Yale Research: Stress Can Be Good for You, with the Right MindsetFebruary 21 , 2013

A recent study conducted at Yale shows that if you change your mindset towards stress, it can make the stress you have in your life enhancing to your health, performance and psychological growth.   And this research was just written up in the Wall Street Journal.  (and if you don’t want to subscribe to the newspaper, you can see the text here)

I can hear the incredulity in your thoughts already.  “Stress can’t be good for me?  I’m constantly barraged by media messages about how stress can kill me and destroy my productivity.  Isn’t stress the cause of high blood pressure, heart attacks and insomnia?  This must be some fluke study like that cold fusion debacle all those years ago.”

But not only is this Yale study real (it will be published next month in The Journal of Social and Psychological Sciences, a top psychology journal), it is part of a large body of important but underrepresented research that shows stress can be good for you.

So how can stress be beneficial for some people and harmful to others? This study shows that it all comes down to how you view the stress in your life.

Study Details

In the study, 380 employees from a prominent investment bank were split into three groups.   One group watched a series of videos showing how stress can be enhancing, the second group watched a series of videos on how stress can be debilitating and the third was a control group who watched no videos.  As compared to the other two groups, the stress-is-enhancing group had a significant reduction in stress-related physical symptoms (such as headaches, backaches, fatigue) and a significant improvement in productivity, increasing from 1.9 to 2.6 on a four-point scale.

In a follow-up study, not yet published, the investigators trained 200 managers at the same investment bank on how to use their current stress to their advantage at work.  The effects of the second experiment showed further improvements in work effectiveness and health outcomes.

Online Training Product Coming

I first learned about this research a little over a year ago and had the chance to be part of an in-person training program over the summer.  I was so impressed with the data and the potential benefits of this research that I convinced the investigators to let me develop an online training product with them.  We’re deep in the development now, but if you are interested in learning more, you can go to our website:  http://rethinkstress.com/.

It’s our mindset about stress that matters.  If we believe stress will have enhancing effects on us, it makes those expected effects more likely.  I’ll provide more of the key research in upcoming posts as well as highlight some of the tools you can start using to change your own mindset.

Eric Karpinski
The Happiness Coach

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