Happiness is…Being Resilient
What started as a COVID-19 scare in March has turned into a nightmare 8 months later. Church services being cancelled. People not being allowed to attend sporting events, movies, concerts or plays. Vacationers not being able to travel. Family reunions being cancelled. No physical social contacts. Each of those happiness events are deposits into our well-being banking account.
Combine this with a contentious, no make that odious, presidential election. A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association shows this year’s election has been a significant source of stress for more than 2/3 or American adults. Additionally, 7 of 10 Americans believe there will be widespread violence across the country after the election results are announced. Throw in a little bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which drains your energy, leaving you filled with despair and frustration, and I promise you are headed toward a major depressive disorder. This differs greatly from just being depressed. It can become a whirlpool that once you’re caught in it, it keeps pulling you lower and lower. It carries with it long-lasting problems such as extreme despair, no energy, loss of appetite, and losing interest in the things that once brought you pleasure.
Estimates are that about 6.7% of US citizens have at least one major depressive episode each year. If we don’t learn how to control the stresses in our lives, I promise you that this percentage is about to go much higher. The scientific explanation for this is that stressful events cause an increase in the “stress hormone” cortisol, and at the same time reduces the happy hormone serotonin and other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, in the brain.
Depression begins when positive thoughts are replaced with negative thoughts. Many experts think it takes 5 positive thoughts to overcome the harmful effects of one negative thought. Just think how your well-being suffers when you are experiencing MORE negative thoughts than positive. Think back over your last 8 months. How many negative thoughts have you heard, compared with positive?
But the truth is, it’s not the event that makes us depressed. It’s our perception of the event. Seldom is our perception based upon facts.
Folks, face the fact. We are about to have an election that is going to leave 50% of the population not just disappointed, but livid. Hopefully we will soon see the end of COVID-19, but we will need to wait 4 years for another presidential election. If you’re on the losing side, are you going to be miserable for those years?
Fourteen months ago, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. I made a pledge it was not going to take away a single day of happiness from me. For the last 8 months, I have not let this pandemic take away a moment of happiness, and I AM NOT going to let this election give me 4 years of despair.
One way we can battle through this is by learning to be resilient. A good definition of resilient is the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. Think of a palm tree. They survive 100+ MPH winds not because they fight the winds with their strength, but rather because they bend in the wind, using their root system to anchor them. They are flexible and adaptable.
Resilience is measured by how well you can bounce back from what life has dealt you
I’d like to offer you the following tips for becoming resilient.
- Bend but don’t break. It is inevitable we are going to see changes in our lives. It doesn’t mean you have to accept the change, but don’t let it leave you feeling hopeless. If you don’t like the change, become proactive in working on your own change. Flexibility is an essential part of resilience. By learning how to be more adaptable, you’ll be better equipped to respond when faced with a life crisis. Resilient people often utilize these events as an opportunity to branch out in new directions. Abrupt changes may crush some people, but highly resilient individuals are able to adapt and thrive.
- Learn to follow the formula E + R = O. You can’t control the Event dealt to you, but how you respond to it, can determine the outcome. Be pro-active. Don’t wait for the problem to go away on its own. Research suggests that people who are able to come up with solutions to a problem are better able to cope with problems than those who cannot. It will also help you feel more in control. Whenever you encounter a new challenge, make a quick list of some potential ways you could solve the problem.
- Stay Connected. Nothing gives you strength like a strong social network. The pandemic has limited this, but even during it continue to keep in contact. Utilize Facetime, zoom, letters and emails. My prayer is that we come out of this with the realization the most important part of our lives is not our job, our money, our success, but it is our relationships. Have 2 or 3 people among your network that you can confide in.
- Find a way to let off steam. I went through a time of depression following my mother’s death and the failure of my construction company. I found exercise to be the outlet I needed. It worked when medication didn’t. A great form of exercise isn’t stuck inside a gym, but rather taking long walks and hikes. Make it challenging, but just being outside will certainly lift your spirits. If you don’t want to exercise, find other forms of manual labor. Other suggestions are writing, either in a journal, or write your first book or learn to draw or paint. For some people, meditation and yoga works.
- Find purpose in your life. Write a mission statement. Make it about others, not you. It might be you becoming active in your community, civic organizations or your church. Establish goals. Crisis situations are daunting. They may even seem insurmountable. Resilient people are able to view these situations realistically and then set reasonable goals to deal with the
- Throw negative thoughts out with the trash. Hijack negative thoughts. Head them off at the pass. Immediately replace them with positive thoughts. A major part of resilience is becoming more confident in your own abilities, including your ability to respond to and deal with a crisis. Keep a success file that includes articles, photographs, or letters that will remind you of your strengths and accomplishments.
- Keep on the Sunny side: Stay optimistic, even through the darkest storms. Keeping a hopeful outlook is an important part of being resilient. Now this doesn’t mean ignoring the problem, but realizing it doesn’t have to be permanent. Be confident you can overcome the problem. Positive thinking does not mean ignoring the problem in order to focus on positive outcomes.
- In case of an emergency. Remember how on a flight the attendant tells you, “in case of an emergency, place your oxygen mask on first before attempting to attend to others”. Learn you take care of yourself. I don’t mean in a selfish, narcistic way. Get plenty of sleep. Eat the proper foods. Get sufficient exercise. Nurture yourself. Do some things you enjoy, instead of giving in to others.
- Don’t worry, be happy: As I mentioned earlier, most of the negative thoughts in our life are not based upon actual events, but our perception of those events. Research has shown that about:
40% of the things we worry about have an almost 0% chance of happening·
30% of the things we worry about have already happened.
12% of the things we worry about have are about our health, but have a low percentage of happening.
10% of the things we worry about have is about what people think about us (Remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
In other words, only about 8% of the things most people worry about have any basis.
Even for those things, you can replace worry by taking concrete, pro-active steps toward eliminating or minimizing the effects of that concern.
So what I want to leave you with is yes, it has been a trying time. For many, the past has been stressful, and the next four years may be stressful, but don’t let these events take away your happiness. Become a resilient person, and maintain a positive attitude to conquer any stress you may have.
I hope you’ll read my other blogs at www.BringingHopeAndHappiness.com
If you have questions, I encourage you to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.