The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (aka the S&P 500®), is a reliable indicator of the financial health of the macro economy. Based on the market capitalization of 500 large companies listed on the NYSE or NASDAQ, it is considered one of the best representations of the U.S. stock market, and a bellwether for the U.S. economy.
If we had a “Personal S&P Index”, could it be an indicator of our personal health and happiness?
The answer is… Yes!
And… while the performance of the underlying stocks in the S&P 500 is subject to many factors beyond our control and is difficult to predict, the performance of our “Personal S&P Index” is something we can foresee.
So what is our “Personal S&P Index”?
Unlike the Standard and Poor’s Index, our “Personal S&P Index” is not tied to the ups and downs of selected stocks. Rather, it is tied to what activates our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). These systems counterbalance each other, and the degree to which each is activated has an impact on our overall health and wellbeing.
Simply put, stress activates the Sympathetic Nervous System and renewal activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System.
Stress activates the “S”
The SNS mobilizes the body’s fight-or-flight response, needed especially when we find ourselves in imminent danger — for instance, being chased by a tiger. Our pulse rate and blood pressure increases and our breathing gets faster and shallower. Fortunately, the frequency of experiencing this type of acute stressis low.
More common is episodic acute stress which is prevalent in those who are always in a rush, have too many tasks to juggle, feel constantly under pressure, tend to fly off the handle, tend to be overly anxious, and treat others badly. As a result they are prone to physiological ailments such as headaches, hypertension, and cardiac disease.
Chronic stress is prolonged stress, and over time can have extremely harmful effects on our physical, emotional, and mental health. Examples include having ongoing financial worries, being stuck in an unhappy relationship or toxic environment, feeling the world is against us, and reliving painful past experiences that we are unable to put behind us. For many people, chronic stress has become the norm and they may not even be aware of its existence or impact.
Renewal activates the “P”
In contrast, the PNS is referred to as the feed-and-breed system and controls our body’s response when at rest. In addition to controlling digestion, respiration, and heart rate, it also restores our body to a state of calm after experiencing a stressful event.
Renewal of our body is possible by activation of the PNS which causes our blood pressure and heart rate to drop, our breathing to slow down and get deeper, and our immune system to be more fully engaged. It also results in our body rebuilding itself neurologically, and opening our minds to new ideas and possibilities.
Minimizing activation of the SNS and maximizing activation of the PNS can have positive effects on our “Personal S&P Index”.
Steps to improve your “Personal S&P Index”
1. Assess your current “Personal S&P Portfolio and Index”
In the same way that you would regularly assess your financial portfolio for investments that are no longer serving you, take the time to assess your wellbeing portfolio — your personal bellwether.
- Identify what is causing you stress (the bad stocks)
- Identify what you’re doing to counterbalance and renew (the good stocks)
2. Reduce your exposure to stress
For each stressor identified, find ways to reduce the level of stress it is causing you.
3. Increase your investment in renewal
Keep your current renewal activities and engage more in these four key experiences that counterbalance the effects of stress:
- Mindfulness through meditation, yoga, tai chi, spirituality, and regular physical exercise
- Compassion through loving relationships, helping others, or caring for a pet
- Hope through thinking and sharing thoughts about a more positive future
- Playfulness through laughter with others
4. Repeat steps 1–3!
While you can’t actively manage the S&P 500, you can certainly actively manage your “Personal S&P Index”!
Reap the rewards!
Unlike the S&P 500® Index, you have a lot more control over your “Personal S&P Index” and your ROI, so take full advantage and actively manage your portfolio for long-term health and happiness!