In our often stressful lives, one single thought can make a difference. These were the findings obtained by brain researchers in recent studies, which showed there are 13 common ‘mind traps’ that can constantly trigger stress reactions, even when the actual threat level is low. We might live in a stress-filled world, but experts say recognizing and changing some common negative thought patterns can save us a whole lot of exhaustion and unnecessary anxiety.
“Stress is like a guitar string. If it’s strung too loosely, it can only play flat, lower sounds, and if its strung too tightly, it produces excessively high, sharp tones, or indeed even snaps,” says stress researcher Jonathan S. Abramowitz of the University of North Carolina. “A guitar string must have the right tension in order to sound good. And when it comes to stress, we too need to find the right tensioning to ensure this stress plays out within a healthy range.”
It might sound easy, but the reality isn’t so simple. After all, stress is defined as the sum of all our physical and mental reactions to our environment and the daily demands placed upon us. This is the reason stress reactions are often triggered too intensively and too permanently, and sustained tension can make people ill. And yet irksome situations only make up a small part of the triggers behind stress reactions, with 90 per cent of our stress tracing back to how we think about a challenge beforehand.
“If we recognize these thoughts and are able to stop feelings of lack from arising, stop thinking in black and white, and stop always wanting to have control over everything, we can use our ability to give preference to one thought over another,” says cellular biologist Dr Bruce Lipton. “Changing our thoughts can impact on how our brain communicates with the rest of the body. That is the safest way of ensuring more calmness and the greatest weapon against negative stress.”
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This World Mental Health Day, find out the 13 mind traps we constantly fall into and which immediately trigger stress, and what you can do about it: