Our church choir gets to sing all sorts of wonderful tunes. Recently, we sang the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love,” tagged with the famous Abbey Road ending, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
It got me thinking… Wouldn’t that be nice? To just relax into the well-being of positive vibes and let that be what runs the world? Instead of the bombings, shootings, and political sniping that seem to go on every day, here or abroad, capturing our attention whether we like it or not.
Airy-fairy thinking? Maybe. Highly unlikely that violence-prone individuals will choose to lay down their arms in the immediate future, or that politics will turn into a love-fest. But you can put the “love you take is equal to the love you make” to your benefit, in a very real and tangible way, right here, right now.
Namely, in regards to your body (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?). Recent research on the effect of positive expectations on exercise found that the more you believe that exercise will benefit you, the more it will. One of the study’s authors, Hendrick Mothes, stated, “The results demonstrate that our belief in how much we will benefit from physical activity has a considerable effect on our well-being in the manner of a self-fulfilling prophecy.” In particular, people who had positive views in regard to their exercising enjoyed the exercise more, had lower anxiety after, and ended up in a better mood.
But positive expectations of exercise can do more than lower your anxiety and make you happier, as terrific as both those results are. Positive expectations can actually bring about real, measurable, weight loss and lowered blood pressure, as exemplified in one of my favorite studies, the “Hotel Maids” study (A. J. Crum and E. J. Langer, “Mind-Set Matters: Exercise and the Placebo Effect,” Psychological Science, 2007).
The work performed by room cleaners in each of two hotels exceeded the thirty minutes of daily exercise recommended by the Surgeon General, a fact none of the maids were aware of. The researchers shared this information with the maids at one of the hotels, including how many calories were burned in the course of each cleaning activity, and did not share the calorie-burning and other information with the maids at the second hotel.
The results? After just one month, the first “informed” group weighed an average of two pounds less, had a smaller percentage of body fat, and their systolic blood pressure was an average of ten points lower. This without the “informed” maids having altered their eating habits or exercise routine outside of work (which for most was irregular or non-existent). The second “uninformed” group showed virtually no changes in their weight, body fat, or blood pressure.
What happened? You guessed it. The “informed” hotel maids assigned positive meaning to what they were doing on the job, they looked at their work differently. These maids were no longer “just cleaning,” they were doing something they now expected to benefit their bodies. Their bodies obliged by responding to that mental and emotional message with weight loss, less body fat, and lower blood pressure even though the maids weren’t physically doing anything different.
Such is the power of positive expectation.
You give love to your body by holding positive expectations of the exercise (or any other activity) you are engaging in. Positive expectation is a way of encouraging and supporting what will assure your body’s well-being. Encouragement and support are critical to love, be it of your body, your spouse, your pets. Your body responds accordingly as do the others you love in your life.
Thus the equation: “the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Even in something as mundane as exercise.
Next up: world peace!