George Bonanno, a resilience expert, says that we all need to experience adversity in order to discover whether we are resilient or not. How we conceptualize the event, Bonanno says, determines whether or not we see it as traumatic. As it turns out, it's not what actually happens to us that matters most; it's the meaning we attach to it and how we think and feel about it subsequently.
Perhaps you get upset by these daily occurrences; heavy traffic, bad weather, a neighbor's noisy party, rude people. It can be helpful to see these trivial events as learning opportunities that allow you to practice regulating your emotions to increase your resilience. "Resilience is created from behaviors and habits that can be learned and developed." And this wisdom comes from Ann Masten, a resilience expert for over forty years!
Research shows that cultivating positive emotions is one of the best ways to develop resilience and that start by reframing the event. Thus, simply reframing negative events like your daily traffic hassles and the long line at Starbucks, into positive ones, ie these are training practice, can help you develop a more positive attitude toward. Whenever these small irritants occur, it can be useful to think of them in a different perspective. Bad weather? Well, the weather isn't constant so it can, and will, change. That can make it easier to handle. Stuck in traffic? This can be a great time to listen to an audio book or a podcast you've been meaning to hear. And when you encounter rude or unfriendly people, say to yourself, "I wonder what's going on in their life right now? Maybe they didn't understand my question. Most people I meet aren't rude."
Never underestimate the power of positive emotions. Researcher Barbara Fredrickson tells us that positive emotions help to broaden the repertoire of our momentary responses and reactions. Negative emotions have the exact opposite effect. They close us off. Positive emotions can lead humans to new and creative ideas. Positive emotions can also build physical, emotional, and psychological resources which you can then draw from when more difficult and challenging situations happen.
If you can manage to get past your initial negative reaction and see things as funny, interesting, or curious, you will automatically feel better. It's important, as well, to be more forgiving and compassionate towards those you transgress. For when you do, the experts say, your life will become easier, happier, and lighter. Why? Because you've become a more resilient individual!