Recently, the World Health Organization has identified stress as “the global health epidemic of the 21st century” . We live and work in fast-paced environments, and the feelings of being overwhelmed and burned out are now quite common among us. We all desire to be happy, and yet happiness remains one of the most elusive of all human emotions. Since the fast-paced and highly demanding culture of our workplaces and daily lives is not likely to slow down anytime soon, this is a perfect time to find new ways to cultivate our resilience to stress and to maximize our happiness. Here are six scientifically proven ways to become more resilient to life’s adversities and to increase our well-being:
- Practice gratitude
Recently, scientists have discovered that the feeling of gratitude can greatly increase our happiness and build our resilience against negative emotions, stress and depression . Gratitude helps us focus on the positive emotions and experiences, and this helps us face adversity, improve our well-being and build strong social support networks. Focusing on gratitude allows us to harness the maximum satisfaction from our daily lives, and to make ourselves happier, since it is a way for us to appreciate what we already have instead of continuously reaching for what we think will make us happy.
- Become more self-aware
Self-awareness is crucial for our emotional intelligence, which is the ability to monitor our emotions and thoughts each moment. Self-awareness allows us to accept ourselves and to become at peace with who we truly are. In addition, it allows us to analyze, understand and manage our thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
Not surprisingly, many scientific studies have already demonstrated that greater self-awareness creates positive emotional states, and that it significantly promotes our well-being . As a bonus, building self-awareness does not only allow us to increase our understanding of ourselves, but also helps us establish better relationships with others and set clear goals in life.
- Practice compassion
Psychologists have identified compassion as an important factor in promoting our psychological well-being. Compassion is different from empathy: it is associated with an active desire to diminish the suffering of another person, rather than simply sharing their emotions. A brain imaging study has recently shown us that the “pleasure centers” of our brain activate strongly when we witness acts of compassion.
Specifically, scientists have shown that the parts of our brain that activate when we experience pleasurable sensations (for example, while eating our favorite food), activate equally when we observe someone giving money to charity and when we receive money ourselves . Other research has taught us that connecting with others in a meaningful way, such as during an act of compassion, helps to improve our mental and physical health. Finally, as if we needed more reasons to be kinder to others: a study by researchers at Stanford University has revealed that practicing acts of compassion can lengthen our life spans .
- Accept change as a part of living
One of the best ways to build resilience and, consequently, happiness, is to become more flexible and to embrace change. According to a recent psychological study, accepting the things we cannot change is a major predictor of life satisfaction .
Interpreting change in a positive way enables us to use it to motivate and drive us in a new, exciting direction. However, resisting change blocks us from accepting new challenges, growing and welcoming new opportunities. In the process of adapting to life’s changes and becoming more resilient, one of the most crucial steps the acceptance of one’s own mistakes. Allowing oneself to make mistakes not only helps to reduce choice-related anxiety, but also increases our potential for creativity.
- Manage your stress levels
In today’s fast-paced world, it can be a great challenge to control our stress levels.
According to the American Psychological Association, stress occurs when the demands placed on us exceed our ability to cope with them . Constant stress and the inability to cope with our stress levels can lead to several serious health conditions, such as chronic anxiety, depression, elevated blood pressure and decreased function of the immune system. On the other hand, learning how to manage our stress levels can help us become more resilient to life’s daily challenges, and to foster a greater satisfaction with our lives. Research suggests that in order to stay resilient to stress, it is very important to get adequate amounts of sleep . In addition, to a healthy diet and exercise, meditation has emerged as a proven technique to manage stress levels. Not only can meditation help us temporarily detach from our problems, but it also allows us to visualize new perspectives and release the emotions which cause us stress.
- Cultivate your sense of humor
There are many reasons why using our sense of humor can help us build up our resilience in challenging situations and increase our sense of well-being. Scientists have shown us that humor is a powerful tool to help us cope with stressful events and situations . In addition, humor triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy . In addition to giving us a natural high, humor and laughter have other positive effects on the body, such as reducing the physiological effects of stress on the body, lowering the blood pressure, relaxing our muscles and stimulating our immune systems . Researchers recommend laughing as hard and as often as possible to reduce our stress levels, build our resilience to adversity and give us an energy boost.
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