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Am I As Healthy As I Think? Health is a Mindset


In recent weeks we have been exploring perceptions through questions like “Why do we fear what we fear?” In this video we will dive into how our health is impacted by our perceptions of physical wellness.


Let’s start with a study that involved 84 housekeeping staff at 7 different hotels. The researchers started by collecting health data from the participants. They measured their:

  • Weight

  • Blood pressure

  • Waist-to-hip ratio

  • Body mass index

  • Percent body fat (using bioelectrical impedance analysis)

Participants were interviewed about their health habits such as what they ate and consumption of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, nicotine use and amount of exercise.


Even though the tasks these employees performed (such as cleaning bathrooms and changing bed linens) for 5 to 7 hours a day is strenuous physical activity, over 66% of the participants reported that they did not exercise regularly because their perception of exercise involved going to the gym.


Next the researchers told the participants at four of the hotels (the Informed Group) that the movement required by their job exceeded the CDC’s recommendations for an active lifestyle. Their work activities counted as exercise. They were given handouts showing the estimated caloric expenditure for various tasks. Participants at the other hotels (the Control Group) were only told they would get health improvement feedback at the conclusion of the study. 


Over the next 4 weeks, management at each hotel ensured that the participants’ workload stayed steady. In other words, all the participants maintained the same activity level at work. Their health habits stayed steady, too. No surprise there - we all know how difficult it can be to change eating habits or give up nicotine, alcohol, caffeine or sugar.


Although the Informed Group did not change their physical activity outside of work, their perception of exercising regularly doubled— because they viewed their work tasks as exercise. The Informed Group experienced significant improvements in every physiological measure. Mean weight dropped nearly 2 pounds. Mean blood pressure dropped from 130/80 to 120/75. Keep in mind - this is over a 4 week period. 





The authors of the study concluded that how we feel about our health has a measurable effect on our physical body.

“…it is time for all of us to explore more direct means of controlling our health, such as pursuing mindfulness as a tool to actively and deliberately change our mind-sets.”

If you are feeling skeptical, this is just one study showing that our physical body changes based on what we believe. In a study out of Japan, researchers told participants that were rubbing their arms with leaves from a plant similar to poison ivy. Even though the leaves were harmless, all 13 participants had a reaction consistent with contact dermatitis.


In a 2013 study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, patients diagnosed with a medial meniscus tear experienced the same level of pain relief up to 12 months later regardless of whether they had arthroscopic surgery or sham surgery. Their knee felt better even if all the doctor did was put them to sleep and cut incisions but did not perform the full procedure. 


So what do you think? If you watched my video “I Judge People” you know that our perceptions are shaped by our experiences, our interpretation of those experiences, and how we feel about ourselves. These are not fixed aspects — they can - and do - change.

I believe that we create our own reality. How we perceive our health is how it is. 



Here’s links to the source material if you want to read it for yourself.





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