What Happy People do Differently, Part IV

Happy people don’t hide from emotions but instead tend to acknowledge that life is full of disappointments and are willing to address them. Feelings of anger can be effectively utilized to stand up for oneself or in becoming more assertive. Feelings of guilt can be used to motivate oneself toward behavioral change. This mental flexibility between pleasure and pain, the ability to shift one’s behavior to match a situation, is known as psychological flexibility and results in greater wellbeing! Columbia University psychologist George Bonnano found that in the aftermath of 9/11, the most psychologically flexible people living in New York City during the attacks bounced back more quickly than their less adaptable counterparts. Specifically, Dr. Bonnano found that those individuals who were angry at times but could also conceal their emotions when necessary enjoyed greater psychological and physical health in the months and years after 9/11. Opportunities for flexible responding are frequent. Perhaps a colleague appeared rude and demeaning. Instead of letting your hurt and anger simmer quietly, accept your feelings as a signal, which allows you to employ other strategies for reacting. These include compassion. Perhaps the colleague is experiencing an emotionally difficult time. Another strategy includes mindful listening – being curious about what might be occurring in the life of this colleague that has nothing to do with you. Similar to training for a marathon, learning the skill of emotional discomfort is a task that’s learned over time. So instead of pouring yourself a glass of wine next time you get into an argument with your spouse or family member, try simply tolerating the emotion for a few minutes. Before you know it, your ability to tolerate daily negative emotions will expand.