Build Your Psychological Immune System
It's no secret that life is filled with highs and lows that at times are inescapable. Whilst an inability to avoid negative situations, people, or events forever might seem like a bleak outlook, it is in fact an excellent way to build up your psychological immune system. No idea what we're on about? Read on to find out why your last bad date was actually good for you.
'Psychological Immune System' is a term coined by Daniel Gilbert, who claims that this is what protects our mental health from inevitable future bad events so that we can continue to go about our lives without wallowing in a pit of despair until we die. So how does it work?
Our psychological immune systems do their best to convince us that that job we thought we liked but just got fired from... well actually, we hated it. We suddenly start seeing all the bad rather than all the good, the irritating coffee machine, the crappy commute, the person who always microwaves fish. Similarly, all the good bits of our shiny, new situation come to light too; the excitement of new opportunities, the freedom to choose where your path takes you next, lie-ins. The bottom line is, we choose how happy we are, in any reality that we're presented.
Pre-Frontal Cortex vs. Psychological Immune Systems
What most studies on the topic have found is that we often anticipate bad things hurting far more than they actually do - being rejected for a job, getting fired, a break-up... imagining these situations before they happen stimulates the pre-frontal cortex, which goes into overdrive and gives us the sweats, making us pray that we never see the day our lives turn to pot. But when the crap hits the fan, our psychological immune systems almost always win over our silly pre-frontal cortex, choosing to live in the rose-tinted, augmented reality that we create for ourselves as a cushion for the fall.
How To Build It Up
Just as we need to keep our bodies healthy to fight off any nasties that try to attack, so too we need to look after our mental health. The minds most adaptable to peaks and troughs are those that are trained to approach fear and anxiety as passing, unpleasant visitors, rather than permanent residents in the brain. Practising meditation, or mindful exercise such as yoga or pilates, can seriously boost your mental wellbeing in the short and long term, so when disaster strikes you're able to keep a cool head. If none of these are your thing, general self-care is a great way to keep the brain healthy, so that in times of need you can rely on your mind's personal immune system to kick in and help you through the dark days.
Here are some of our easy-peasy self-care starter pack suggestions:
Quality time with loved ones - in person or on the phone
Relaxing hobbies like painting, baking, or gardening
Herbal tea & a book
How do you look after yourself in the day to day? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org