Can stress be positive and helpful?  Yes, says Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal.  It is our belief system that negatively affects our health. One approach to stress reduction is to help other people engage in positive social involvement. So, don’t worry if your heart pounds, that your forehead sweats and your hands get clammy.  Research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case.


Why you should listen?:

Her scientific work explores the latest research on motivation, temptation and procrastination, as well as what it takes to transform habits, persevere at challenges and make a successful change. Currently she is working on stress, and she has made some interesting findings about it. In her words: “The old understanding of stress as a unhelpful relic of our animal instincts is being replaced by the understanding that stress actually makes us socially smart — it’s what allows us to be fully human.”

Who is she?:

Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal is a Stanford University psychologist   and a leader in the growing field of “science-help”  (also called media psychology). She works to help works to help us understand and implement the latest scientific findings on the effects of stress.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How is one’s health affected by the belief that stress is bad for you.
  2. Why did her goal as a heath psychologist change? To what did it change?
  3. What is the dark truth about oxytocin? What is the positive aspect?
  4. What is the effect, on longevity, of caring for others while under stress?

Making Connections:

Here is a tedtalkspsychology link to another important talk about the relationship between stress and health; this time with young children:





How to make stress your friend with Kelly McGonigal


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