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How to Use Positivity to Cope with Stress

Stress is just a part of life, and the more we understand it and how we respond to it, the better our chances of neutralizing it. There are many ways to cope with stress, though one thing we don’t typically think of when dealing with a troubling or distressing situation is positive emotions.

When difficulty emerges we probably don’t even consider that positivity is appropriate, but research is revealing that people do experience positive emotions during the stress response, and that it can be a valuable function to cope with stress.

For instance, the broaden-and-build theory provides evidence that positive emotions broaden our social, emotional, and intellectual resources leading to greater social support and problem solving capabilities, whereas negative emotions limit our perceived scope of options.

Positive emotions offer us a change in perspective and can give us a potential “time-out” from dealing with our trials and tribulations.

Here are a few reasons this is so.

Positive reappraisal

There is so much wisdom that can be gained from difficult experiences if we can change our perspective and be open to these lessons. Finding personal transformation and growth from stressful experiences is a major way that stress can become a source of strength.

It’s possible to find the good in what happened or what is happening.

One way to do so is from benefit finding. When we are able to consider the benefits that will come from our experience it offers a chance to reevaluate the situation in a positive light. It is so easy to focus on the drawbacks and what was lost, but invariably there is always something, at least in regards to psychological character that can be gained.

Ask yourself, “What meaning does the situation provide?” “What value can I find from this experience?”

A wise and confident friend of mine always says, “How can you turn the coals of the past and present into the diamonds of the future?”

Creation of positive events

A major way to cope with stress is to take a psychological timeout by focusing on positive events and cherishing those typically mundane experiences. Taking time to savor positive moments such as a beautiful sunset, watching a good movie, or eating a nice meal require mental focus to shift from what may be bothering us, but is crucial to having a source of positivity.

When we begin to lose interest and joy in the little things in life we are on a downward spiral toward depression. We may have a looming illness or financial worries, but we can still notice and open our hearts to the positive aspects of life. This is a chance to find joy within a larger context of uncertainty and can be very refreshing.

We all need mental and emotional breathers and distractions, and taking time to smile, relax, laugh, and be inspired can neutralize much of the stress that seems to persist.

Setting adaptive goals

Though things may not always go as we planned, there are always more options and new avenues to explore. Sometimes we must learn to be adaptive with our goals if we are to deal with the uncertainty and challenges that arise.

When a previous goal is no longer tenable, using creativity and innovation can help us set new meaningful goals, and uncover solutions to solving our problems. It’s a matter of realizing that even though things must be reorganized they are still within our control.

If we can adapt and set new goals it will offer a source of hope that not all is lost. We may have to reorganize priorities and our perspective on what is most important, but by doing so we can take a more empowered stance on our future and better cope with our current situation.

When you’re feeling stress take hold of your emotions, attitude, and outlook, find some positive outlets and remember that positive emotions provide a broadening effect to open up new options to deal with your dilemma more effectively.

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How to Use Positivity to Cope with Stress

Joe Wilner

Joe Wilner is a life coach, licensed clinical psychotherapist (LCP), and drummer from the band Yes You Are. He is also creator of You Have a Calling, a blog and online community helping people discover and pursue their life’s work and mission. Through deep and personalized coaching, he helps ambitious, creative, and spiritually minded individuals make a greater impact, grow as leaders, and design a soulful life they are inspired by.

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APA Reference
Wilner, J. (2011). How to Use Positivity to Cope with Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 24, 2019, from


Last updated: 1 Apr 2011
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