Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mental Practice Proven Effective

According to self-help programs like "The Secret," you are creating your future, right now, with everyone one of your thoughts.  Stop and imagine an elephant in the room with you?  Did one appear?  If that's too "out there", how about imagining your wife coming into your room right now to give you a kiss?  [for the record I just tried it for 5 minutes...she didn't come in.]

So, it seems like a bunch of baloney to me, right?  I have a biochemistry and medical background where everything is based on scientific, repeatable studies.  Do they show any kind of real science in this video?  Not much if any, and some of the claims are outright nonsense.

But, the some of history's greatest thinkers agree with the law of attraction presented in "The Secret."  What's up?  So, I started doing some research.  Is there something to this "think it into reality" babbling?

It makes sense that your thoughts become things if you have some action mixed in there.  If I imagine I'm flying right now, it won't just happen.  But, Wilbur and Orville Wright imagined they were flying [at some point in their future], and it worked!

Your thoughts dictate your actions, which drastically effect the results you get in life.  Ok, that makes sense, so why is "The Secret" so ooh ahh magical sounding?  Is there more to it than just the old, "think about a goal, make a plan, take some action, and achieve your goal?"

Look up "Motor Imagery" or "Mental Practice" in the medical journals.  Then look it up in articles also related to "Olympic Athletes."  What you'll find is that there is a surprisingly huge effect of thoughts on motor neurons.

Motor Imagery used to improve paralysis
One example of using motor imagery[3] in a medical setting is for rehabilitation after paralyzing strokes.  In just twelve 1-hour sessions of imagining physical movements one group was able to improve movement in a stroke victim dealing with paralysis.  The same study used another stroke victim as a control who did not receive the motor imagery sessions.  This person, sadly, didn't improve as the person did who used motor imagery.  Look it up, there are many larger studies with similar results.

Mental Practice used by Olympic Athletes
Mental Practice, imagery, and visualization have been used successfully by Olympic Athletes for years [1].

Mental Practice used medically
Mental practice has been shown in clinical studies to improve physical performance and rehabilitiation [2].  

[1] WHO USES MENTAL PRACTICE?, Steven Ungerleider, PhD,, viewed 12/2009.
[2] Mental Practice With Motor Imagery: Evidence for Motor Recovery and Cortical Reorganization After Stroke, Andrew J. Butler, Stephen J. Page, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation - December 2006 (Vol. 87, Issue 12, Supplement, Pages 2-11, DOI: 10.1016/j.apmr.2006.08.326)
[3] Using Motor Imagery in the Rehabilitation of Hemiparesis ,
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Volume 84, Issue 7, Pages 1090-1092