death as a fact of life. Amazingly, nobody really knows what death is. We see other people apparently die, but have no personal experience with death, making it’s really hard to get into the head of the dead. But we take on faith that we will someday die, too, and accept that all our plans will end in old age, if not sooner.
So when we get older, we see certain health problems as irreversible signs of aging. At a younger age, we would have expected to recover quickly. As we get “old”, we expect our healing process will falter, and that we are becoming victims of chronic disease.
Our expectation of decline makes us decline. I call this the deathcebo effect, and it puts nails in our own coffin.
Of course, there is the opposite of the deathcebo effect, which, instead of being an expectation of death, is the expectation of life. I call this the lifecebo effect, and it tells your body, including your immune system, that you are going to get better, and that your ability to heal and recover are strong. It is life affirming, and works with the placebo effect to heal you.
This means the placebo and lifecebo effects are both positive, life-affirming expectations which we all need to stay healthy. The nocebo and deathcebo effects put us in a spiral of negative expectations and outcomes.
Here are some suggestions to help you life forever.
1. Stop equating age with health status. There are people in their 90s who are healthier than some in their 20s.
2. Expect to live forever. The more you expect to get better and live, the greater your chances of doing just that.
3. Live your life like it is never going to end. This means staying invested in the present and the future. You are as relevant to the times as you expect yourself to be.
4. Continue to develop yourself, learning new things. Old dogs can learn new tricks.
5. Keep in mind that the more you worry about decaying and dying, the more you will accelerate that process. See life as endless, which is a lot more cheerful than the opposite.
If you follow those 5 suggestions and don’t life forever, don’t let me know. I want to keep my positive vibe going until the end, which will never come.