Stress is only bad for you if you think it is

Perhaps I should make some apologies for all of the negative statistics on stress that I shared in last week’s post.

Or maybe we should think about stress in another way. While we often blame the things that stress us for the negative effects they have, there’s another way to look at stress: It’s not the stressors themselves that cause problems, it’s the thoughts we have about those stressors. In other words, it’s your thoughts about stress, rather than stress itself, that cause negative reactions.

I was reminded again of this recently, when I watched a popular TED Talk by health psychologist and Stanford University lecturer Kelly McGonigal, who argues that it’s beliefs in the harmful effects of stress, rather than stress itself, that cause risks to our health. Instead, she suggests, we should think about making stress “our friend.”

Ms. McGonigal looks at several studies to support her thinking. In one, researchers  tracked 30,000 American adults  over an eight-year period, asking them how much stress they had experienced in the past year, and whether they thought stress was bad for their health.

What did the researchers find? People who felt they had been under extreme stress had a 43-per-cent increased risk of dying – but  only if they were among those who also believed stress was harmful to their health.

I often cite the work of Dr. Bruce Lipton, a well-known U.S. cell biologist, who believes that thoughts and emotions affect our health right down to a cellular level – and while positive thoughts can heal you, negative ones can kill you.

I love the messages of both Dr. Lipton and Ms. McGonigal. The takeaway:  Stress is only bad for you if you think it is. It’s your thoughts about stress, not the stressors themselves, that will determine good or bad outcomes. It’s not our stress levels that need to change; it’s our attitudes toward stress.

The limited beliefs of our subconscious minds trigger reactions that we attribute to stress. Change those thoughts and you can change how your body copes with stress in a healthier, and better, way.

Let me know your thoughts on this.

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