Meghan Casserly, 07.07.10, 05:00 PM EDT
A new theory in neuroscience suggests that retraining your brain will help you combat stress.
“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be,” Abraham Lincoln once famously said. And now it turns out that his statement was more than just a folksy quip. New research in neuroscience and psychology shows that we may be more in control of our emotions and anxiety levels than we think. And for the more than 75% of Americans who suffer from stress-related conditions, according to the American Psychiatric Association, these findings may give them new help for managing stress.
Stress comes from the way we think and react to outside stimulus, so people with anxious tendencies will react in a more fearful way than their calmer counterparts. “The reaction to stress stimuli comes from a part of the brain in the prefrontal cortex that is primitive–it’s a fight or flight reaction, ” says Don Goewy, author of Mystic Cool, a self-help book about stress management. Your brain can’t tell the difference between real and perceived danger, so stress levels jump when an individual faces a real physical threat or a perceived threat, such as being called into a supervisor’s office.