Stress, Health, and Human Flourishing PowerPoint® Presentation by Jim Foley © 2013 Worth Publishers Module 33: Health and Happiness How to go from coping to thriving Problem-focused and emotion-focused coping Perceived Locus of control and self-control Benefits of optimism, social support Aerobic exercise, relaxation and meditation Faith communities and health Positive Psychology and Happiness Wealth and other impacts on wellbeing Happiness is relative; adaptation and comparison Predictors of Happiness Promoting Health Some ways to reduce the health effects of stress include: address the stressors. soothe emotions. increase one’s sense of control over stressors. exchange optimism for pessimism. get social support. Ways that help some people to reduce levels of stress, and to improve health: aerobic exercise relaxation and meditation participation in communities of faith alternative medicine Coping with Stress Problem-focused coping means reducing the stressors, such as by working out a conflict, or tackling a difficult project. Risk: magnifying emotional distress, especially if trying to change something that’s difficult to change (e.g. another person’s traits). Emotion-focused coping means reducing the emotional impact of stress by getting support, comfort, and perspective from others. Risk: ignoring the problem. We might focus on this style of coping when we perceive the stressor as something we cannot change. Learned Helplessness vs. Personal Control Experiment by Martin Seligman: Give a dog no chance of escape from repeated shocks. Result: It will give up on trying to escape pain, even when it later has the option to do so. Normally, most creatures try to escape or end a painful situation. But experience can make us lose hope. Learned Helplessness: Declining to help oneself after repeated attempts to do so have failed. Personal Control: When people are given some choices (not too many), they thrive. Stress factor: Perceived Level of Control Experiment: the left and middle rats below received shocks. The rat on the left was able to turn off the shocks for both rats. Which rat had the worst stress and health problems? Only the middle, subordinate rat had increased ulcers. It is not the level of shock, but the level of control over the shock, which created stress. External vs. Internal Locus of Control Locus of control: Our perception of where the seat of power over our lives is located. Internal locus of control: we feel that we are in charge of ourselves and our circumstances. Too much internal locus of control: We blame ourselves for bad events, or have the illusion that we have the power to prevent bad events. External locus of control: we picture that a force outside of ourselves controls our fate. Too much external locus of control: We lose initiative, lose motivation to achieve, have more anxiety about what might happen to us, don’t bother developing willpower. Self-Control: Resource, Skill, Trait The ability to control impulses and delay gratification, sometimes called “willpower” This is a finite resource, an expenditure of brain energy, which is replenished but can be depleted short-term: People asked to resist eating cookies later gave up sooner on a tedious task With practice, we can improve our selfcontrol There seem to be individual differences in this trait in childhood The Marshmallow study: Kids who resisted the temptation to eat marshmallows later had more success in school and socially Optimism vs. Pessimism We can be optimistic or pessimistic in various ways: Prediction: We can expect the best or the worst. At the extremes, we can get ourselves overconfident or simply depressed or anxious about the future. Focus of attention: We can focus on what we have (half full) or what we don’t have (empty). Attribution of intent: We can assume that people meant to hurt us or that they were having a bad day. Valuation: We can assume that we or others are useless, or that we are lovable, valuable. Potential for change: We can assume that bad things can’t be changed, or have hope. Excessive Pessimism vs. Excessive Optimism Realism I can’t do it, might as well forget it. It might be hard; I’d better plan. It will be easy, I won’t think about it. I’m trapped, can’t get out of this I want to make changes or get out. Someone will rescue me. That person hates me, he is against me. I should ask what he feels about me, what he wants. I’m sure he just wants what’s best for me, I’ll trust him. Excessive pessimism can leave us depressed, inactive. Excessive optimism can leave us unprepared, unsafe. Promoting Health: Social Support Having close relationships is associated with improved health, immune functioning, and longevity. Social support, including from pets, provides a calming effect that reduces blood pressure and stress hormones. Confiding in others helps manage painful feelings. Laughter helps too. “Well, I think you’re wonderful.” Aerobic Exercise and Health Aerobic exercise triggers certain Aerobic exercise refers genes to produce proteins which to sustained activity that guard against more than 20 raises heart rate and chronic diseases and conditions. oxygen consumption. Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, cognitive decline and dementia, and early death. Ultimate (Frisbee): you must run often to “get open” for a pass, then run more to cover the other team and block their passes. Aerobic Exercise and Mental Health Aerobic exercise reduces depression and anxiety, and improves management of stress. How do we know? Aerobic exercise is correlated with high confidence, vitality, and energy, and good mood. Is there causation? Perhaps depression simply reduces exercise. One study establishing causation: mildly depressed young women randomly assigned to an exercise group showed reduced depression caused by exercise alone. Lifestyle Modification In one study, a control group was given diet, medication, and exercise advice. An experimental group practiced lifestyle modification, a plan to slow down the pace of one’s life, accept imperfection, and renew faith. Result: modifying lifestyle led to reduced heart attack rates. Relaxation and Meditation Use of relaxation techniques can reduce headaches, high blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia, and improve immune functioning. People who meditate can learn to create a relaxation response: relaxed muscles, lower blood pressure, and slowed heart rate and breathing. Meditation also increases brain activity associated with positive emotions. Steps to get the relaxation response: focus attention on breathing, a focus word, and relaxing muscles from toes upward. Faith Communities and Health While attendance at religious services may not directly save lives, it may make other healthy practices more likely. Religious attendance seems to have results, especially for men, comparable to the benefit of physically healthy lifestyle choices. Faith Communities and Health: Intervening Factors The health impact of religious involvement may be indirect. Health may improve because of the lifestyle and emotional factors associated with religious involvement, and not [just] the faith. Closer Look at a Particular Emotion: Happiness Happiness is: a mood. an attitude. a social phenomenon. a cognitive filter. a way to stay hopeful, motivated, and connected to others. The feel-good, do-good phenomenon: when in a good mood, we do more for others. The reverse is also true: doing good feels good. A More Positive Psychology Martin Seligman, who earlier kept dogs from escaping his shocks until they developed learned helplessness. Developed Positive Psychology, the “scientific study of optimal human functioning,” finding ways to help people thrive. Focus: building strengths, virtue, emotional well-being, resilience, optimism, sense of meaning. Three pillars of Positive Psychology: 1. Emotions, e.g. engagement 2. Character, e.g. courage 3. Groups, Culture, Institutions Over the Course of a Week Happiness has its ups and downs. Levels of happiness, as well as other emotions, can vary over the course of a week (we like the weekend), and even over the course of a day (don’t stay awake too long!). Over the Course of a Day Wealth and Well-Being: A Change in Goals In the late 1960s, students entering college had a primary goal of developing a meaningful life philosophy. Since 1977, being very well-off financially has become more of a primary goal for first year students. Can Money Buy Happiness? Money seems to buy happiness when it lifts people out of extreme poverty. Otherwise, money doesn’t seem to help our mood much. 1. The average level of income (adjusted for inflation) and purchasing power has increased in the United States. 2. The percentage of people feeling very happy, though, has not followed the same trend of improvement. Adaptation-Level Phenomenon When we step into the sunshine, it seems very bright at first. Then our senses adapt and we develop a “new normal.” If a cloud covers the sun, it may seem “dark” in comparison. The “very bright” sensation is temporary. The adaptation-level phenomenon: when our wealth or other life conditions improve, we are happier compared to our past condition. However, then we adapt, form a “new normal” level, and most people must get another boost to feel the same satisfaction. Adapting Attitudes Instead of Circumstances Because of the adaptation-level phenomenon, our level of contentment does not permanently stay higher when we gain income and wealth; we keep adjusting our expectations. It is also true that misfortune, disability, and loss do not result in a permanent decrease in happiness. In both cases, humans tend to adapt. Relative Deprivation If the average income has risen by 10 percent in your area, it might be hard to feel great about a 5 percent rise in your income because of People who were satisfied with their own lives might become less satisfied if other people get more power, recognition, and income. We can affect our happiness by choosing the people to whom we compare ourselves. However, the tendency is to compare ourselves to people who are more successful. Relative deprivation: feeling worse off by comparing yourself to people who are doing better. Correlates of Happiness There are behaviors that seem to go with happiness. Whether they are the cause or the effect of happiness is not clear, but it can’t hurt to try them. Researchers have found that happy people tend to: Happiness seems not much related to other factors: Have high self-esteem (in individualistic Age (example: the woman at countries) the laptop in the picture) Be optimistic, outgoing, and agreeable Gender (women are more Have close friendships or a satisfying often depressed, but also marriage Have work and leisure that engage their more often joyful) skills Parenthood (having children Have an active religious faith or not) Sleep well and exercise Physical attractiveness There also may be a genetic basis for a predisposition to happiness. Whether because of genes, culture, or personal history, we each seem to develop a mood “set point,” a level of happiness to which we keep returning. Possible Ways to Increase Your Chances at Happiness Look beyond wealth for satisfaction. Bring your habits in line with your goals; take control of your time. Smile and act happy. Find work and leisure that engages your skills. Exercise, or just move! Focus on the needs and wishes of others. Work, rest, …and SLEEP. Notice what goes well, and express gratitude. Nurture spirituality, meaning, and community. Make your close relationships a priority.