July 26, 2013
Research now shows that the way you handle minor daily stressors – those little annoyances – has a tremendous impact on your long-term health.
Human nature is to justify the nasty little moods, childish reactions and general grumpiness because “life is so stressful.” We act like we can’t help it. Human nature is leading us to an early grave.
A study conducted at University of Pennsylvania reminds us that the stressful events themselves are not the real problem. Our reactions to those events are the problem – and a serious one at that.
“Our research shows that how you react to what happens in your life today predicts your chronic health conditions and 10 years in the future, independent of your current health and your future stress,” said David Almeida, professor of human development and family studies at University of Pennsylvania.
“For example, if you have a lot of work to do today and you are really grumpy because of it, then you are more likely to suffer negative health consequences 10 years from now than someone who also has a lot of work to do today, but doesn’t let it bother her.
“The research was rigorous, including eight consecutive daily interviews, along with four saliva-based cortisol tests during those eight days. For each participant, the test was conducted again ten years later to determine any changes in stress handling as well as to assess health outcomes.The results were clear. Those who handled stress better had fewer overall health issues, especially chronic pain and cardiovascular problems.
Can we get attached to a stressful, negative way of being?
Pioneering psychiatrist Edmund Bergler, MD, observed that we do get attached to negativity and stress. In fact, he called such attachments a reflection of our basic neurosis, suggesting that we actually – subconsciously – learn to prefer the displeasure of stress rather than the pleasure of happiness. If you look at the world from this perspective, it makes so much sense.
Deep down (very, very deep down) we prefer being controlled, rejected and deprived to simple contentment. Think about it. What does it take to be happy? Not much. Food, clothing and shelter. A calm mind, nature, perhaps a few friends. So simple.
Discontent has become more familiar and tolerable than happiness for far too many people.
The world we live in and the people who inhabit it – myself included – are anything but “simply content” to live in the moment, even though doing so is easy and always available. We want more. We want power. We want stuff. We want fame.
Our incessant desire for more power, possessions and fame only leaves us feeling more powerless, deprived and rejected. We understand this, for the most part. Yet, we greedily continue to pursue that which cannot fulfill.
It makes us cranky. It’s depressing. Yet, we keep it up. Our attachment to misery is more compelling that we can imagine.
Have you ever tried to get someone to change a behavior that is making them miserable, only to be resisted at every turn?
Have you struggled to give up reactions or behaviors that cause you misery, only to return to them again and again?
Do you realize that allowing yourself to get stressed out is adversely affecting your health, yet you continue to stress your way through the day regardless?
It is obvious we are attached to negativity and stress. Now, how do we deal with it?
The first step is to recognize what is going on – to get out of denial. This is 90% of the battle, as denial is the most elegant and effective defense mechanism ever conceived. It’s brilliant! Just deny the truth – hide it from yourself by convincing yourself that the source of the problem is ANYTHING but you.