6 Keys to the Good Life: #5 Coping Skills

By: Stuart Porter, NP


Harvard University’s Study of Adult Development, which has been going on for nearly eighty years and counting, has produced some very interesting data on the factors that contribute to healthy aging. Business Insider recently narrowed these results into six things that lead to a happier, healthier life.

We’ve already talked about the first four of the six things on our blog, and today, we will talk about the fifth thing: coping skills.

What Are Coping Skills?

It’s no secret that coping skills are an important part of our mental health. We’ve talked about coping skills and even suggested some on our blog before. So it’s not surprising that coping skills were found to be one of the most important factors of a happy, healthy life.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, coping skills are strategies that help you reduce stress and more effectively handle the difficult situations that life can throw at you. Coping skills can come in handy during a variety of circumstances, which is why everyone can benefit from coping skills — not just those who suffer from mental illness.

According to the Study of Adult Development, how well the men were able to cope with the inevitable struggles of life affected both mental and physical health well into old age. George E. Valliant, former director of the study, narrowed the men’s coping skills into four main categories:

  1. Altruism — treating others how you would want to be treated
  2. Sublimation — finding a creative outlet to help you deal with emotions and solve problems
  3. Suppression — having patience and an ability to look on the bright side
  4. Humor — not taking yourself too seriously

Valliant referred to these coping skills as mature coping methods, as compared to immature coping methods like throwing tantrums, living in denial, blaming others, and being passive-aggressive. These poor or immature coping skills can negatively affect not only your mental and physical health but also your relationships, which is another important aspect of your mental and physical health according to the Study of Adult Development.

How Do Coping Skills Help You Deal With Difficult Situations?

Mature coping skills help you deal with life’s difficult challenges in a healthy and productive way. If you don’t know how to deal with certain situations, they might only get worse. The right strategy, however, can get you through any situation quickly and with as little pain as possible.

Coping skills also help increase resilience. Resilience refers to how quickly a person is able to recover from a difficult situation, or in other words, how quickly and easily they bounce back after something like the death of a loved one or another difficult life situation. People who are highly resilient can process difficult experiences by acknowledging their mistakes, learning from the situation, and moving on.

Coping skills increase resilience because they help people learn how to properly handle negative emotions, panic attacks, and other difficult situations. When you effectively deal with a negative emotion or situation, you also move on and let go of the negative feelings that are associated with that experience.

It’s pretty clear how your ability to deal with difficult situations and move on from them would play a direct role in your mental and physical health since they can also affect other determining factors like relationships and emotional intelligence.

If you would like to learn more about coping skills, including specific examples, take a look at our previous blog post on coping skills. And if you would like to learn more about how to take care of your physical and mental health, check out our previous blogs on the Study of Adult Development.

If you have any other questions or you would like to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist, please contact us at Serenity Mental Health Centers.

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