Growth from Adversity: Overcoming Challenges with Positive Emotions

Imagine you are staring at a building that has been destroyed by a natural disaster, and you observe a ripped-off roof, broken windows, and debris scattered everywhere. On one hand, this image can represent loss, hopelessness, and helplessness. On the other hand, it represents an opportunity for change. 

Change is never easy. Sometimes change happens because we realize the old way of doing something is now outdated or we must change due to the circumstances we are facing. The current global pandemic has challenged many of us to rethink how we work, live, and socialize with our Families. Thoughts like these pose the risk of evoking an array of negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, sadness, and even anger.

When our assumptions about the world are challenged (“I believed I would work at the office, I believed my children were safe at school, I believed I could travel to see my Family”), it can start to feel like our belief system is broken – similar to the destroyed home. This can lead us to ruminate about what we can control, why certain events are happening to us, or what our next steps should be.

While the answers to these questions may not be pleasant to think about, acknowledging them can be the start of growth. In these moments, we have a choice – we can double-down on our old beliefs of how the world should work or create new beliefs that help us to adapt and thrive.

When we can develop a new understanding of ourselves and the world, this opens the door for new possibilities. New possibilities and opportunities allow room for positive emotions like hope, confidence, and relief to spread throughout our lives.

Ask yourself these questions to identify positive meaning in adversity and generate positive emotions:

  • How has this year’s challenges, stressors, and trauma made you a better person?
  • What do you appreciate more now than you did eight months ago?
  • How are you closer with your loved ones?
  • What new opportunities have emerged from these challenges?
  • In what areas are you stronger--physically, emotionally, and mentally?
  • How have you changed spiritually? Or how has your faith been reinforced?

The questions listed above can help us identify how we have grown, changed, and developed in the wake or aftermath of challenges. Again, think of the destroyed building. When it comes to rebuilding, we don’t have to rebuild to just recover what we have lost. We can rebuild for a better future.

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