Tough Times Really Do Make Us Stronger

barbellNewsflash: Your mom was right! You know that expression "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger"? (I guess the maxim was actually borrowed from Nietzsche.) Turns out it wasn't just a pretty phrase. Difficult life events -- the death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, illness, assault, or a natural disaster -- actually do help people become more resilient and better able to cope with future difficulties, a new study has found.

In fact, according to researchers, overcoming adversity affects us not only psychologically -- helping us to feel more confident and boosting our coping skills -- but also physiologically, promoting cell growth in the areas of our brains we use to deal with stress and making us better able to confront future difficulties and even to more easily withstand physical pain.


Of course, the results of this study are interesting from an intellectual point of view. Our brains adjust to trauma in order to make us better able to cope? That's fascinating! But beyond that, they also probably resonate with many of us emotionally. We know -- instinctively and from experience -- that it can be tough going when we're dealing with a personal loss -- of a job, of a loved one, of a relationship.

When you're in the middle of those down times, it may be hard to imagine ever coming back up into the air and the light. Still, it's important for us to remember that we will survive those tough times -- and so many of us are facing tough times right now -- and that when we do, our suffering will not have been for naught.

We will come out stronger, tougher, more resilient -- better able to cope with whatever life throws at us next. What doesn't kill us really does make us stronger, just like our moms told us. Next thing you know, researchers will confirm she was right about that "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" thing, too!

Do you feel you've emerged stronger from the difficulties you've faced in life?


Image via ericmcgregor/Flickr

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