Most people are familiar with the placebo effect: a patient who is given a sugar pill that he thinks is medicine may well receive a therapeutic effect. Scientists believe that the combination of positive belief about a drug or treatment with the nurturing care of a healing professional provides the best possible treatment outcomes.

The “nocebo effect” is just the opposite: negative beliefs about a course of treatment can prevent its effectiveness. Simply by labeling a disease “chronic” (or worse, “incurable”), a doctor may be creating a belief in the mind that can be harmful to the body. The human body has an amazing ability to heal itself, and the involvement of a healer can provide a healing presence that greatly facilitates the process. Patients need doctors to be partners in healing, fostering positive beliefs about their ability to achieve lasting wellness.

Keep in mind that you know your body better than anyone, medical professionals included. It’s your body; you’re the one ultimately responsible for making decisions about your care. Your doctor’s role is to make treatment recommendations, educate you about your options, and enable the healing process. While doctors and other medical personnel bring specialized training and expertise to the process, the fact is that anyone with the ability to spend time listening and nurturing can provide a healing presence. Combining traditional medical care with holistic self-healing techniques can greatly improve your ability to achieve true wellness.Never underestimate the body’s capacity to spontaneously bounce back from disease.

Heredity is a strong factor in determining health or illness, but it is not the only factor. The science of epigenetics is offering promising glimpses into how the mind can exert control over which genes are “turned on.” You can’t alter your DNA, but your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes can influence the way it behaves. Combining a positive mental attitude with nutrition, exercise, and a healthy environment can prevent diseases to which you are genetically prone from manifesting. It’s therefore incredibly important to be mindful about your thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs; they can mean the difference between wellness and illness.

Positive, healthy relationships are also very important in generating lasting wellness. Human beings are social beings who need positive interaction to be mentally and physically healthy. Finding other people who share your interests and joining them in pursuing the things you most enjoy doing can bolster both your health and longevity.

Finding your calling and doing what you love may also keep you healthy and lengthen your life. People who have things to look forward to, who have strong reasons for living, are much less likely to become depressed than those who do not. This is why discovering your passion–the thing you most love to do–is so important for a long and healthy life. Anxiety and depression are toxic to both your mind and body; when these are chronic, they can lead to serious illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and stroke. Engaging in what makes you happy and finding ways to relax can help protect you against these illnesses.

An optimistic world view is also essential to physical and mental health. “Glass-half-full” people aren’t just more enjoyable to be around; they also tend to be healthier and live longer. A positive attitude also affects your ability to ward off infection and fight inflammation, and optimists tend to bounce back from illness relatively quickly.

To heal yourself and achieve true wellness, you must diagnose the root cause of your illness, and in what ways your life may be somehow out of alignment. Undeniably real physiological symptoms sometimes stem from root causes that begin as feelings, thoughts, and beliefs; many physical illnesses take root when something in the mind disables the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms.

Facing the emotional root causes of your illness may be challenging and even a bit frightening at first, but it is well worth the effort. Coming to terms with these issues, and maintaining a positive mental attitude, can pay great dividends in lasting wellness.