Stress as a Challenge?

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Can we control our thoughts more than our circumstances do?

Can we make ourselves be happier? Can we rise above our circumstances and think better thoughts, be encouraged despite the hard stuff? Can we “grin and bare it”? Or better yet, can we “bare it and grin?”

I’ve been thinking about this question of being positive, of thinking on the bright side, of being the best (and happiest) mom I can be. I recently watched a video that has made me think about my life and how I can help my kids think about their circumstances.

First, let me say that I am not into “psycho babble.” Neither am I all that impressed with “research findings.” Those things change with the wind and can be skewed to fit any manner of opinions and beliefs. At heart I’m a skeptic. So, there’s my disclosure.

But, I’m a Pollyanna-ish skeptic all the same. This talk by Shawn Achor really has got me thinking. It contains both psychology and research and a bit of humor to boot. But, I think there are some really good nuggets in here. It’s about 12 minutes, but well worth it.

One of the things that stuck with me, despite my lack of confidence in statistics, “75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support, and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.”

I know this to be true. Well, I don’t know about the 75% part, but how we think about our circumstances effects our actions, and therefore, our successes, as well as our emotional well-being.


If I think I’m a terrible mom, if I think I’m failing, then I might not strive toward improvements. But, if I look at my failures as an opportunity to grow, well, then I have a little fuel to get moving on.

The same goes for our kids. Are we encouraging them and helping them see their opportunities? When we correct, is it laced with encouragement and humility? Are we painting a vision for what can be?

What do YOU think?

Can you choose to be happier and more content?

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  1. Yes! I don’t know where this originated (certainly not with me) but happiness is a feeling that comes and goes and should be enjoyed by all means. Contentment is a choice, and I prefer “active” choice, as in I have to ACTIVELY choose it often. This active choosing is a product of intention. Happiness, IMO seems to follow more often with those active choices. :o)

  2. What a great post! I’ve always felt like being positive at work makes a difference (even when you aren’t feeling positive!). But oddly enough I’ve never really thought about it terms of my home life. Thanks for giving us something to think about!

  3. I do think we can choose to be contented and happier. For me, it ties into recognizing the true worth and presence of my many blessings, and being grateful in the appropriate directions. If I dwell on all we *don’t* have, or get envious of what others have/do, I get less contented, more anxious, less happy. When I focus on the blessings we’re given, the unique circumstances we’re allowed to experience, and how very much we have, I enjoy my life. Speaking out loud helps, too… so I try to remember gratitude and thanksgiving aloud when we pray as a family, when I say my private prayers, when talking to others, when writing in my journal, etc… hearing it reinforces it for me, and I’m happier.

  4. I LOVE this post! I always look at my failures as opportunities. I think that is the key to becoming a good person. When we see an area in which we need improvement, we shouldn’t sit around and feel sorry for ourselves or be jealous of others. Instead, we should recognize that we are not perfect and work to improve. We can choose to be happy. We just have to decide to.

  5. I think the answer is a resounding sometimes. I hesitate to endorse this though because chemical imbalances are a very real thing and I’d hate for someone to think they weren’t trying hard enough to think themselves happy. Sometimes the best defense is to recognize that God placed us with others to encourage us to help each other and because he doesn’t mean us to go it alone per se. Different stressors may mean different things to different people. We aren’t one size fits all in terms of personality. It isn’t a personal failing to get help or seek it out if you need it. That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with examining your feelings and the circumstances that lead to them and trying to look at them in a more positive way. We learn from our failures. They make us grow as people. As difficult as they are, they are a part of life. Frankly, the longer you live the more likely you are to realize that picking yourself up and dusting yourself off is something ALL of us have to do at one time or another, even those perceived as “successful.”

    1. YOU are a wise woman. Thank you for sharing such eloquent and gracious words. That really helped me. I tend to see life through my own pair of glasses. Thank you for showing me a different lens!

  6. Sometimes. I don’t believe we were meant to always be happy. Having a positive outlook on life certainly is a good thing. We are a role model for our children and they tend to follow our lead on how they react to things. Thank you for this. It was a 12 minutes well spent.

  7. Yes, you can choose to be more positive. A good way to start is to thank God for all he gives us. After all, all things work for our good, and if we really believe that it makes a huge difference.

    And you can make sure you take care of your own health with good food, exercise, and sleep.

    Currently I’m suffering from sleep deprivation due to a devastating sadness in our family. Being so tired makes it worse, but trying to be positive makes it more pleasant for everyone and gives the kids an example of how to deal with trouble.

    Annie Kate