Chronic, self-inflicted stress is bad. The kind of stress that occurs from negative thinking and is perpetuated over and over again from our minds wreaks havoc on our bodies and leads to sickness and disease. But not all stress is bad. In fact, we need some stress in our lives to promote growth and resilience. And this is known in biology as hormesis.
Hormesis is essentially the notion that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Well, maybe it’s not that extreme. But our bodies have evolved to get bigger, faster, stronger, more efficient, smarter, in the face of challenge and stress. Good stress, like exercise, moderate sunlight exposure, deep, critical thinking, or even a challenging conversation is good for us!
Good stress doesn’t necessarily have to be physical in nature, although that is certainly important. But stress and challenge in a non-physical sense, that is rooted in our thoughts, is just as important. It also promotes growth in all areas of life, because everything starts with our brains and our thoughts.
Wired for Challenge
According to Professor Andrew Huberman, neuroscientist at Stanford University, nature has wired us to lean into challenges and promote hormesis. For example, when we set a challenging goal and take action towards achieving that goal, our brains help us move towards that goal when we hit roadblocks or struggle along the way. Particularly, when we subjectively reward ourselves though Affirmations. If we encounter stress or fear in pursuit of a challenging goal, our brains release dopamine which makes us feel good, keeps us motivate, and helps to extinguish the fear. Nature has wired us to lean into challenges and face our fears!
In order to push our bodies and evoke hormesis, we have to first push our minds. We need to lean into challenges and persist in the face of setbacks. Because they will certainly occur, no matter what we are doing. They come with the territory, or else it wouldn’t be a stressor or a challenge.
Persistence and pushing through the challenges and setbacks is what causes growth and resilience. So set challenging goals. Face your fears. Have that challenging conversion you’ve been putting off. Start training for that triathlon. Create that business plan that will radically change your industry. Mother nature wants you to grow and push yourself.
The next time you are facing a challenge, embrace it. Move forward and also give yourself credit for taking action, while you are taking the action. Your brain will reward you with dopamine, which will help you to continue moving forward and overcome the setbacks. Keep the end goal in mind, but focus on the here and now. Not only will you develop growth and resilience, but the experience will be much more enjoyable. Remember, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey!
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