Shout-out to all optimists and Frozen fans out there: you were right.
Researchers found out that letting go of stress and negative emotions can have a big impact on our long-term health.
We often think that stress-related health issues derive only from major life events, such as divorces, accidents, or other adversities that have a huge impact on life.
But we shouldn’t neglect the small, daily stressors that we encounter. A flat tire, annoying neighbor, or a mistake at work might seem teeny-tiny troubles compared to big life changes mentioned above, yet their impact on our health can be surprisingly significant if we handle them poorly.
Experiencing stress because of a flat tire or a bad grade is not what harms us. Carrying that negative emotion over to the following day does.
The key idea is lingering stress. A stressor tends to cause negative emotions, such as irritability, nervousness, anger, frustration, loneliness, or worthlessness. That’s natural, but the critical part is what happens next — will that emotion linger with you into the following day?
The research published in a journal of the Association for Psychological Science conducted a longitudinal study where they analyzed participants’ stress responses, lingering negative emotions, and their overall health ten years after the initial survey.
They found out that those who couldn’t let go of negative emotions caused by daily stressors experienced more health issues, functional limitations, and chronic illnesses a decade later.
“Our research shows that the strategy to ‘just let it go’ could be beneficial to our long-term physical health” — Psychological Scientist Kate Leger of the University of California
A gazelle that managed to escape a hunting lion releases his stress by trembling after the situation, and a human mother lowers down her baby’s stress levels by comforting the crying baby.
But how about an adult? Adults swear quietly, squeeze their teeth firmly together, continue the day with a bad mood, and keep dwelling on the stressor in their mind over and over again.
→ That’s the way to keep the stress response and the negative emotions tightly inside.
And looking into your future, that’s not wise.
So how to let it go, when you’re not a baby nor a gazelle, and a massive temper tantrum is usually not an option? The answer is a combination of stress management skills, mental abilities to handle negative emotions, and knowing what works best for you.
I recently wrote about handling stress at the moment it strikes, and I have a couple of little techniques that I find useful. They include seeing the big picture of the situation, calming myself down by breathing deeply and changing my stress mindset into thinking that instead of an enemy, it’s my body helping me to cope with the tricky situation.
If these ideas don’t work for you, try to find your own methods. Perhaps it’s working out, talking it out, or walking it out. Whatever helps you leave those negative emotions behind after they’re not needed anymore.
Cliches and mantras are repeated for a reason. And this one is now scientifically approved.
Just let it go.
Thanks for reading!
If you enjoyed reading this, you’ll find more wellness and stress-related articles on my Medium profile.
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Originally published at medium.com