In this pursuit of happiness we call life, there are those (myself among them) who would argue that the absence of stress and sickness is not the same as happiness. Well, yes. But being sick and stressed does make being happy something of a challenge. Most would agree that not being stressed and sick is a good to start towards being happy.
But are they right?
Are we stressed out and miserable because we face so much stress and fear, and get so little sleep? Or are we stressed out and miserable because we believe ourselves to be so? Regardless of what you believe about the millennia that have led to the point we now inhabit in time and space today, the fact is that stress has always been a feature of our lives. So why has it only started killing us now?
Health professionals, particularly those focusing on mental and psychological health, are starting to share research data that speculates that a large part of the danger in both stress and insomnia is our perception of the inherent danger in both stress and insomnia. Did you get that? It’s so bad for us … because we think it’s so bad for us.
That is the theory behind Kelli McGonigal’s much-watched TED Talk, titled “Making Stress Your Friend”:
It is also the theory shared in this fascinating report on just how much sleep we actually need. Research shows that “a healthy eight-hour sleep” is a mythological theory with little supporting evidence. It’s hard to see where such theories developed, but the pervasiveness of our belief in the truth of this theory means that when we don’t get our eight hours – whether we work late, wake up early, or find our sleep interrupted in the middle of the night – we believe the effects will be bad … so they are.
In other words, whether we think stress and sleep deprivation are bad for us or not, we’re right. It’s what we think that makes us ill.