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Session 6: Resilience

As quickly as it started, the Happiness Lab course draws to a close, yet as we sit in this dark, dusty hall for the last time, we have one last evening ahead. Week number six is all about resilience: how we cope when life gets (as it inevitably does) hard.
Psychologist Roger Bretherton stated that there’s two coping mechanisms that people have: problem solving and “acceptance”. Problem solving is the mechanism to try and work out our problems, but for the bigger issues in life that we often can’t do anything about, acceptance is also key.

As a full group, we worked together on a mind-map: highlighting the kind of traits needed to come back from a significant life difficulty to carry on as normal. On this list, we included the likes of patience, hard work, learning from the experience and the need to surround ourselves with positive people: professionals, family, friends, or perhaps all three. Self-belief was also referred to, and this was the biggest for me personally. I thought that to deal with a major life hardship, there has to be that almost instantaneous belief that you can come back, and come back stronger. Indeed, when I told the group what I’d mainly learned from the Happiness Lab experience, I had to say that it was to try and maintain a more consistently positive attitude, through good times and bad.

We also moved on to discuss the idea of ‘rituals’. In my own personal experience, I haven’t dealt with too many life difficulties, certainly none that have been really serious, but I often find my happiness level decreasing when I notice that life is too ‘samey’ (when there’s not enough different things happening). On the subject of rituals however, facilitator Nigel went on to ask “how would it feel if someone died and there was no funeral?” Everybody agreed that not only would it be weird, but there would be no sense of closure. Nigel then expressed that simple things such as handshakes were also rituals, and expressed that common rituals can actually really help us move on from bad life experiences. This is because they give us a sense of normality, that life is really moving on as normal: therefore helping us move on.

The session draws to a close, but the night goes on. Here on the last night, everybody is sticking around for a chat with each other, talking about the things they’ve learned on the course. People are already looking forward to December 16th, when we plan to meet up for a meal and discuss how life will have gone since now. As I hoped at the start of the course, everybody has come in, and made some new friends from this experience. It could not be clearer from the smiles that light up the room that this course was a worthwhile experience.