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Change your mindset, change your life

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

Mindsets act as a bridge between our conscious and subconscious self. My reflection today is the takeaway of Dr Huberman's podcast with Associate Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, Dr Alia Crum.

In essence, how we think about a domain, what underlying assumptions we have, how we are influenced by culture, peers, media and our self initiated conscious effort form a set of assumptions and beliefs about a matter (a domain) such as stress, healthy lifestyle, cancer, a medical treatment. Such assumptions and beliefs then form a mindset about this topic. The mindset we have about the topic has profound impact on our reaction to the topic, or response to a stimuli associated with the topic e.g. how we think of stress can change our physiology, including an opportunity to benefit from the body's stress response (narrowed vision leading to better focus, almost like your body has increased its brain processing power).

What struck me is that in an illustration of how mindsets about healthy and unhealthy food affects the subconscious processes which cause a different reaction in the body. In the example of the milkshake experiment, mindsets and not only the nutrition content of the milkshake affected the body's ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels. This means to me that the mindset I have about food, stress and perhaps a lot more domains, interacts in a deeper level of my self, at the subconscious level, and influence my subconscious and conscious decisions.

I am now curious how I can apply this in my everyday life. Especially on my beliefs and assumptions about stress.

Here's a summary of my takeaway from this podcast.

Mindset about stress:

  1. What I believe about stress can change my reaction to stress

  2. What I assume about stress may not be 100% correct, could be subjective

  3. How I view the world and how the world views stress, is shaped by external factors, but there is a possibility I can shape my own view about stress

  4. There is adequate research and evidence to support the positive use of stress and I would love to reshape my mindset about stress

  5. I can possibly redefine any mindset through both conscious reasoning and research, and working on the subconscious through hypnotherapy and guided contemplations

Wisdom from stress:

The quotes below read together came as a eureka moment for me. The stress I face arises from the challenges I encounter because of things I care and value about in life. My body is awesome because the stress response literally is my mind and body telling me to focus on what I care about, get into action, and rise to the occasion. Fantastic!

"The body's (and mind's) stress response, was designed to not actually be destructive but to help us rise to the occasion"

"We only experience stress about things we care about...stress and what we care about, are two sides of the same coin.... anything that is worth doing (or is valuable) in life is inherently going to involve some challenge"

- Dr Alia Crum, Why Mindsets Matter

I am reminded of what billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio says as his principle to life - to struggle well. Simply put.

"Struggle Well"

- Ray Dalio, Founder of Bridgewater Associates


10 reflection questions to rebuild my relationship with stress:

  1. What are my mindsets about stress?

  2. How stressed am I in general?

  3. How positively or negatively impacted am I because of my beliefs and assumptions about stress?

  4. What other feelings accompany stress when or after I feel stress at its most intense?

  5. At its most intense, how does my body interact with the stress?

  6. What purpose do I think my stress (and the other emotions that follow) serve?

  7. How long does this linger normally?

  8. Are there other negative realities I form about myself after the stressful episode? e.g. blaming myself for letting this happen or for not being able to manage better

  9. Can any of my assumptions and beliefs in my responses be challenged, dismissed or is any of these absolutely false?

  10. What would a loving and empathetic friend say to console me?

Reflection on possible truths and beliefs about stress

  1. Fact: stress jolts my body to physical activity (e.g. heart pumps faster, delivers more oxygen and energy through my body); Belief: stress encourages me to act for my benefit!

  2. Fact: stress allows my mind to focus on the subject that is dear to me; Belief: my body is allocating the required resources to help me meet the matter head on and focus on giving this my best shot

  3. Fact: stress is felt when I am facing a challenge relating to a goal; Belief: the reason I am stressed is because my body is telling me I care about the stressor. It is helping me to consider what I value in life and giving me an opportunity to reflect on my priorities in life.

  4. Reflection: list down experiences in the past where I felt stressed, I dedicated my effort and used my resources to overcome the challenges and in some way, stress led to a positive effort, and I felt accomplished or satisfied because of it.

  5. How does my reflection make me feel?

Change my mindset, change my life

What positive mindset can I start instilling in my conscious and subconscious mind now which would make lasting changes to the way I respond to stress, right now?

I imagine what the future will look like, if I had the most ideal and beneficial mindset about stress.

  1. How would I respond to stress?

  2. What would I do when I detect signs of stress?

  3. What achievements will I have with such a mindset?

  4. Will may chance of overcoming obstacles increase?

  5. How will I feel?

  6. What would I think about myself overall if I were to have such a positive mindset about stress?

After reviewing my past experiences, stress has been the greatest gift for me till this day of writing. It was stress that snapped me out of the endless pursuit of career goals. It helped me prioritize what was important (family, health, being me) over work, career, past trauma about my relationship with myself and with my parents.

It was stress that led me to starting this site. I quit and started writing my emotions down, journaling them and was eventually inspired to write my book, because stress led me to face down my fear, step into a big decision (to resign from my job), and start a new chapter in my life.

My mindset about stress hence is I believe stress is delivering me a message, a wisdom. I am to use all of my resources and with the help of my new superhuman abilities that stress activates within me, I have a better chance to overcome my obstacle. I can deploy this kinetic energy within my body to act swiftly, energetically, with excitement, with purpose. I can use my mind to focus on the task at hand, be creative, to dwell on the issue, to review its significance, and to decide if I should reach out for help if the matter is truly insurmountable by my own effort.

My stress mindset in summary is:

Stress advises me to consider what I truly value and empowers me to make the best of the situation if overcoming it matters much to me

What is also interesting is whether I can adapt the Guest House visualizations when I experience stress for my greatest benefit. For that matter, any mindset choice is a powerful decision.

As written in Chapter 1 of My Guest House, feelings come to gift us a message, some wisdom or a learning. Time to learn what my stress is telling me to focus on, to act on and to learn from. It is time to get busy.

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