Reality is only as dangerous as you think it is. The only real dangers are the kind that can objectively damage or kill you. Such as a high speed train rolling down the track, or a King Cobra. If you want to prevent stress adjust your interpretation of reality.
Stepping in front of a speeding train and teasing venomous snakes are things you avoid out of the knowledge that these things can and will kill you if you are not careful.
Some things are only perceived threats
The deadliness doesn’t actually exist. It’s just a flaw in your mind, and from social influences. In theory, these are supposed to help you and the species survive, but inevitably leads you to interpret harmful and occasionally beneficial things as dangerous threats to your survival.
If you unconsciously allow non-threats to trigger your fight or flight response, then you may be unnecessarily causing potential damage to your heart.
I encourage you to watch this TED Talk on Stress:
In this talk titled, How to Make Stress Your Friend, psychologist Kelly McGonagall explains a study which tracked 30,000 adults in the US for 8 years. In the beginning of the study they asked these participants about the level of stress they felt in their lives and also whether or not they believed stress was harmful for their health. What they found out was that people who experienced a lot of stress had a 43% more likely chance of dying, but only if they BELIEVED stress was bad for them. What’s even more interesting was that the people who had a very stressful life, but didn’t believe stress was bad form them, they were much less likely to die and in fact were much healthier.
Stress doesn’t kill you. It’s the belief that stress will kill you that kills you.
Other studies show that when people believe their stress response HELPS them rise to a challenge, they actually have a different physiological response than the people who believe stress is bad for them.
In the typical stress response in which people have negative beliefs about their situation or stress, their heart rate rises and your blood vessels restrict the flow of blood. This helps you to react quickly, the typical fight or flight response when facing a REAL threat in nature. However this state is NOT healthy to maintain over a long time. It’s bad for the heart. And yet people who perceive the world as a scary place, let every situation stress them out, and perceive stress, and nervousness as unhealthy will undoubtedly become unhealthy because of this state they allow their body to constantly be in.
Researchers found that when people see their stress response as helpful, and positive, their blood vessels don’t constrict the flow of blood to and from the heart. They are more relaxed, AND more able to face the stressing tests the researchers gave them.
Your BELIEF actually changes how your body responds.
Another even more fascinating part of Kelly’s talk is that the heart has a built in system of resilience against the damage potentially caused by the stress response. And that system is human connection.
The heart has receptors for the hormone oxytocin, which releases during stress, and also during moments of compassion, physical contact, and helping others.
Just by reaching out to someone when you are in pain, or helping someone yourself, you are strengthening your heart, and healing any previous damage.
Now think about how powerful this fun fact is. Think about how it can change your life and potentially change the lives of everyone in the world.
How long would you live if you did the following two things:
- Believe stress is beneficial and helps you
- Help others as much as you can and be an inspiration for compassionate human interaction.
Just working on changing your beliefs and trying to be considerate and caring to others could be the difference between dying of a heart attack in your 40’s and living past 100.
Another study mentioned in that talk demonstrated that people who spent time caring for others were also much heathier and not as stressed.
This makes sense. It’s amazing really. Who is more likely to help the species survive? The guy obsessed with always looking perfect, stressed about making mistakes, embarrassments, rejection and failure and living in perpetual negativity complaining about how nothing ever goes his way. Or the guy whose always helpful to others just to be helpful.
There are probably a lot of mental and physical health benefits to being social, helpful and compassionate that will help you to live longer because that is in the best interest of the species. If you are in a perpetual state of self-induced pain, and a negative perception of stress then you are much less likely to care about how you contribute to the species as a whole. Perhaps then your body doesn’t have as much motivation to keep you alive.
Stress doesn’t need to be a poisonous drain on your system if you don’t let it.
Imagine what you can accomplish if you could courageously face any challenge. Some people might think it’s difficult to change their mindset to a more positive one. But that is just the habit you formed by resisting change.
You can be as weakened by stress as you want. This seems most applicable to subjective stresses. Getting stuck in traffic is only as stressful as you think it is. They don’t need to trigger the stress response because they aren’t real threats.
If you have to work an extra hour instead of immediately going home to play on the internet then go to bed so you can sell another day of your life!? It’s much scarier to waste your life doing things you aren’t passionate about than to spend a little more time doing it. If that is the case for you.
So please live a life of passion, be kind to each other, and be courageous.
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