Peace Via Conviction
That Things Will Improve
There’s this word I keep coming back to.
Faith. It’s an unusual word, for sure.
Of course, it means many different things, to many different people.
Some people use it exclusively as a synonym for religion: “my faith tradition” becomes “my faith.” As such, it can represent someone’s identity.
It can mean something negative: People are killed in the name of various “faiths.” Throughout history, humans have attacked those outside their “faith,” or inside one they don’t like.
But let’s take back the word for a minute. It means much more than sectarianism and ideologies.
Faith is, at its heart, simply this: Hope on steroids.
Definition of hope:
A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.Oxford Language Dictionary
In other words, we want something to happen — desire. Desire is the foundation of hope.
But hope builds on the foundation of desire — it adds expectation.
We believe that reliably offering Hope should be one of the goals of the therapeutic relationship between clinician and patient.
…This article defines Hope in a new way by quantifying Hope as the delta or increase in one’s belief that a future positive state can be achieved.
Hope says: Not only do I want this, but I think it can happen.
Hope is clearly good — it’s now being recommended in scientific papers. I could certainly make the rest of this article about hope.
But why bring up the word faith?
The truth is, faith is exactly like hope — it just adds something more.
Look at this ancient description of the word faith:
“And faith is of things hoped for a confidence, of matters not yet seen a conviction.”
Faith is — at its heart — hope on steroids.
Hope says “Maybe it’s possible.”
But when hope grows larger, it turns into faith, saying: “It is possible.”
When expectation grows, we begin to feel confidence.
Again, why do I mention this? Why even broach this topic at all?
Because a healing spirit is one that expects healing. That’s why.
Conceptually, doubt is the opposing force to faith.
If hope & faith are the mindset of healing, doubt is the mindset of sickness.
Expecting good may not come naturally to us. The notion of the good that will come, or all the good that awaits us in the future. This idea that good things are waiting for you, just around the corner. Just out of sight.
In physics, scientists recognize that merely observing something changes it. It cannot be otherwise.
In the same way, when we observe — and look for — the good happening now, good things shine brighter.
Our fresh expectations — conscious or not — help us see the good happening in this moment. They help us look for it.
On the other hand, doubt covers up the good happening right now; it obfuscates the good. It can even blind us to real, true, good things occurring now.
But what about when things are pretty bad? Sleepless nights. Brain fog. Emotional turbulence. Family members doubting you.
The list goes on and on.
Hope doesn’t ignore the bad, doesn’t pretend it doesn’t exist.
Faith says: “I’m going to get better anyway.”
You, dearest reader, have the ability to uncover and amplify good things, both in the immediate present, and also in the future — and it can lead to fresh vision, fresh decisions, and fresh new options. But it begins, first, with what you’re expected: Good things or bad things?
And you may have plenty of legitimate reasons to expect bad things! Life can be tough.
But you can be, too.
Table of Contents
Do our expectations influence our bodies — our cells, our biology?
Does the body respond to these thoughts, and feelings?
The science is clear: Absolutely.
Studies on hope and health behaviors, as well as specific health outcomes such as pain, cancer, and chronic illness are included. Overall findings indicate that hope plays an important role in health.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36640676/
What you expect — good or bad — changes your cellular, hormonal, cognitive, & digestive behavior. And it can do so immediately — in mere seconds!
The effects also add up, too. They accumulate over time. Repeatedly expecting good vs constantly expecting bad — you can imagine what that does over months or years.
With hope, the body will function much more optimally, no matter its circumstances.
We believe that reliably offering Hope should be one of the goals of the therapeutic relationship between clinician and patient.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36636128/
Doubt is a powerful — and direct — precursor to stress:
Doubt [is] a highly prevalent entity, which acts “either as a catalyst or mediator of known forms of distress, or as a distinct form of distress”.https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/0142159X.2014.1001344
And stress — when chronic — can dramatically alter our cellular, hormonal, metabolic, immune, and cognitive function.
Any intrinsic or extrinsic stimulus that evokes a biological response is known as stress. The compensatory responses to these stresses are known as stress responses.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579396/
Stress can be either a triggering or aggravating factor for many diseases and pathological conditions.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579396/
We hear so much about stress. How terrible stress is on the body. How it raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, harms thyroid function (causing weight gain), and shuts down the digestive system. Stress changes your hormones, and your brain!
But what is stress, though, if not related to expectation for the future?
The WHO defines stress this way:
Stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. Stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives. Everyone experiences stress to some degree.World Health Organization
We spend so much time trying to reduce stress — and that’s great! For sure, one element of reducing stress is to remove/reduce the causes of stress.
Fewer obligations, fewer work hours, fewer belongings, fewer relationship dramas — these are all ways to reduce stress.
But the flip side of this equation is also: How we respond to stressors. How much do we worry? How much do we doubt?
Or, do we have “the conviction of” the things we’re hoping for — that things will be okay?
Not to be a downer, but in reality, there are so many reasons to expect bad things!
In fact, the natural state as we grow older is to expect bad. With each successive bad outcome, our faith is lost. We expect worse and worse.
Scientists call this a negativity bias — and it’s built into the human brain.
Why? Because that long, dark line on the ground might be a branch. But it could be a snake! And it’s better to expect the bad — and survive the snake — than expect the best and get bitten.
We do this with every situation, as humans, and extrapolate it far into the future.
Tough childhood? Rough friends? Selfish romantic partners? Each experience teaches us “how the world is” and our brains learn it.
Our brains are incredible learners: We learn to expect the bad.
Ironically, though, a distressed brain doesn’t learn new things very well! It will struggle with tasks and school work. When stressed, you might feel less intelligent.
But your brain always learns one thing well — the old lessons — when stressed: To expect bad things.
The negativity bias gets stronger the more often we become — and stay — stressed out.
After all, this is life! Bad things happen. Through classical conditioning, the brain begins to expect worse outcomes.
There may even be a decision, in the brain, to abandon hope! Why? It’s easier. It’s natural. It protects us from disappointment.
The more we want something, the more it stings to not get it. So we decide to “not care” anymore whether our outcome happens. Not caring is easier than wanting and not getting. Suffering is reduced via detachment, as the Buddhist might say.
After all, what’ll it hurt? “I can still be pleasantly surprised if something goes well.”
But “waiting for the other shoe to drop” isn’t actually detachment, and it’s not harmless. The science demonstrates this, too.
And if we’re seeking health — or any goal — expecting bad outcomes seems powerful, though not in a good way.
The spirit of healing expects good.
There are so many reasons to expect good things, too.
But our past experiences may not be one of them.
That’s okay, we don’t need past experience to have faith — or, positive expectancy.
In fact, our past experience may work against our having faith.
But faith is okay with that. Faith is unmoved by past experience. Faith exists — and even becomes most active — when all we have are reasons to doubt.
And that attitude is incredibly beneficial in nearly any of life’s endeavours.
Look no further than sports: Every time a team achieves “the impossible” they first, believed.
There was a time that no NBA Finals team had ever come back from being down 3-1. But in 2018, the Cavaliers did it. Their coach said: “We were down 3-1 but we never lost confidence.“
They believed when they had very little reason to. Their opponent had the best record in history. No team had ever come back. They had faith, anyway.
Looking back, you may have zero reasons to feel confidant. Your history looks tough, so why should your future change?
I’ll tell you why it’s worth it to develop — to cultivate — faith:
It’s the only alternative if you want the best results possible.
Yes, you can improve without belief. The body can heal if it gets what it needs. I’ve seen this, actually! I’ve helped clients who didn’t expect to improve, and they improved anyway.
But they would have gotten better faster — if they’d believed they would.
How much better is sleep when we trust that tomorrow will be okay?
How much better is each meal’s digestion with that trust?
How much better is each conversation — each moment? How much calmer?
When we cultivate trust — another synonym for faith — the body instantly gets on a better track. The brain works better. We digest food better. Our inflammation improves.
Under stress, the body increases cortisol production, which suppresses all aspects of the immune system, not just inflammation. This can lower resistance to disease.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1796768/
Replacing worry — with confidence — improves every aspect of our health, both immediately and in the long run.
But it’s not just biochemistry. As thinking actors, we learn better and make better decisions when we expect good.
Yes, sometimes improving health involves decision making: Choosing a diet. Interpreting symptoms. Taking supplements. Finding great healthcare providers.
Stress & worry can make these decisions more difficult. We might miss clear signals, persist too long in failed experiments, or ignore the right path.
The longer — and deeper — your health journey, the more important it is to think clearly. Expecting good helps with that.
It even helps with discernment: We’ll notice red flags, and move on, knowing better is out there.
Clinging to bad ideas can be viewed as a lack of faith: “I don’t think I have other options. I don’t think my body can heal without this paradigm.”
There are opportunities — endless, countless opportunities — the right people, the right answers, the right solutions. And they’re available to you, even now.
But if we’re not looking for them… Will we see them?
There’s an old saying I love. It’s a bit mystical.
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Another way to put this: When the eyes are looking for it, it’s more likely to appear.
Is that magic? Or is that just common sense?
“Your faith has made you well.”
The placebo effect is very, very real.
It’s also, clearly, not magic. It doesn’t cause people to fly, or lose weight over night.
But it is something.
And what it is, is a foundation to build on. It puts your body at its best — the best it can be, right now, in this moment. You are open to change, to results.
But I want to parse this out a bit further. This is an important concept, here:
Should we have faith everytime we try a new approach?
With every new supplement? Every new medication?
I actually don’t think so. In fact, I think having faith in specific modalities — before it’s earned — is a great way to wear out your hope.
You see, I’m not talking about blind faith. I’m not romanticizing naive faith in seductive, but bad, ideas. I’m not asking you to turn your brain off.
Reserve your faith for things that are worth it. For supplements, diets, and habits that you know help you.
When you try a new approach: Be neutral about it. Observe. See how things go.
You’ll have either:
- a bad response
- no response
- a good response
If you have a good response, there you go! Now you can have some faith in this approach. Over time, keep testing it. If it continues to help you, your trust can grow in this approach.
It’s important to stay neutral, though, long enough to really know. Also, understand that many approaches inherently un-balance the body over time. Even if they cause benefits at first. I suggest you read up on side effects of any approach. Learn about nutrient balancing. Be wary of extreme recommendations. Just because an herb is natural, or hormones can be nudged with pills — doesn’t mean there are no consequences.
But when something passes the test, now give it your faith.
“I know that going to bed early proved the best possible support for my gut, brain, and immunity.”
Tack it on the list — of things that help you.
“I know that this multivitamin is well-balanced, and moves me toward better health.”
Add it to the “good” list.
When we have lots of little things that we know are helping — our faith can grow.
“I’m moving in the right direction.” Trust is growing.
And this is where faith really is effective: Over the long-term.
I can’t know how every individual moment will go. I can’t see the future.
But I know that I’m going to be okay.
In fact, I’ll add this: No matter what, I will be okay.
In other words: Come what may, I’m going to choose faith.
That what? That “all shall be well.”
It’s a choice. A decision. No matter the challenge, I will be all right. That’s the spirit of faith — and it invokes healing.
And why live any other way? Sure we can be discouraged — it’s natural to be.
Sure we can get down — it’s normal.
Sure we can feel negative emotions — it’s healthy to.
But deep down, I choose to believe that everything is going to be all right. We can get through it, we always will. No matter what.
And each good experience, each step, each skill we learn — “I know sitting in the sauna improves my health, I feel so much better afterward” — means our hope grows even more.
It’s even more powerful when two people –friends, partners, spouses, loved ones — agree: “We will be okay, no matter what. We will always be okay.”
It’s not arrogance, it’s commitment. It’s not weakness, it’s strength. It’s not doubt, it’s assurance. It’s “conviction of things unseen.”
It’s the “no matter what.”
That’s hope. That’s faith.
And does it set you up for the best results possible? Absolutely. It primes the mind and body for improvement.
Does it heal? It’s the spirit of healing.
General vs Specific
So there’s general faith — “I will, ultimately, be okay — no matter what.”
And there’s specific faith — “This habit helps me, each day.”
There’s faith in your body — “My body knows how to be healthy, especially if I support it. It knows what to do.”
There’s faith in your mind — “I can make good decisions for my health.”
I have to mention there’s something magical about belief.
Even when we believe in the silliest ideas, there’s something to it. Or maybe especially when we believe the silliest ideas.
Strange things happen when the human brain is believing.
I’ve seen it, myself. And I can’t explain it. So I won’t try to.
“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”Lewis Carrol; Alice in Wonderland
How big are you dreaming? As one of my good friends likes to say: “Dream bigger.”
How big is your faith? That good things can happen — that good things await?
That the right people will find you? That the right solutions will present themselves? That answers — to whatever you’re seeking — will appear?
It may not take as much faith as you think:
“If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”
I don’t know if moving mountains is anyone’s goal, here. But I recognize that — that spirit — that’s the spirit of healing.
“There are men on whom the mere sight of medicine is healing.”Michel de Montaigne, 1597
We’ve discussed faith — and how much it, alone, can help reduce worry, find better solutions, and even invite calm.
Now let’s explore the importance of — and practical ways to attract more — calm.