The world today is a stressful place, we cannot argue with that. No matter if you live in the most crowded place of your city or the most isolated suburbs, in a house or some building, whatever your job is and as calm as you think you are, you will get stressed through the day.
There is no running away from stress. But, maybe that’s not as bad as we thought it is, maybe it is not even bad. Scientists and psychologists have discovered that stress may be even good for us. In fact, they say that believing that stress is harmful to our health is the deadliest misconception we have about stress.
Wait, what? Haven’t they spent their entire lives teaching us how to avoid stress any way we can as it is Satan itself, and that stress is the cause for almost every sickness. What, Stress is good for us now?!
The Study that Shifted Psychologists’ Perception
There was a study in the United States that tracked 30,000 adults for 8 years. The study started by asking 2 simple questions, How much stress they have experienced in the past year and Do they believe that stress is harmful for their health.
After they gathered the information they used public death records, for 8 years, to find out who died. Morbid, right?
What they have discovered is something that will shift your perception of stress forever. People who had relatively high amounts of stress for the past year had 43% increased risk of dying. But, that was only true for the people who believed that stress is harmful to their health.
People who had a lot of stress but didn’t believe that stress is harmful to their health had the lowest risk of dying even smaller than the people who had relatively small amounts of stress.
What researchers have estimated is that 182,000 people died in the last 8 years not from stress, but from the belief that stress is harmful to their health.
What is Stress?
Ok, let’s make clear what stress really is. Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. It makes our heart rate to increase, quickens our breathing and constricts our blood vessels. This condition is very unhealthy.
If this is true, then how can a simple belief take away the “un” from “unhealthy”? This other study shows us how powerful a belief really is.
The Study that Proves The Power of Our Beliefs
The study included a group of students who were told to prepare for a public speech in front of a large audience. They were also told that stress is helpful. That stress is how their body energizes them to rise to the challenge.
The students were tested how their bodies reacted while being stressed and researchers were amazed from the results.
Student’s heart rate went up but their blood vessels did not constrict. They stayed relaxed. This cardiovascular profile is much healthier and looks very similar to what happens in moments of joy and courage.
What we believe has not only psychological effect on us but also physical. This small change in your belief system may be the difference between having heart troubles at 50 or living happy, healthy and fulfilled at 90.
Stress also makes you more social. It promotes the “cuddle hormone” – Oxytocin – which tunes your brain’s social instincts and primes you to do things that strengthen close relationships. This hormone enhances your empathy, it makes you more willing to help and support the people you care about.
The greatest benefit of this hormone when it comes to health is that it actually strengthens your heart. So seeing stress as something that makes you a better person, more energized and ready for your challenges actually makes you healthier.