I have a question: would you rather experience chronic stress or recurring joy? I’m willing to bet you’d prefer joy, am I right?
Now, what if I told you that you really do get to choose for yourself? Seriously, it’s backed by science, you get to choose.
And I’m going to tell you why and how.
Why is it that you can choose to experience joy instead of stress?
In 1998, the University of Wisconsin initiated a study of 30,000 American adults. They asked them 2 questions:
- Do you experience little to no, moderate, or high levels of stress in your daily life?
- Do you believe stress is not, somewhat, or very bad for your health?
For the next 8 years, the study tracked the participants to see who died and what they found was that those who experienced high levels of stress had a 43% increased rate of premature death.
But only if they believed stress was bad for them.
In fact, the participants with the lowest death rate were NOT those with moderate or even low levels of stress, but those with high levels of daily, chronic stress that simply did NOT believe that stress was bad for their health.
It may be hard to believe that such a small shift in thinking has such a dramatic effect on your health, but that’s exactly what researchers at Harvard University found.
They conducted a follow-up experiment where participants hearts were monitored while they were put in stressful situations.
Those that believed stress was bad for their health experienced an increased heart rate and constriction of the arteries, a tell-tail part of the stress response and why stress is associated with heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.
The participants who believed that their stress response is a tool to help them through a challenging situation also had increased heart rates, but instead of constriction of the arteries, their blood vessels relaxed and even expanded.
This allows more blood to the heart and is a key physiological indicator of the experience of joy.
So you really do get to choose.
When you change your mind about stress, you change your body’s response. And in the same way the body and mind can reflexively initiate the stress response, the body/mind connection allows for an increase of joy.
Ready to know how to do this?
Yoga therapy offers a direct and simple path to this transformation. It’s the 3-step practice I teach in my program Make Peace with Stress, and I’m going to share it with you right now:
Self-study is paying attention to your patterns of thinking and behavior without judgment. In Make Peace with Stress, we hone in on resistance and struggle because this is where the big shift in belief, that leads to the stress/joy transformation, can happen.
Surrender is accepting your resistance and struggle as the opportunity to pick: stress or joy. You change your mind about stress when you’re experiencing it. There are things you can (and should) do to practice making this shift, but each challenging situation is the time to choose.
Intention is being clear about what’s important to you. To transform your patterns of stress, overwhelm, worry, uncertainty, frustration, resistance, and struggle, you must know what you want instead. Joy? Perhaps. Most of my clients want to feel confident and calm.
How about you?
Once you make peace with your stress, you can choose for yourself.
I want to personally invite you to dive a little deeper into these 3-steps and discover how to make them part of your day.
Sign-up for my 5 Day Fresh Start, which is a free preview to the key yoga philosophy I teach my clients, and see for yourself how easy it can be to make peace with your stress and focus on what’s truly important to you.