Life is not always easy. In fact, it is constantly changing. Life never stays the same. Our circumstances change. Our work, our social life, our health, our family dynamics, everything changes. Good times come and good times go. Bad times come and bad times go. So how do we go about achieving resilience?
While it is helpful during times of difficulty to remember the old adage that “this too shall pass,” this also means that good times will pass, so really change is the only constant in life. Accepting change as inevitable in life helps us to achieve happiness because it strengthens our ability to be content with where we are now so that we can have the strength to grow to where we can be tomorrow. Part of that strength comes from accepting that challenges and stress are an inevitable part of life.
From the moment we are born and throughout our entire life we are faced with challenges. How we perceive and process challenges are actually more important than whether or not these negative events or situations occur. Research has shown that the occurrence of stressful or traumatic events does not predict happiness or the ability to succeed and function well in life. What is more important is how we perceive and process these events. In fact, negative events have a negative impact only when we have a negative response to them.
A positive response neutralizes the negative effect. Having an internal locus of control and reframing negative events to find a positive purpose is actually more critical than whether or not we experience these stressful events in life. An internal locus of control is a belief that we can influence the outcome of our life rather than an external locus where we feel that life happens to us and that we have no control over it. An internal locus of control has been linked to improved motivation, decreased anxiety, performing better under stress, experiencing less stress during times of difficulty and better overall psychological well-being. This ability to recover quickly from difficulties is the definition of resilience. So how can we cultivate resilience to achieve happiness in life?
Achieving Resilience – Four Ways:
- Accept that change is inevitable and realize that life never stays the same, so however bad things seem they will not last forever.
- Reframe how you think about stress, accept that it is inevitable but use it as a way to grow and learn rather than an excuse to be sad or give up.
- Develop an internal locus of control; realize that your perception controls the impact that stress has on you not the stress itself.
- It’s not the end of the world, realize it is a specific issue that can be addressed not a global problem with everything in life.
Dr. Shad (Farshad Fani Marvasti, MD, MPH) is a Stanford-trained medical doctor, associate professor in academic medicine, speaker, and author with expertise in nutrition and culinary medicine, wellness, public health and prevention.
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