Embrace life’s challenges

Every month, Martha Roberts invites you to road-test research around feeling good


Embrace life's challenges

The project

The key to contentment is embracing, rather than erasing, all the challenges of life.

The aim

When things go wrong, it’s hard not to crumble. But experts say that learning from the things that have gone wrong can help us to achieve a happy life.

The theory

The famously long-running Harvard Grant Study in the US aimed to unearth the secrets of a happy and purposeful life by following the lives of real people from childhood until old age. It returned to the study participants at different stages of their lives, over a period of 75 years, to see how they had changed and what they had learned. George Vaillant, the psychiatrist who directed the study for more than 30 years and wrote a book about it in 2012 – Triumphs Of Experience (Harvard University Press, £20.95) – found that people who learned from their mistakes or misfortunes were more fulfilled in their older years. He discovered that the capacity to ‘make gold’ out of undesirable situations also had a significant effect on social support and overall wellbeing.

Try it out

Keep a ‘challenge notebook’ and audit every challenge that comes by asking the following four questions of each one. This will help you understand the value in things not going according to plan.

MARTHA ROBERTS is an award-winning UK health writer and mental health blogger at mentalhealthwise.com

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Photograph: plainpicture/Image Source (David Jakle)