Dr. Dean Ornish answered:
Having more control over your life helps reduce the harmful effects of stress. One of the reasons why social class is such a powerful predictor of health and illness is that, in general, more affluent people generally have more control over their lives. For example, musicians who play in orchestras often report feeling more stressed than those who play in chamber quartets, because those in an orchestra are under the complete control of the conductor, whereas those in a smaller quartet have more autonomy.
While it’s good to have more power, affluence, and control in our lives, sometimes it’s not possible. However, part of the value of stress-management techniques is that they help us realize that we have more power and control than we may have thought. We can’t always control external events, no matter how much power we may have. The president of the United States may be the most powerful person in the world, but even the president can’t always get Congress to do what he or she wants, much less control events and leaders in the rest of the world.
Fortunately, practicing meditation and other stress-management techniques on a regular basis gives us more power to control how we react to these external events. As a patient once said to me after learning meditation and yoga, “Well, the situation didn’t change, but I did.”
As I described in chapter 2 of the book The Spectrum, I always try to give my son, Lucas, as much control and choice as possible within the bounds of what’s appropriate. What do you feel like doing today? What do you want for lunch? What movie would you like to see? This way, he feels empowered and less stressed than he otherwise would, and he gets used to making decisions for himself. Also, when I do set limits, he is more likely to respect them because he knows they’re not arbitrary, and I always explain the reasons for my actions.Find out more about this book: The Spectrum: A Scientifically Proven Program to Feel Better, Live Longer,...Having more control over your life helps reduce the harmful effects of stress. One of the reasons why social class is such a powerful predictor of health and illness is that, in general, more affluent people generally have more control over their... More