The world has changed dramatically in the past year, and many of us are fighting to remain positive and hopeful during these trying times. According to experts, it’s not positivity, but emotional agility that’s the key to resiliency and greater happiness overall.
What is emotional agility?
The term emotional agility was originally coined in a 2013 Harvard Business Review article. The concept doesn’t ask you to chase happiness. Instead, it involves checking in with your emotions, viewing them as teachers and a means of learning about and cultivating your values.
Why cultivate this life skill?
Seeking happiness can have negative effects, since ignoring thoughts and emotions can actually increase them. In one famous study, some participants were asked specifically not to think about white bears, while the control group were specifically asked to think about white bears from the outset. But the control group had fewer thoughts about white bears than those who were asked not to think about them.
By contrast, research shows that emotional agility can reduce distress and burnout and increase psychological performance in the workplace.
Lifestyle techniques to access during difficulty
Emotional agility is just one tool you can use during trying times. Making small tweaks, such as the following, to your lifestyle can also help.
1. Stay informed
But be sure to take breaks from the news and social media. Set a time-limit goal for consuming news—and stick to it.
2. Keep it light
And keep laughing! Long before studies confirmed laughter helps decrease stress hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol, doctors such as 14th-century French surgeon Henri de Mondeville were using humor to distract patients from pain and help them recover.
3. Cultivate relationships
Connect with others by scheduling phone or virtual sessions (using tools such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime). Try playing games virtually together, so you have something to look forward to.
4. Use relaxation techniques, meditation, or mindfulness
Research shows that meditation-based practices are connected to positive psychological and health outcomes in both clinical and non-clinical populations. Autogenic training (a relaxation technique that can help reduce stress) is offered on YouTube.
5. Use movement
Regular physical activity can help boost our moods and lessen anxiety. Depending on your local recommendations and rules, gyms with COVID safety plans can be an option. Also consider Zoom classes and outdoor offerings to keep you sweating.
6. Try edible superheroes
Put the power of mood-boosting foods to work for you.
Why it might help
|fatty fish (salmon, sardines)||contain omega-3 fatty acids, which may prevent spikes in stress hormones|
|leafy greens (spinach, chard, kale)||rich in magnesium, which may bring feelings of calm|
|almonds||chock full of B vitamins, possibly helping you stay afloat during stressful times|
|dark chocolate||antioxidants in dark chocolate may have a soothing effect|
|oranges||vitamin C in oranges may help lower stress|
|complex carbs||eating carbs may cue your brain to produce serotonin|