Hypnosis skeptics often say that “hypnosis is all in the mind” as if that somehow invalidates the concept of hypnosis and its effectiveness.

Or, a skeptic will pronounce that hypnosis is simply due to the placebo effect. What is the placebo effect? It is accidental self-hypnosis and self-hypnosis is a person’s ability to convince themselves of any belief.

No matter what a skeptic believes, here is the truth: Our thoughts and feelings influence our bodies via two mechanisms or systems. These two systems are the nervous system and the endocrine system.

The brain reaches into the body via the nervous system. This allows it to send nerve impulses into all the body's tissues and influence their behavior. The brain can thus affect the behavior of the immune system with its nerve endings extending into the bone marrow (the birthplace of all white cells), the thymus, the spleen, and the lymph nodes.

The nervous system, controlled by the brain, also reaches into all the glands of the endocrine system (the second system of brain influence), all the bones, muscles, internal organs, and even the walls of veins and arteries. It can influence the behavior of the heart with its nerves penetrating the heart tissue, affecting heart rate and other aspects of the heart's functioning. The entire body is literally "wired" by the brain.

The brain is also a gland. It manufactures thousands of different kinds of chemicals and releases them into the bloodstream. These chemicals circulate throughout the body and influence the activity and behavior of all the body's tissues. The brain could be described as the ultimate apothecary, producing many more drugs than science has ever invented.

The cells of the body have receptors on their surfaces that function somewhat like satellite dishes. These receptors receive the chemical messages being released by the brain and respond accordingly.

And, remember that the mind/body connection is a two-way street. In addition to sending messages into the body's tissues, the brain also receives feedback, both in the form of nerve impulses and its own receptors that sense what chemicals are being released by other tissues in the body.

All of the preceding is designed to set the foundation for this statement: we human beings are not mind and body creatures—we are mind/body creatures. What I mean by this is that although separated by words, the body and the mind are not separate. And this brings us to the next section in this article:

Do Emotions Influence Our Immune System?

Now, even though it is intuitively obvious that emotions influence our bodies, it is not as obvious that emotions can and often do significantly alter our immune systems and our physical health.

This idea has long been suspected by some in the traditional health care field but the major approach to health care has primarily been “sick care” using medications and surgery.

There is now considerable evidence that emotional traits both negative and positive, influence a person’s susceptibility to infection and illness of many kinds.

For example, in his book, "The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of MindBody Disorders", Dr. John Sarno and several other doctors discuss amazing changes in a wide variety of patient conditions brought about simply by talking.

In fact, some readers of Dr. Sarno’s first book, "Healing Back Pain" were relieved of their pain simply by reading his book. He has testimonial letters to that effect.

Another proponent of this “new truth” about the mind/body connection is Dr. Sheldon Doyle. In the 2003 journal of "Psychosomatic Medicine" he wrote an excellent article titled "Emotional Style and Susceptibility to the Common Cold".

In his article, he states that following systematic exposure to a respiratory virus in the laboratory, individuals who report higher levels of stress or negative moods have been shown to develop more severe illness than those who report less stress or more positive moods.

And, in the May, 2001 issue of "Psychoneuroendocrinology", Dr. Smith (not the one from Lost In Space) wrote an article stating that recent studies suggest that the tendency to report that positive, as opposed to negative, emotions may be associated with greater resistance to objectively verified colds.

Smith reviewed laboratory studies that are supported by longitudinal studies pointing to associations between psychological or emotional traits and the incidence of respiratory infections.

And, in the book "21st Century Medicine: Clinical Evidence for the Healing Power of the Mind", over 100 clinically documented cases of incredible changes in 50 major conditions have been discussed in an easy-to-read manner.

The evidence is becoming very difficult to ignore that the mind and body connection to virtually all illness is far more than what has been believed. The flip side to this realization is that the mind/body connection and contribution to good health is now becoming very real.

The point to this is that the “feeling mind” is now clinically proven to frequently (but not always) be a decisive factor and to always be a contributing factor, to a person’s physical health.

And this brings us to the next section in this article: The immune system and happiness:

The immune system and happiness is a combination which has received very little consideration.

According to Dr. Yoram Barak, “the effects of positive human emotions, especially happiness, on physiological parameters and immunity have received very little attention.” (1)

Barak also talks about how emotions are intimately involved in the initiation or progression of cancer, HIV, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disorders.

Dr. Barak also goes on to state: “The specific physiological responses induced by pleasant stimuli were recently investigated with the immune and endocrine systems being monitored when pleasant stimuli such as odors and emotional pictures were presented to subjects. The results revealed that an increase in secretory immunoglobulin A and a decrease in salivary cortisol were induced by pleasant emotions.” (2)

What is little known is that physiological responses can also be induced (only with permission) by hypnosis and here is what the Mayo Clinic has to say about hypnosis:

Hypnosis became popular as a treatment for medical conditions in the late 1700s when effective pharmaceutical and surgical treatment options were limited. To determine whether hypnosis has a role in contemporary medicine, relevant trials and a few case reports are reviewed. Despite substantial variation in techniques among the numerous reports, patients treated with hypnosis experienced substantial benefits for many different medical conditions. An expanded role for hypnosis and a larger study of techniques appear to be indicated.”(3)

The main point of this article has been to show that hypnosis is simply the effective utilization of currently known and understood body and mind principles. And, it is the author’s hope that any person fearful or skeptical of hypnosis will begin to have a different, more accurate understanding of hypnosis.

And the secondary purpose of this article has been to give good evidence showing that the beneficial effects of hypnosis can help people from respiratory infections to autoimmune disorders.

Remember, when what you are doing/experiencing isn’t working very well (if at all), then it’s time to “Think outside the box.”

Thanks for taking time to read this article and passing it along to anyone it can help.

Devin Hastings


1) Autoimmunity Reviews Volume 5, Issue 8, October 2006, Pages 523-527
Dr. Yoram Barak, Director Psychogeriatric Department, Abarbanel Mental Health Center, Bat-Yam and the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University

2) Ibid #1

3) Excerpted from: Hypnosis in Contemporary Medicine
Jame H. Stewart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine and Division of Cardiovascular Diseases, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Jacksonville, Fla.
Mayo Clin Proceedings. 2005;80:511-524

Author's Bio: 

Devin is the president of the Minnesota Institute of Advanced Communication Skills and the owner of MindBody Hypnosis.

As well as having authored 4 books and over 30 audio/video progams, Devin has taught certification courses across the U.S. and overseas from London to Melbourne.

His mission is to help people to become better friends to themselves.

His motto is: "Speak well to yourself because your deep mind is always listening."