~Submitted by Jackie Beck, MSW, Director of Inpatient Programs
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success”~ Albert Schweitzer
The human condition: We all are subject to emotions and are vulnerable to circumstances that impact those emotions. Stress and adversity can have many faces: family or relationship problems, health problems, job stress, financial difficulties, among others. Although many experience multiple stressors during their lifetime, most people show amazing resiliency. Psychological resilience is defined as an individual’s ability to adapt to stress and adversity; the ability to rise above it. Perhaps because of the human will to survive, resilience is not a rare ability. There is proof of that fact all around the world ~consider 9/11 and other tragedies that have occurred here and abroad. In the face of disaster, people and communities pull together and do what must be done to thrive.
People who demonstrate resilience are people with positive emotionality: balancing negative emotions with positive ones. Indeed, research shows that resilience is the result of an individual’s ability to rely on positive emotions which are boosted by the existence of “protective factors.” Protective factors can be thought of as those things which insulate us from the full impact of stress and adversity. An example of a protective factor is engaging in healthy coping strategies such as exercise, meditation, deep breathing, writing, reading, music, etc. Other protective factors include having supportive families, friends, schools, communities, and co-workers, as well as having other resources available to us (such as having a job and insurance). The more protective factors we have, the more prepared we are when adversity comes our way.
The relationship between positive emotions and resilience should not be underestimated. Studies show that maintaining positive emotions, even while facing adversity, promotes flexibility in thinking and problem solving ability. Maintaining positive emotions helps us to recover more quickly from stressful experiences. Positive emotions also impact our physical health. In fact, humor is known to improve the functioning of the immune system; it increases levels of an important antibody which serves as the body’s first line of defense in respiratory illnesses. Laughter also increases respiratory activity and oxygen exchange, muscle activity, promotes healthy blood pressure and heart rate, and helps to relieve pain.
Certainly, persistent negative emotions can have a damaging effect on our psychological and physical well-being. A steady negative state also has an impact on those around us. Have you noticed that negativity seems to breed more negativity? Conversely, positive people seem to brighten a room while attracting other positive people. It has been said that people with a negative attitude brighten the whole room too~ when they leave!
The best advice is to laugh, laugh, laugh! Practicing what I call “humorobics” ~seeking out things/activities that make you laugh out loud~ increases productivity, reduces sick days, increases self-assessed levels of ability to deal with stress and change, and increases life satisfaction. So, get over the fear of foolishness, and make yourself and those around you laugh!
The Resilient Self, Steven J. Wolin and Sybil Wolin
Humor and life stress: Antidote to adversity. Lefcourt, H. M., et al.