The Single Biggest Factor Ruining Your Wealth and Health

One major issue could be ruining your health today… and your financial well-being in the future…

About one-third of American workers report high levels of stress, according to the University of Massachusetts Lowell. It costs businesses more than $300 billion annually – making folks sick more often and resulting in higher employee turnover and lost productivity. And it has big consequences for your personal life.

So in this issue of Retirement Millionaire Daily, I want to talk about stress…

Feelings of stress and anxiety come from a small, walnut-shaped area of your brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for fear. It’s the driving force for your primitive flight-or-fight response. Any kind of threat – whether a physical danger or a threat to your well-being, like losing money – triggers a rush of emotions… including fear, anxiety, and stress.

Being able to control your stress is a key factor in living a wealthier, healthier life.

Happier, less-stressed people make better investments. In 2007, researchers published a paper reviewing data from 2,000 households in the Netherlands. Happier people were more willing to save their money instead of spend it on material goods. And when they invested, they were more willing to take healthy risks because they anticipated better long-term outcomes.

Stress also hurts your health… It’s a leading cause of back pain and high blood pressure. And it takes a big toll on cells, especially on the protective caps on the ends of your DNA, called telomeres.

These caps wear down each time your cells divide, so they disappear as you age. When the telomeres are gone, the cell stops dividing and dies. Stress makes telomeres shrink faster than normal, which leads to a host of age-related diseases.

As we age and gain experience, we’re better able to control the stress response through the prefrontal cortex, or PFC. The PFC sits right at the top of your brain near your forehead. It’s the center of all your planning, decision-making, and behavior control.

And new research shows that humans can actively train their brains to control the amygdala and, ultimately, control stress.

The research, published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry, used a new imaging method – similar to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) – to monitor the amygdala’s reaction to visual stimuli.

When a participant saw a positive image, the activity in the amygdala calmed.

This means that people can use calming methods, like meditation or looking at positive images, and we can see their changes in real time with this imaging. Those methods actually slow down their amygdala.

While researchers are still working on how to apply this knowledge in everyday life, there are ways to start reducing your stress today…

Two Simple Ways to Reduce Stress

1. Take the time to meditate. Longtime readers know meditation is one of my favorite ways to reduce stress.

Meditation not only helps preserve brain matter as we age, it helps reduce the activity in the brain’s amygdala. The amygdala is also a contributor to anxiety disorders and stress. Quieting this brain region bolsters more positive feelings.

In a 2011 study from the brain research journal NeuroImage, beginning meditators showed reduced activity levels in their amygdalae when faced with fear-inducing images.

2. Eat your greens and blues. Certain foods have consistently been shown to improve your mood, confirmed by new research from the University of Warwick.

Researchers followed 12,000 people for two years and measured fruit and veggie intake along with happiness and life satisfaction. They also took life events like job loss and income changes into account for the statistical analysis. With each serving of fruit and vegetables (up to eight servings a day), psychological well-being increased incrementally.

Previous studies have suggested a connection between antioxidants and our immune systems. And our immune systems moderate our happiness hormone, serotonin. So the relationship makes sense – eating foods rich in antioxidants makes us feel better.

What We’re Reading…