I’ve become somewhat obsessed with TED talks lately, and after writing my last post I realized I had listened to one not too long ago that proves just how powerful the way we think about things can be.
In this particular talk, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal discusses her discovery that how you feel about stress in your life makes a big difference in whether or not that stress is bad for you. If you’re like me, you probably learned from a young age how harmful stress is to your health — that it can lead to heart attacks, immune deficiency, high blood pressure, etc. Just google “stress health impacts” and you’ll see what I mean. McGonigal actually spent much of her career spreading those same messages, only to find out recently that they were perhaps a bit misguided. To come to this conclusion, she relied on studies like the one conducted by researchers at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, in which roughly 30,000 people were asked to rate their stress level over the past year as well as to indicate whether they believed stress affected their health minimally, moderately, or a lot. The researchers then followed these people over a period of eight years and used death records to note the passing of any of the participants. Perhaps not surprisingly, people who reported high levels of stress and who believed that stress impacted their health a great deal were 43 percent more likely to have died. However, people who reported high levels of stress but who believed that stress only affected their health minimally were the least likely to die. Even less so than people reporting low levels of stress.
It turns out stress can actually be good for you if, well, if you don’t stress out about it!
I highly recommend watching or listening to the talk in its entirety for all the details. And if you get as hooked on TED as I am, be sure to check out the handy TED talks app and the TED radio hour podcast on NPR.
And lest this sound too much like a commercial, know that I am in no way affiliated with TED, NPR or Kelly McGonigal — just a fan. However, if you have connections, don’t be afraid to give them my name.