Oct 12, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by Alia Crum
Psychologist Alia Crum’s research reveals that the way we think about our health can change our health outcomes. She explains the surprising ways mindsets influence health, and how we can use them to improve well-being.
Three days before my regional gymnastics meet in Arkansas I landed awkwardly on a practice vault, clashing my inner ankle bones. The pain was excruciating—as was the prospect of an injury crushing my dream of competing nationally. I was determined to go on, so I decided to adopt the mindset that I could mentally overcome my physical injury. I diligently iced, taped and tended to it while visualizing myself making it to nationals in spite of the setback.
I competed and placed high enough to qualify, and was elated as well as surprised by how little the pain had affected me. Another surprise: An x-ray the next day showed that my ankle had been broken.
My experience at age 10 shows the power of mindset—the frame of mind through which we perceive, interpret, and organize an inherently complex world. The ability to make sense of the world through our mindsets is a natural part of being human. But the mindsets we hold are not inconsequential. In fact they change reality by influencing our attention, affect, motivation, and physiology. I had decided my injury wasn’t going to influence my performance, and almost impossibly, it didn’t.