Here are some of the most surprising and promising scientifically backed studies about stress that have come out in the past couple of years.
Read on, because a more relaxed 2015 starts here.
A Half-Full Glass?
Thanks to new research from America, there’s evidence that optimists handle stress better than pessimists. Optimists tend to maintain more stable levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) than those with a more negative view of the world — even when put into high-pressure situations. Since having elevated cortisol levels can increase your risk of medical problems such as heart disease and dementia over time, keeping upbeat may just keep you healthy.
Scientists may have come just a little bit closer to understanding how to turn back the clock. In a new study published in the journal Lancet Oncology, researchers in America found that participants who handled stress better and ate a healthier plant-based diet actually extended the life of their cells. Those who ate a low-fat diet, exercised 30 minutes a day for six days a week, and took stress-management classes seemed to actually reverse aging on the cellular level. By analyzing the chromosomes of 35 men over five years, scientists tested levels of an enzyme called telomerase, which is associated with cell longevity. Their findings: Our cells degenerate more slowly when we de-stress and eat better. Who knew that all those yoga classes and salads could actually become a sort of Fountain of Youth?
Mindfulness, the discipline wherein you train your mind to remain in the present, isn’t just good practice on the yoga mat. It may also be one of the best ways to reduce your stress levels. After measuring the cortisol levels in the saliva of participants before and after a three-month meditation retreat, scientists discovered that training the mind to remain in the here and now, and to not dwell on the past or the future, was a powerful tool for keeping calm.
Working out isn’t just good for your waistline , it fundamentally changes the brain to keep you relaxed in the face of overwhelming stress, thus enabling you to reduce your stress levels.
Don’t Obsess About Stress
Sometimes, even thinking about stress can be harmful. In 2004, a groundbreaking study was published wherein more than 7,000 participants were asked how stress and tension impacted their health. In a follow-up, researchers discovered that those participants who’d felt their health was most affected by stress were more than twice as likely to have had a heart attack or stroke in the years since. The implication? Even the perception that stress hurts health can be bad for your heart.