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Does Happiness Contribute to your Resilience? Part III of Resilience Building Blocks Series

Are happy people more resilient? Are resilient people happier? Scientists, psychologists and philosophers are still debating on the correlation between happiness and resilience.

To what extent are they dependent and interdependent?

Based on my personal life and professional experiences, on my clients’ testimonies, as well as on research; my personal definition of resilience is the: “capability to bounce back, by using one’s resources and learning, as well as growing from one’s experiences.”

Since birth, infants have had a capacity to withhold distressful moments. Throughout the childhood years, the instinct for survival and growth is the engine for learning and developing, which then turns into resilience.

Resilience is learnt, developed, groomed and grown into a skill. Resilience starts with unconscious unawareness, until it becomes an automatic mechanism, an unconscious awareness. So is your capacity to be happy. Yes, happiness is a skill most resilient individuals choose to develop. It is an intentional cognitive process which draws on the emotional and the rational brain.

The below points are a continuation of the resilience series: Building blocks of Resilience part I (points 1-8) and part II (points 9-12) in my blog.

13. Intent Your Happiness

The scientific definition of happiness is the “science of subjective wellbeing.” Research conducted at the University of California by Sonja Lyubomirsky reveals that sustainable happiness is determined 10% by your environment and circumstances, 50% by your genes, and 40% by your intentional activities, your life choices and behaviours. That 40% of intention can reverse the 60% by committing to a daily cognitive practice. It’s a mental gym, a relentless constructive and positive process, focusing, building and leveraging each opportunity; step by step to reach your goal of happiness. Resilient people consciously manufacture happiness; and with time and practice, turn it into an automatic coping mechanism. In other words, they cognitively work on their intentions to produce happiness; which are then reflected in their decisions, behaviour and actions.

They are aware of their concerns, yet, cognitively decide to focus on what they have control over, they are mindful of the present, aware of the negatives, frame them, but intently select the positive to manufacture happiness. Indeed, happiness is an emotional and a cognitive skill (see Part I, points 4 emotional awareness point & 7 manage your emotional energy).

Resilient people have an inner and outer focus, and yet, it’s the way they process emotions and events that allows them to synthesize happiness. When you tell yourself: “Nothing makes me happy today”, reframe your emotion and stick to the facts. A good question to ask is: “Am I sure that there is not one single small thing which provides me the feeling of happiness? Not a single element of my life today?”

14. Engage into Doing What you Love

When facing adversity, your will power is a determinant of your resilience. Doing what you love, no matter whether it is in your personal and or professional life, boosts your will power, your wellbeing, and therefore your resilience. Doing what you love, strengthens your optimism and motivation (see Part II point 9), recharges your positive energy, self-confidence, happiness hormones, and allows you to make better decisions. Discovering a talent and turning it into a strength (Part I, point 5 Inner awareness: your accurate self-assessment) thanks to practice and added knowledge is an effective way of finding what you love doing.

Dr. Martin Seligman, Ph.D., the father figure of positive psychology refers to finding your signature strength and immersing yourself into it, to reach a state of flow; the feeling of effectiveness, effortless absorption, and fulfillment.

I recommend you try an online strength test finder. One of my clients was concentrating on her weaknesses; doing that test allowed her to gain self-awareness of her strengths, and re-enforced her resilience. Your strengths directly contribute to your happiness and therefore your resilience.

15. Show Gratitude: Apply the 3 x 21 Rule

Gratitude impacts your happiness and your resilience. Gratitude is a skill, a positive and a social emotion, an attitude and so much more. My saying is that it is also a cognitive effort…at least when you start practicing it.

Gratitude allows you to reframe negative experiences, and therefore reducing their negative emotional impact. Moreover, science reveals that grateful people are sturdier to different levels of stress and therefore are more resilient. After all, it is under the most adverse episodes of your life that you can most benefit from having a perception of gratitude in life.

Dr. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude and a professor of psychology at the University of California.

Emmons divides gratitude in two stages: first it reaches the inner awareness level: recognizing the good things coming our way, which we experience and receive, basically the “what.” A good question is: “what are the positive element of my life? What am I thankful for?”. The second stage stretches our recognition towards the outer awareness, identifying and acknowledging the sources of the goodness; the “who” and “how.” A good question to ask is: “To whom am thankful too and how did it all happen?”

Emmons, Seligman, as well as other psychologists recommend acknowledging and journaling in a log three signs of gratitude for twenty-one days.

16. Synthetic Happiness

Dan Gilbert Professor of Psychology at Harvard University reveals how we can create and take ownership of our happiness and how it is similar to a “mental immune system.” We don’t always receive the expected outcomes and rewards from life, and we must accept it as part of our life realities, because it is more about learning to enjoy the lessons life offers; and growing from them. At the end of your journey, your happiness is what you actually intent to feel think and be. A good question is: “Ok I didn’t get what I expected, but what do I make of the journey? What did I learn? What did I get directly or indirectly?

The science of subjective wellbeing, aka happiness, is a direct contributor to your level of resilience. In my personal definition, what also defines resilience are the resources you need to bounce back. Your skills are your resources, and happiness is an emotional and cognitive skill to use in your advantage to fight adversity.

These building blocks of resilience are the pillars of your temple. They empower you to face harsh storms and stand strong through time and adversity.

Never forget that your most important resource is your mind.

Stay tuned for the fourth part of this series with more pertaining building blocks of resilience…soon to come.

Shermeen Zeidan,

Certified Master Coach

Your Resilience Booster

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