On Coronavirus Lockdown? Look for Meaning, Not Happiness

Emily Esfahani Smith: How people respond to adversity is a topic I’ve investigated for years as a journalist. Over the past decade, I’ve interviewed dozens of people about their experiences of extreme stress and have scoured the academic research in psychology on resilience to understand why some people are broken by crises while others emerge from stressful experiences even stronger than before. What I’ve learned sheds light on how people can protect their mental health during the pandemic — and it upends some common ideas our culture carries about trauma and well-being. When researchers and clinicians look at who copes well in crisis and even grows through it, it’s not those who focus on pursuing happiness to feel better; it’s those who cultivate an attitude of tragic optimism.

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