I am glad to see an article in The Atlantic titled The Benefits of Optimism Are Real summarizing recent research studies indicating that “resilient people are good at transforming negative feelings into positive ones.” Resilient people excelled at bouncing back from stressful experiences, thanks to their emotional complexity and ability to involve a wider range of emotions, such that “high levels of positive emotions exist side-by-side with negative emotions.” Resilient, optimistic people worry less, let go of negativity more readily, and more consistently shift their attention to the positive.
We find examples of adopting a resilient, positive attitude in the movies Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook, both of which include examples of adopting or moving into a position of greater emotional resilience, complexity, and optimism–without being delusional Pollyannas. The main characters in both stories chose to focus on appreciating the blessings in their lives, while doing whatever (seemingly small things) they were able to do while facing challenging situations, instead of choosing to obsess on what’s unfair or upsetting.
Venting Doesn’t Help
You may have heard advice from people–including some experts–stating that it’s helpful to express your anger and anxiety in order to feel happier. And you might notice some friends or family members who take every opportunity to describe what’s been troublesome for them recently in their lives. Yet researchers are finding that any such rumination on worries, doubts, and fears tends to lead people who are already feeling depressed to become significantly more depressed (and for a longer period of time) than distracting oneself with something that’s either neutral or mostly positive. One study even found that even venting by hitting a punching bag or being vengeful toward someone who makes you feel angry leads people to feel far worse, rather than better–and even doing nothing is better than venting in such ways.
Positive Emotions Heal
Researchers have found that positive emotions have a healing quality that have the power to reverse detrimental effects of stressful negative experiences. Resilient people view unpleasant, stressful situations as challenges and opportunities for growth, rather than as threats–even when they are specifically directed to view challenges as threats.
Find Meaning: Look for Ways to Improve
For the absolutely best results when finding oneself in difficult circumstances, we do well to ‘take lemons and make lemonade’–by seeking out a positive, productive goal to work toward. People who find some kind of meaning amidst adversity by looking more deeply inside themselves to see what they can learn and how they can improve have also been found to experience health benefits above and beyond those who merely vent about hardships enjoy.
Master the Art of Becoming Resilient
We can create a positive upward spiral of good energy regardless what circumstances come our way, and regardless what is happening that is outside of our personal control. We can learn to become more resilient by becoming aware of some positive steps for facing difficult situations:
(1) Recognize difficult situations as opportunities
As soon as grumbling, venting, and complaining begins, recognize that an opportunity has surely arrived, and also that this is the step we move as quickly as possible through for best results
(2) Describe why one of your most winning qualities is important
Regain emotional resilience in the face of any kind of rejection you might be feeling by identifying one of your most winning qualities, and then describing in detail (several sentences worth) why this quality is so important
(3) Set attainable yet challenging goals
Choose new goals that you know you can achieve, and you know will be good for you to achieve that now come to mind as you face difficult situations that you can now view as opportunities.
(4) Keep asking “How good can it get?!”
Regardless what is happening, maintain your commitment to keep moving ever onward and upward, by keeping the focus of your imagination and daydreams ever and always in the most positive possible directions.
You can watch the companion video to this blog post at: