Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Can adversity make us stronger?

Life does not always run smoothly. A lot of people have to deal with adversity throughout their lives – loss of a spouse, unemployment, a serious disease. It is surprising how well many people recover from such crises, some of them are even stronger than before. What are the mechanisms behind this?

In a study, researchers found that people who had experienced between two and six stressful events like deaths of loved ones or serious illnesses throughout their lives reported the highest level of well-being compared to those who had experienced more, but also compared to those who had experienced no adverse life events. Even more surprising: The level of well-being of those without any bad experiences was about the same as the one of people who had suffered from up to a dozen crises. Therefore, the researchers compare resilience to physical exercise: You only benefit from it when you exercise, but without overdoing it. It is like a skill that can be improved by exercising.

The answer to the above question if adversity can make us stronger is yes. So there is a good side to everything. Adverse life events give us the opportunity to grow and to learn more about ourselves.

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