Why Some People Eat Ice Cream and Others Go For Walks: Deactivating Stress Using The “Hamster Wheel” Technique
I don’t know about you, but for me, as soon as the stress hits I go HAYWIRE.
I can’t sleep.
My appetite goes away.
And I don’t really get anything done.
So I wanted to figure out how to create a buffer for stress because it was severely impairing my ability to do anything in my life.
It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a really cool mice study done in the Journal of Neuroscience that I finally had an “aha” moment.
Nerds, Bullies, And Hamster Wheels – The Cool Study
The Hamster Wheel Technique
This was a pretty interesting study I found in the Journal of Neuroscience.
This particular study (which was done with mice) took two categories of mice: alpha male mice that were aggressive and territorial, and some weaker mice.
The weaker mice were divided into two groups: ones that exercised on a hamster wheel and had cool tubes to explore and run around in before the experiment, and ones that didn’t get to exercise/explore.
They then would put the two mice together in a cage for 5 minutes. The weak mice would cower and go into the corner to submit. But over time, the weaker mice started acting fidgety and squeamish — they were literally getting stressed out and anxious.
Researchers then put the mice into a maze to test their decision making ability.
The mice without the hamster wheel/exercise were freezing or just hiding in corners and not moving. Their actual decision making ability was halted and affected by the stress and their “anxiety-like behavior.”
But the mice that were given the wheel, including other tubes and things to run around in before the experiment, exhibited “Stress-resistant” behavior.
Now in humans, when we’re stressed out long enough it typically leads to either anxiety or depression.
And NEITHER of those are very useful when you’re trying to go about your busy life when you’re trying to do things.
But what science hasn’t 100% figured out is why some people are more resilient – why do I have to destroy a box of ice cream when I’m having a melt down, versus someone else that seems to do just fine when the world is imploding around them?
One interesting things the researchers concluded was that the mice that exercised beforehand had proactively prevented stress and made themselves more resilient ahead of time.
And we know that people that do something as simple as a 30 minute walk regularly are more resistant to stress and can deal with it when it shows up.
So what’s the dealyo?
Your Tiny Habit For Today
Especially if you’re someone who can’t just “go meditate in a corner” when you get stressed out, this is going to help.
The Hamster Wheel Technique is simple: remember that the hamsters who had the opportunity to use the wheel before getting stressed out showed waaaaaay better functioning once the stress hit.
In other words, they weren’t mentally screwed up and short-circuited like the other hamsters were.
Here’s reason #346 to regularly do some kind of activity – just adding as little as a 30 minute walk a few times a week will help make you more resistant to stress, but also will make it easier for you to come off the stressed out feeling.
And I’m not just talking about going for a walk when you’re stressed – just doing it in general will help keep your stress levels lower, like the mice that retained their sanity when they were face to face with the bully mice then thrown into a maze (aka life) to figure it out.
What about you? Do you have a go-to technique you use when the stress gets out of hand? Share it below.