How to Avoid Anger through a Positive Outlook

Psychologist Salvadore Maddi made a career studying people who he described as having a hardy personality. These people were much less likely to experience anger. According to Maddi, hardiness was an amalgam of three separate traits: control over our own lives, commitment to the things and people that matter to us, and our ability to face a challenge with a positive attitude.

These traits, when combined, cut a highly stressed person’s likelihood of becoming physically ill by half — even more when combined with other healthy behaviors like regular exercise.

Hardy personalities are more likely to utilize transformational coping strategies (transforming a situation into an opportunity for personal growth and societal benefit) when faced with stress. They’re also less likely to try to deny, avoid, or escape the difficulties at hand. In older people, being hardy also reduces the risk of stress-related illness — colds, flu, headaches, upset stomach, and nervousness.

People who lack hardiness tend to feel alienated from the world around them. They don’t have the support and feeling of being socially connected that their hardy counterparts enjoy — that connectedness goes a long way toward minimizing the impact of stress in their daily lives. Because their lives are devoid of value and purpose, they have no real incentive to solve their problems — it’s just easier to be mad.

There appears to be no gene for hardiness — it’s a style of dealing with stressful life circumstances that is a byproduct of life experience. In other words, it’s learned — and if you haven’t learned it already, it’s not too late!

How to be the master of your own destiny

In order to have the kind of hardy personality that’ll help you cope with stress, you need to believe in your own ability to deal with adversity. Call it self-esteem, self-confidence, self-efficacy — call it whatever you want — it comes down to being the master of your own destiny.

What do you do when you’re on the wrong end of some major stress? Do you run and hide, avoiding even thinking about the problem or how you can resolve it? Do you distract yourself with a cigarette, a beer, or some serious shopping at the local mall?

Or do you ask yourself “What can I do to make things better for myself?” and then act accordingly. If you do the latter, you have one of the three critical elements of a hardy personality — a sense of internal control.

Practice thinking like a hardy personality by repeating to yourself statements such as the following:

  • People get the respect they deserve in life.

  • Good grades in school are no accident — they’re the result of hard work.

  • Luck has little or no effect on how my life turns out.

  • Capable people become leaders because they take advantage of opportunities that come their way.

  • What happens to me is my own doing.

  • With enough effort, voters can wipe out political corruption.

  • I can fight city hall!

  • People only take advantage of me if I let them.

How to be a player, not a spectator

Hardy people have a deep sense of involvement and purpose in their lives — the commitment component of a hardy personality. In the game of life, you have to decide whether you want to be a player or spectator.

While non-hardy folks are waiting idly by for life to improve (that is, become less stressful), hardy personalities do the following:

  • Vote at all levels of government — local, state, federal

  • Join civic groups that have a mission to help people

  • Run marathons

  • Beautify highways

  • Volunteer for community service

  • Tackle projects at work that nobody else wants

  • Find meaning in the smallest things

  • Have a willingness to make mistakes in order to develop new skills

  • Assume leadership positions

  • Pray actively for themselves and others

  • Take classes to better themselves (or just for the fun of it!)

  • Become totally involved in family activities

  • Get regular health checkups

  • Have strong political opinions

  • Seek out new relationships

  • Find something interesting in everyone they meet

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