One of my clients, who I’ll call “Sam,” once told me about his experience on a flight back to Los Angeles from New York. The woman next to him looked sick. Throughout the flight, she would periodically go through coughing fits. 

This was before the coronavirus pandemic, but nevertheless Sam was extremely perturbed, nervous about the thought of getting sick. Sure enough, during the course of the flight, he began to feel progressively worse. He started to get chills. He also noticed a tickle in his throat and his body started to feel achy. Anxious and negative thoughts consumed his mind for most of the flight. He began thinking about alternative arrangements he would have to make for work, and various social events he planned to attend would likely need to be cancelled.

As the plane prepared for landing, the coughing woman began chatting with him. “Boy, that seemed like a long flight,” she said cordially. At first Sam was appalled. He considered ignoring her, fearing that engaging with her would increase his risk of contamination. But his kindness got the better of him. Additionally he thought he might be able to extract what kind of illness he was likely contracting from her.

During their amiable conversation, Sam tactfully enquired about her illness. “Oh, I’m not sick,” she chuckled embarrassingly. “I was scoffing down a packet of mixed nuts before the flight and something got stuck in my throat,” she explained. “I think I finally got it out,” she added coyly.

An instant sense of relief swept over Sam. His body relaxed for the first time since he boarded. It wasn’t long before he was feeling psychologically and physically better. He snickered to himself, realizing he had literally talked himself into being sick, imagining every ache and pain. By the time the plane landed, he felt perfectly healthy again. 

Sam was convinced that if he hadn’t spoken to his seatmate and discovered she wasn’t sick, he probably would have continued to think himself into being ill. This is how powerful our mind can be. This power can be used to our detriment or for our healing.

The key is to harness our thoughts so we can use this internal resource for our wellbeing. If we can think ourselves into being sick, then we can just as assuredly think ourselves into being healthy.  This is one of the most effective tools we have for our health, including strengthening our immune system. It’s free and readily available—always here for us, whenever and however we choose to use it.