Article by Justin Coulson.
See his Happy families blog here or follow Justin’s twitter.
For the past decade or so resilience has been something of a buzz word in parenting.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from set-backs and carry on in spite of hardship. The more resilient a person (or child) is, the better the outcomes the person will experience in terms of life satisfaction, happiness, productivity, creativity, social experience, and so on.
There are a bunch of factors (psychologists call them protective factors) that promote resilience for all of us, children and adults alike. They include, perhaps most importantly, strong social relationships (with friends or loved ones), but also things including spirituality, good problem solving skills, and having a mindset that can find meaning and purpose in all experiences.
The factor that I wanted to highlight in this post, though, is positive emotions.
When a child is experiencing something painful or negative in his or her life, it is unlikely that the experience will include positive emotions like joy, pleasure, contentment, or exhilaration. Yet positive emotions held previously can make a BIG difference in how long the negative experience lasts, and how your child bounces back from it.
When we experience positive emotions such as love, happiness, gratitude, curiosity, etc, we actually build psychological resources. We become more optimistic, more aware of the good that is in our lives, and more able to focus on the positive aspects we experience.
Additionally, we cultivate better social relationships from these positive emotions. People are attracted to positive, happy people. Our social resources are built.
Our cogntive resources are enhanced. People experiencing positive emotions have sharper thinking. Thoughts are clearer, and are also broader in their reach. In other words, when we feel good we feel like there are more options available to us to act on. We feel expansive and enlivened.
Lastly, our physical resources are also boosted as we experience positive emotions. Happy people are typically healthier people. Our bodies function well.
These accumulated resources from our positive emotions become a reservoir that we can dip into when times get tough. The deeper the reservoir, the less impact that setbacks in our lives have over the long term.
Of course, setbacks and negative experiences are real and should be acknowledged. They should be lived through. Meaning and purpose can be gained from them. Negative emotions are an important part of living a ‘whole’ life. But they don’t have to become the characteristic way in which we view the world. Instead, our positive emotions can actually foster our resilience and help us, and our families, bounce back from hardships quickly and optimistically.
Here are a few ideas for fostering positive emotions:
Encourage your children to ‘savour’ their experiences by really being in the moment with them. Have them identify exactly what is going on, how it makes them feel, and why it’s so good!
2. Be Grateful
So much research tells us that gratitude is a powerful emotion. It has been said that gratitude is the mother of all virtues. Ask your family what they’re grateful for, regularly, and talk about why.
3. Be Optimistic
When we feel positively about our future, we can move ahead with confidence. I love to ask my children what they’re looking forward to in the coming day or week. There’s always something they can’t wait to do. This is a terrific antidote to depression and negative emotions. When we’re excited about the future we have a reason to keep going, to bounce back from challenging situations, and to develop resilience.