Introduction to Regulating Stress and Pursuing Happiness

What you’ll learn to do: describe methods to cope with stress and explain ways to increase happiness

A happy, smiling couple.

As you learned in the previous section, stress—especially if it is chronic—takes a toll on our bodies and can have enormously negative health implications. When we experience events in our lives that we appraise as stressful, it is essential that we use effective coping strategies to manage our stress. Coping refers to mental and behavioral efforts that we use to deal with problems relating to stress, including its presumed cause and the unpleasant feelings and emotions it produces.

Happiness is conceptualized as an enduring state of mind that consists of the capacity to experience pleasure in daily life, as well as the ability to engage one’s skills and talents to enrich one’s life and the lives of others. Although people around the world generally report that they are happy, there are differences in average happiness levels across nations. Although people have a tendency to overestimate the extent to which their happiness set points would change for the better or for the worse following certain life events, researchers have identified a number of factors that are consistently related to happiness. In recent years, positive psychology has emerged as an area of study seeking to identify and promote qualities that lead to greater happiness and fulfillment in our lives. These components include positive affect, optimism, and flow.

Learning Objectives

  • Define coping and differentiate between problem-focused and emotion-focused coping
  • Describe the importance of perceived control in our reactions to stress
  • Explain how social support is vital in health and longevity
  • Identify common stress reduction techniques
  • Define and discuss happiness, including its determinants and how to increase it
  • Describe the field of positive psychology and identify the kinds of problems it addresses
  • Give examples of flow

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