Can changing your thoughts about stress make you healthier? In this fascinating TED Talk, Kelly McGonigal shares some research around why the answer to this question is ‘yes!’.
But first, think about your experience of stress. What would you say your stress levels have been over the last 12 months? Would they be:
- Low levels
- Quite high
And a second question:
- Do you believe stress is harmful for your health?
It’s probably no surprise to you that research shows that people who have a lot of stress tend to die at an earlier age than those with little stress. But what is surprising is that those who responded that stress wasn’t harmful to their health had lower mortality rates, regardless of the level of stress they experienced.
So how did you respond to the two earlier questions? The research is indicating it is worthwhile to change our perception of stress.
The physical signs
We all know the feeling when we are stressed or overwhelmed. The heart beats faster, we begin to sweat a little and our breathing becomes heavy. These are perceived as signs of stress and anxiety.
Rather than seeing these as a negative, Kelly encourages us to view these signs differently. The heart beating faster becomes the energy pumping around the body. The sweat is preparing us for action. The heavy breathing gets more oxygen to the brain.
How wonderful that a body responds like this! If our mind believes this to be a positive change, the body will follow. At a cardiovascular level, our blood vessels will stay nice and relaxed as compared to them becoming restricted. Which is where stress is often aligned with cardiovascular disease.
Stress makes you social
One of the hormones released when you are stressed is oxytocin. The wide-ranging impacts of this hormone includes; craving physical contact; becoming more empathetic; and it increases our willingness to help and support. It is also a natural anti-inflammatory.
Given we are social beings, this is a built-in response that helps people manage stress by seeking out support. Along with helping the heart heal along the way.
So what does this mean…
Rather than seeing stress as the enemy, maybe we look at it from a totally different perspective. One where it is a totally natural part of life that the mind and body is perfectly equipped to handle.
Watch the full 14-minute TED Talk here.
Want to watch even more TED Talks we have shared. Check them all out here.