Leveraging Stress for Happiness

Life is full of stress.

Many of us spend a considerable amount of our lives trying to overcome, mitigate, or avoid stress. Often times, the very stress we experience in dealing with stress becomes itself the greatest stress in our life.

This is a perfect example of the type of situation where we must be cognizant of what lies within our control and what lies without. To understand your stress, you must first reflect upon WHAT is stressing you, and WHY. What and why will tell you IF something can be done. If something truly lies outside of your power to influence or alter then you must learn to accept it and let it go. How much time must we waste stressing over matters which will never be improved through such worry. Let them go.

For those stresses that we can influence – devote yourself to improving those situations, however that may be. Understand that many scenarios will take time, perhaps several years, to truly improve, but approach it with an optimistic mindset and relish the fact that the journey towards progress and improvement is nourishment for your soul and your life.

A podcast I listened to recently, The Huberman Lab (which I highly recommend to everyone), involved a discussion between Dr. Andrew Huberman – a Biologist, and Dr. Alia Crum – a Psychologist, discussed ways in which we can leverage stress into personal growth. Despite lacking their education, expertise, and qualifications, I was able to infer that one could apply the same attitudes they described about dealing with stress and how to leverage those behaviors into generating happiness.

The most important part of Dr. Humerman’s and Dr. Crum’s discussion was that the attitude we have towards stress largely determines our outcomes we experience through dealing with stress. Studies they discussed indicated that those who view stress negatively, that is as an obstacle or an inconvenience will generally have less successful outcomes (however mentioned) in dealing with their stress or will simply succumb to stress and fail to meet their desired result. Comparatively, those who viewed stress positively, as an opportunity for growth, as a metaphorical stone upon which to sharpen themselves and their skills, were more successful in achieving desired results and had more positive outcomes whether measured as career or relationship success or in physical or mental health results.

These findings demonstrate the necessity of positive psychology in facing adversity. Suffering is inevitable. Stress is inevitable. The presence of stress and suffering will persist regardless of our attempts to remove them, thus making their avoidance futile. Rather than toil aimlessly to simply eradicate such feelings, the better approach is to face them head on, lean into the struggles, and to use them as tools to forging a better version of ourselves and a happier life.

Happiness is not something we find hidden behind stress. Happiness is something we forge through dealing with our stress and embracing the struggles that life has provided. Do not seek to become happy by avoiding stress at all costs. Learn to become happy by accepting the natural existence of stress in life and by leveraging that stress to channel adversity into a positive outcome.

Just as a blacksmith uses heat and blunt force to forge his art, we can use the heat and force of our stress to forge a happier life for ourselves.

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