Have you ever followed your gut, trusted your instincts, or believed something was going to happen and it did? There’s science to back up the idea that our thoughts can drastically impact our feelings and experiences. And it’s incredibly powerful information that everyone should know.
What is the Law of Attraction?
The Law of Attraction is the ability to attract what we are focusing on into our lives; it’s the idea that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into reality. This belief is based on the philosophy that we’re all made up of energy, and because energy attracts energy, our thoughts can attract the good and the bad, depending on our focuses and expressed desires.
At the core of the Law of Attraction is the belief that anything imagined is achievable if you deem it possible and take action accordingly. Some people call this the practice of manifestation. Part of the Law of Attraction involves visualization — imagining that the desired changes have already occurred. Our belief in something may impact our reality, or our perception of our reality, which is just as important.
The history of the Law of Attraction
The concept of attracting what we put out into the universe is an age-old one. However, it was less than 200 years ago that the Law of Attraction was first given its name, as one of the most famous teachings of the 19th-century New Thought movement.
First described in the 1860s and 1870s by authors such as Helena Blavatsky, Ralph Waldo Trine, and Prentice Mulford, the Law of Attraction draws from various philosophical and religious traditions, including Hinduism, Christianity, and transcendentalism. The concept saw a resurgence thanks to several popular self-help books like You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Most recently, the Law of Attraction has experienced a revival of sorts, thanks to the 2006 movie, The Secret, and a book published the following year under the same name.
How has the Law of Attraction been proven by science?
The Law of Attraction centers on optimism: if we believe it, it can come true. While the mind may not literally draw experiences or circumstances to it like a magnet, optimism can be a powerful motivator to reach the goals we want to achieve. Evidence suggests that those of us with an optimistic outlook are naturally inclined to see the cloud’s silver lining and downplay negatives, setting the stage to work more diligently to a certain goal or outcome.
There’s also something to be said for the power of positive thinking. Several studies have linked looking on the bright side with a longer life span, including one from Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and one published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences in 2019. Positive affirmations, in which we encourage ourselves to combat negative thoughts and embrace positive ones, can help support our self-worth and self-identity, which in turn enables us to pursue positivity.
Finally, there’s a link between the parts of the brain responsible for setting intention and responsible for action. Researchers at the University of Western Ontario studied functional MRI imaging while subjects grasped at objects. The brain imaging uncovered that areas of the brain associated with intention accurately predicted grasp and reach movements.
What is the Placebo Effect?
Like the Law of Attraction, the Placebo Effect unlocks the mind-body connection, showcasing the power of the brain in convincing the body that it is experiencing treatment, in turn stimulating real healing. Placebos are traditionally used by researchers to understand the effects of a new medical drug or treatment. In a standard clinical trial, some patients are given a medicine and others are given a placebo, a “fake” treatment, to determine the effectiveness of the new drug and evaluate any side effects. However, science shows that under some circumstances, a placebo can be just as effective as traditional medical treatments. That means that the mere thought that a treatment is working causes a real, beneficial response, especially when an issue is grounded in self-awareness.
How has the Placebo Effect been proven by science?
The placebo effect is well-documented and placebos are known to cause a biological response. A 2014 study in Science Translational Medicine explored this by testing how people reacted to migraine pain medication. One group took a migraine drug labeled with the drug's name, another took a placebo labeled "placebo," and a third group took nothing. The researchers discovered that the placebo was 50% as effective as the real drug in reducing pain after migraines.
Researchers speculate that one driving force behind the success of placebos is the ritual; the simple act of taking a pill as though it is a medicine stimulates results in the body. It is possible that the positive perception of a medicine may stimulate the brain to thinking the body is being healed.
The placebo effect demonstrates the powerful and undeniable connection between the mind and body in what we feel and experience. The stronger someone expects certain results, the more likely it is that the person will experience the desired outcome. The same appears to be true for negative effects: if someone expects to have a negative side effect, there is a greater chance of it actually happening.
So why does this matter?
The Law of Attraction and the efficacy of placebos show us that we always have a degree of control over our reality and fate.
By understanding the mind-body connection, we can attract more of what we want and less of what we don’t. It is possible to manifest health, happiness and meaningful relationships at any stage of life with the proper tools and most of all, conviction that it’s possible.