Positive Relationships Increase Resilience and Decrease Stress
Since we know that the brain can be trained through repetition to do helpful or harmful things, one way to combat stress and improve resilience in adolescents and adults is to maintain a positive relationship. “Good relationships increase optimism, self-esteem, and well being while supporting cognitive and emotional development” (Cozolino, 2013). For adolescents, these positive relationships can come from teachers, parents, or other healthy adult figures. “Being around supportive others reduces blood pressure, stress hormones, autonomic and cardiovascular reactivity, and the risk of illness” (Cozolino, 2013). Overall, adolescents crave social interaction and acceptance from peers, and are therefore extremely susceptible to positive or negative influence. It is important that adolescents have at least one positive adult relationship in their lives, especially if there are other negative stressors present as well.
Positive Emotions Train the Brain for Resilience
Where stress, especially chronic stress, can be detrimental to resilience, positivity and optimism can lead to increased resilience. Fredrickson (1998) theorized that positive emotions could build physical, intellectual, and social resources and even promote individual and collective well-being and health. By experiencing or focusing on positive emotions such as interest, joy, and contentment, an individual can build their self-esteem and competence. This concept is a significant contributing factor to building resilience. Additionally, social supports, intellect, and physical resources are all components of resilience according to Southwick and Charney (2012). Optimism is another significant component to resilience. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for imagining the future and setting goals, which directly relates to optimism. “Even if you are a born pessimist, or a very limited situational optimist, you can teach yourself to increase optimistic thought” (Southwick & Charney, 2012). Through psychoeducation we can teach adolescents and adults about neuroplasticity and the significance of training our brains toward positivity and resilience instead of stress.
Cozolino, L. (2013). The social neuroscience of education. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2(3), 300-319.
Southwick, S. M., & Charney, D. S. (2012). Resilience: The science of mastering life’s greatest challenges. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.