[Warning: If you are interested in a calm, comfortable life, this blog will be counterproductive for you.]

Friday, July 18, 2014

Psychiatrist Confesses: Best Life Is Actually Stressed Life

I recently watched a video with profound and practical insights. It’s from the TED Conference (ted.com). If you don’t know about TED, then let me introduce you to perhaps the world’s greatest collection of informative, inspirational videos. World class speakers are each given 20 minutes at most—some only 3 or 6 minutes—to present an amazing idea.

This video has become one of the most watched videos in their epic collection.


Here’s my summary:

Dr. McGonigal confesses in the beginning that she’s been all wrong about stress. For 10 years, as a psychiatrist, she’s been helping people reduce the stress in their lives. Her belief was that stress was bad for you. And there are decades of research supporting that. But she and her colleagues were wrong.

A new set of studies has come out to overturning this foundational belief. The video gives more detail, but in short,  it is true that in some cases, living with high stress does result in more physical illness. But this is only true when the people under high stress believe that the stress is bad for them. Those with low stress did have better health than that high stress group. But the best health of all was enjoyed by those with high stress who also believed that the stress wasn’t bad for them.

In short, what you believe about your stress is the deciding factor.

My favorite part came at the very end of the video. After the talk was over the emcee asked her how this impacts our life choices, whether to choose the more challenging path or the easier path.

She said it’s better to choose a more difficult path that has meaning than living to avoid discomfort.

This encourages me and challenges me. It’s like a road sign reading “Stress Ahead” reminding me that an exceptional life is not an easy life. But with a clear purpose and healthy support systems, pursuing exceptional might turn out to be the best life.

Have you experienced this dynamic in your life—a season of high stress where you thrived rather than barely survived? What made the difference for you?

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