David has a PhD in organic chemistry and spent 4 years in the pharmaceutical industry, developing drugs for cardiovascular disease and cancer. Inspired by the placebo effect, he left the industry to write books (my favourite’s about kindness and self-love) and educate people in how they can harness their mind and emotions to improve their health.
He is now author of 10 books, including, ‘The Little Book of Kindness’, ‘How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body’, ‘I Heart Me’ and the Amazon bestseller, ‘The Five Side Effects of Kindness’.
We chat about:
- How the mind can heal the body
- The power of beliefs
- David shares his journey from low self-esteem to more to self love
- Why kindness is so powerful (hint: it has powerful effects beyond just making us feel good)
- How kindness is contagious
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Chloe Brotheridge: Hello, and welcome to the Calmer You podcast. This is your host, Chloe Brotheridge. I’m a coach, a hypnotherapist, and I’m the author of The Anxiety Solution and Brave New Girl. This podcast is all about helping you to become your calmest happiest and most confident.
Thanks so much for listening today. I am super excited for today’s guest. David Hamilton PhD, is someone that I have admired for ages. I have been to his workshops and read his books. He is definitely someone that I massively look up to and find really inspiring.
David has a PhD in organic chemistry and spent four years in the pharmaceutical industry developing drugs for cardiovascular disease and cancer.
David then left the industry to start writing books about the placebo effect and how they can harness the mind and emotions to improve health. He comes at it from a scientific point of view. I think when we often hear about this we think that it isn’t very scientific. But actually, it really is. It’s so interesting how powerful our mind is.
I love his books
He’s now the author of 10 books, including The Little Book of Kindness, How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body, and I Heart Me and the Amazon bestseller the Five Side Effects of Kindness.
What else we talk about
We get into how the mind can heal the body. This is so interesting to me as a hypnotherapist. I think you’re really gonna enjoy hearing about this. We also talked about the power of beliefs. Our beliefs are so important and powerful. They really do shape our thoughts and feelings. And we talk about why kindness is so powerful. Just as a hint, it has really powerful effects.
Aside from just making us feel good, David shares his own journey from low self-esteem to more self-love. I think he’s just one of the best storytellers out there. We talked about how kindness is actually contagious. I really hope you enjoy this episode with David Hamilton PhD.
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I’m so looking forward to speaking to you and sharing your brilliance with all the listeners. I came to see you speak about four years ago in London. You were talking about your book, I Heart Me, and it was the best workshop I’ve ever been to. I’ve been to a lot of workshops and seen a lot of personal development teachers and yours was my absolute favourite.
Can you share with the listeners a bit about what you do and how you got to where you are today?
Legos and organic chemistry
David Hamilton: Sure. I mostly read on topics from the science of kindness, the mind-body connection, and self-esteem. I got into it in a roundabout way. My PhD is in organic chemistry. It has nothing to do with organic foods. It’s like playing Lego. Instead of taking Lego blocks of different shapes and sizes and colours, to assemble ships, you take atoms. Atoms are my building blocks, but the concept of stacking Lego blocks together is the same.
I would build a variety of shapes, but the shapes that I built would end up as pharmaceutical drugs. Working at one of the largest pharmaceutical companies, the drugs I was helping to build and develop were for cardiovascular disease and cancer. The drug testing process was the most interesting thing for me because it taught me about the placebo effect.
There were examples of so many people making improvements off of a placebo. While I worked as a scientist to do my proper science job, I did a lot of research through the medical journals about the mind-body connection. After 40 years, I decided to resign from the industry, because I really wanted to write and teach. That’s pretty much what I do know – write and teach.
Chloe Brotheridge: I really wanted to ask you about the placebo affect and what’s actually happening.
David Hamilton 06:31: When I was a scientist, I asked some of my senior colleagues at the time about it. Isn’t this amazing? Look how many people are improving on the placebo? They would say, oh, it’s all in the mind, but they’re not really getting better. They just think they’re getting better. I would look at the actual analysis and say, well, they’re not just thinking they’re getting better. Something is actually physically happening in the body. That’s when I started believing.
For example, someone may be given a placebo to reduce some pain. Then they’re given a placebo, but they think it’s an actual drug. Because they think or they believe it’s an actual drug, the brain produces its own natural painkillers. The brains natural painkillers actually reduce the pain.
So it’s not just that you think you’re feeling better, or you just imagine the pain is going away. The pain really does go away, because your brain has produced natural painkillers. The reason why your brain has produced natural painkillers is that you believe that this drug here is a real drug. Belief generates biochemistry. That, in turn, has an effect on what we believe is supposed to happen.
How your mind can heal your body
Chloe Brotheridge 07:54: That’s incredible. I read your book, How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body. I recall reading that our beliefs activate that internal pharmacy within our bodies.
David Hamilton: I first read about that in the book the Genie in Your Genes by Dawson Church and that’s what I first heard that is a stocked pharmacy. It has thousands of substances. When you believe something, some part of your brain acts as a pharmacist and says to that part of yourself to expect to feel better.
The brain has its own version of morphine that can go into the bloodstream. Belief stimulates that pharmacist in the brain to deliver the result that you’re expecting to happen.
The mind-body connection
Chloe Brotheridge 09:24: Our minds can be so powerful in that way. Can you share a little bit about your book and how the mind can heal. I’m a hypnotherapist and I also practice something called Chi Gong, which is a bit like Tai Chi. You cover a lot of themes in your book that can potentially boost the immune system to heal faster. Can you talk a little bit about that?
David Hamilton 10:02: In the book, I’d say the first third is describing the signs of the mind-body connection and explains how and why does belief or even imagination work. If you visualise something, exactly how and why does that have a physical effect? For example, if you were imagining your immune system destroying a cancer cell. How and why does that work?
The reason for that section of the book, is to give people faith in themselves. One thing I’ve noticed over the years of working with people and teaching and writing is that if someone believes in themselves or believes in a technique, then the technique or whatever they’re doing, can be enhanced.
The power of a visualisation practice
The book includes a section which is a collection of stories from people I’d been in contact with over the years. They demonstrated the use of visualisation practices to help themselves to facilitate healing from injury, illness or disease.
Then I’ve got an A to Z list in the book based on visualisations I’ve collected over the years for a large number of conditions. For example, a visualisation people use for a sore knee, asthma, or viruses, you name it. I look at the consequence of what I imagine, think, feel or believe, and what does that actually do in the body?
The power of our beliefs
Chloe Brotheridge 12:19: Our beliefs are so important. I know in the book, you’re very careful to say, don’t necessarily stop having chemotherapy, don’t stop having your treatments. You offer a way you can help yourself and offer extra support using the power of your mind.
David Hamilton: 12:40: Sometimes I get a little bit worried when I talk about the mind that people will then just do that instead of taking medical advice. Thanks, thanks for bringing that up. It’s very, very important, I think.
Chloe Brotheridge 13:25: I wanted to ask you about self-love. Why do you think it’s so important what drew you to this area?
David Hamilton 14:00: I never in a million years would have imagined that I would write a book on self-love. Throughout my life, I have struggled periodically with anxiety with the low self-esteem.
Struggling with confidence
I’ve always struggled with confidence. Some of the struggles I have gone through and even still go through. I was at a big international conference and I was about to follow Dr. Wayne Dyer. He was coming off the stage to a standing ovation. I was next on. I experienced an anxiety or panic attack while standing at the side of the stage. It wasn’t because I was lacking confidence. I felt really small in comparison with all the other speakers.
I’d always felt like this and I’d always bluffed my way through things. I didn’t reveal to people how I was really feeling because then I would feel like a fraud. How can I write these self-help books? My own challenges were building up especially with how I was feeling on the inside, and it came to a head say to the stage and I felt like crying.
I had a flashback from childhood when I was singled out by my teacher. All the other kids had brought in money for a school trip and I hadn’t. The reason why I hadn’t is that my mom and dad were really poor, and really struggling financially. I didn’t want to ask my mom because I’d seen my mom a few nights earlier being really upset about money. The teacher singled me out and made me stand in the corner. The rest of the class got a yellow badge for bringing in the money. All I remember from that was the devastation of feeling like everyone else got a yellow badge and I didn’t.
I got bullied a lot at high school, partly because I was always bragging and showing off. I needed them to know that I was just as special as they were.
That was the day when I realised I needed to address self-esteem and self-love. I had no idea what self-love was. Nor did I know of any strategies. I just knew in my heart that I absolutely had to dive headfirst into the subject. The book was just the side effect of the two-year process that I went through.
Chloe Brotheridge 19:06: That’s such a moving story about remembering being a child and having that experience. I’ve got memories similar to that. Looking back as an adult, you might think, how could that have been such a big deal. Actually, when we’re young, it really can have that impression on us. We can take on board these beliefs that just stay with us and can hold us back as adults.
Wiring self-love into the brain
I think it’s really good to identify some of those things and start to understand them a little bit more. Being a therapist and seeing so many clients, self-esteem is at the root of almost everything, if not everything. Self-love and self-esteem are the root of so many of our issues. You talk about wiring in self-love into the brain can you can you describe what you mean by that?
David Hamilton: I was really passionate about learning and writing about self-love. I told my publisher I’d write it in 5 months. After I turned it in, I met my publisher for coffee and she said: You know, we all love you in the office, but I can’t publish this book. I can’t accept this book. If we were to publish this it will be damaging to your career. The book was so weak and badly written because I had tried to tackle the subject academically. It needed practical value.
I hadn’t really gained anything or changed in five months. All I’d done is absorb all the Accademia about self-love, but that hadn’t shifted anything in me at all. My publisher said why don’t you take as long as you’d like to write this book. Then come back to me at some point when you feel you’re ready to deliver. That’s when things began to change.
The importance of posture
Another therapist at a conference pointed me in the direction of research about hope and posture and holding your body in a way that says you know what, I’ve got this. I have an inner sense of worthiness and value. You get this by the way you breathe, straighten your spine up, smile, or relaxing your facial muscles. I started to put it into practice every single day.
Wiring an inner sense of worthiness
I realised that I could actually wire-in an inner sense of worthiness with my version of self-love through repetition. If you do something over and over again, it begins to grow in the neural patterns in the brain.
If I can repetitively adjust my posture to experience a sense of worthiness then I could wire that into the brain. For me, it was life-changing. Within about two to three months, I was beginning to an inner feeling that I didn’t know existed. Previously, I hadn’t actually felt an inner sense of worthiness and value. That was completely alien. I started to feel that and within about two or three months from doing nothing else other than relentlessly correcting my posture throughout the day.
Become aware of your body language
I taught myself to become aware of my body language, especially in a fearful or stressful situation. I trained myself to stand up, shoulders back, lengthen my spine and breathe. Doing it so often, it literally re-wired into the circuits of the knee because anything you do repetitively wires into the brain through neuroplasticity.
The old patterns, the old pathways in the brain also begin to shrink if you don’t feed them. So to the degree that I was feeding the, I’ve got this, I have an inner sense of worthiness in value posture. I was shrinking down the patterns for feeling afraid or worried. I was building up positive stuff and shrinking negative stuff simultaneously, and it led to a tipping point after a couple of months..
Wearing an inner sense of worthiness and value
Chloe Brotheridge 25:55: That’s so so helpful and I love how tangible and particlae that is. It also works at a physical level and in your brain. Sometimes self-love can be a bit fluffy, for example, like just have a bubble bath. Your approach is, completely different than that, and I think a lot more effective.
David Hamilton 26:32: What I came up with was, I have an inner sense of worthiness and value. That became my working definition of self-love. To hold that in my body, I would say I have an inner sense of worthiness and value. Tthat was my definition. I had to teach myself how that would feel in my face? How does it feel on my shoulders? Do I breathe as if I had an inner sense of worthines? How does it feel in my lower back? I just really taught myself how to feel it and hold that in my body.
Chloe Brotheridge 27:39: I really like that. It’s almost as though you’re defining for yourself what self-love could feel like.
Two types of self-love
David Hamilton 27:54: I think it was helpful also that I’d never read any books and self-love, because it wasn’t a subject that I do. It also hadn’t occurred to me that self-love was something I was severely lacking. There are two types of self-love. The external, which is what most people think of as self-love, when you derive your sense of worthiness and value from successes and achievements in life and people having a positive perception of you. That’s where you derive your sense of worthiness. If further down the line something goes wrong, it’s earth shattering. That is an internal sense of where your self-love comes from. I had none at all of the healthy stuff on the inside
I’m kind of glad that I did it that way. Not reading about self-love before I started the book. Then I wasn’t lead by other people’s ideas. It can be quite easy to be in love with the way an author puts something across, that you then forget your own idea or take on it.
I read other books along the way, like Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. That was a huge influence on me when I was writing that book. I read a few others in the process of writing my book. But really, I’m glad that I came to the subject completely fresh, because then I had to approach it using how I approach any subject, which is just my way of thinking my way of doing science.
Chloe Brotheridge: I think I heard someone talking external validation on the podcast about something Russell Brand said. Celebrities are very often the most unhappy or troubled because they get all this external validation and one day that gets taken away. They haven’t built up that inner sense of worthiness and acceptance for themselves.
I wanted to talk to you about kindness. What made you so interested in kindness and why do you think that so beneficial?
David Hamilton 31:31: When I’m writing a book I often find other research that I would love to put in the book, but it doesn’t fit. When I was writing one of my books I came across a group of people practicing a Tibetan Buddhist loving kindness meditation. That had produced an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. That intrigued me.
I followed a lot of research and realised that feelings of compassion and kindness towards others, stimulates a portion of the nervous system of the parasympathetic nervous system called the vagus nerve, and that controls immediate anti-inflammatory path in the body called the inflammatory reflex. A thought this is absolutely amazing, but it just didn’t fit in that book at the time.
The opposite of stress is kindness
I just pulled all of the medical journals and the sociology journals, the psychology journals, and bundled them all together into what has now become three books on kindness on. Kindness is physiologically the opposite of stress. Most people if you see what’s the opposite of stress, most people will say it’s peaceful, it’s common, it’s relaxation. Those things are the absence of stress, they’re not the opposite.
Physiologically speaking, the opposite of stress is kindness. Stress is a feeling and so the physical effects of stress are a consequence of you feeling stressed. Kindness is physiologically the opposite of stress and that underpins half of all the information I’ve gathered on the physical effects of being nice. It reduces blood pressure, for example. It’s good for your heart, good for your blood flow, and anti-inflammatory. There is an immune-stimulating effect of kindness. Basically, anything you know that stress does, you can rest assured that kindness has the opposite effect. And there’s some research out there that shows exactly why that is.
Kindness during Covid
Chloe Brotheridge 34:39: I suppose kindness has never been more important. You know, not only for being kind to each other, but being kind to ourselves. It’s so fascinating that it has more than the obvious benefits of us feeling nice about being kind that there’s changes in the body that can be healing for us or be, you know, beneficial for our health. That’s so fascinating.
Kindness is contagious
I saw on your website, you’d written a blog post about how kindness can actually be contagious. What do you mean by that?
David Hamilton 35:27: Kindness is actually one of the most contagious things. About five minutes before we began this chat, there’s a family that lives across the road from me. I live in a little town called Dublin and central Scotland. There are three young kids. And one of the kids I think, must be about three or four. It was a little boy’s birthday. The boy opened the window, and they were yelling Happy birthday. Lots of the neighbours looked out the window as I opened the door. It was just the most beautiful demonstration of kindness, and community spirit.
What I’m seeing right now is people pooling together in a way I’ve never seen before on a scale that I’ve never seen before. It’s absolutely beautiful to watch. It made me feel quite emotional and overwhelmed with joy, having witnessed that.
Kindness is contagious because of how it makes you feel. You probably find people listening to this right now that have a similar memory of something else happening in their community. They will likley be kind to more people throughout the course of the rest of that day. That’s how kindness is contagious.
The ripple effect of kindness
Scientists at Harvard and Yale, tracked it. If when you do something Kind for someone, if you were to follow that person around you would probably find that them being kind to probably four or five other people over the course of the next day, for no reason other than because of how you made them feel.
Whether that’s gratitude or inspiration or a feeling of warmth or connection or elevation, but somehow because you’ve been kind to that person, they will feel different. That feeling is like a wave. It’s like dropping a pebble in a pond. It would ripple across many more people, building exponentially. Kindness has a ripple effect.
The scientists have actually worked out and tracked it and seeing how it actually works. So every single thing that you do, can have an effect.
More contagious is the human spirit
The blog that I wrote was to point out that we’re all fearful right now about contagion of Coronavirus, but more contagious is the human spirit. More contagious is kindness and that has more of a rippling effect on us. And if we pay attention to that, we might just see some magic taking place in the world.
Chloe Brotheridge 39:56: That’s such a beautiful idea and definitely what we need right now. It’s amazing that we could do something small which actually multiplies positively and more people pay it forward. What we do can make a difference. Even small things. That’s a really empowering and hopeful idea. Yeah. Yeah. Love that. Is there anything else that’s really important to you right now that you can share about?
David Hamilton: It’s a spirit of kindness. I write and speak a lot about kindness. It doesn’t necessarily sell books and it doesn’t get me a huge number of followers. In comparison, if I write a post on self-esteem or a post on mind-body connection, relatively speaking, I get far more interaction.
Helping each other
I think it’s so important that we help each other. Not just right now at this period of time where there’s a global pandemic, but all the other times. Kindness is what will actually be the final decider on which direction the human race goes and how we survive challenging times.
If no one helps each other out, then the human race has very little chance. One of the things we could probably do more in our lives, is doing things because it’s the right thing to do, rather than what we think people will like, or what makes us the most money. If we practice doing what feels like the right thing to do, I think all of us will be better off in the long run.
Chloe Brotheridge 42:30: Thank you so much for speaking to me. I’ve absolutely loved this conversation. I can’t wait for people to hear it.
Where to find David
David Hamilton 42:45: Sure. My links to all my social media handles is on my website. I write regular blogs, send out a newsletter, offer online courses and have a monthly patient Development clubs. So basically everything is on my website.
Chloe Brotheridge 43:16: Brilliant. Thank you so much for talking to me today.
David Hamilton 43:21: It’s been my pleasure. It’s been such a good chat.
Chloe Brotheridge 43:23: Thank you so much for listening. I really hope that you gained a lot from this episode, come on over to Instagram and let me know.
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Hopefully you’ll tune in again and I’ll see you soon.