Happiness After Psychological Trauma

Helping You Move Forward

Here Are 5 Simple Ways to build your resilience:

The Office for National Statistics releases the latest crime figures for the UK revealing that crime has seen its largest annual rise in a decade. Firearms offences have increased by 23% and Knife crime by 20%. Violent crime is up by 18%, robbery by 16%, sex offences by 14% and homicide by 9%. Author of the report John Flatley said “The latest figures show the largest annual rise in crimes recorded by the police in a decade. While ongoing improvements to recording practices are driving this volume rise, we believe actual increases in crime are also a factor in a number of categories."[1]

These increases in crime go hand in hand with an increase in victims and thus an increase in experiences of trauma. Psychological trauma can be viewed as the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one's ability to cope. Last year alone Victim Support helped 952,000[2] victims of crime to recover from their experience, but they are clear that they cannot meet all the psychological needs of their clients and nor can the NHS. 

But there is good news. In their work with the National Victim Assistance Academy Eidell Wasserman and Carroll Ann Ellis conclude that “most victims of crime are able to cope with the trauma of victimization”[3] and only a small percentage go on to develop serious and long term mental health conditions, including PTSD.  Those more at risk of being deeply traumatised include those with a history of mental health issues, those with little support and those with repeated experiences of being victimised.

 

So, in an era of increasing violent crime, and other psychological stressors irrespective of the source, how can we ensure we are in that group of resilient individuals who demonstrate resilience after these experiences? Is it possible to find happiness after psychological trauma? Neuroscientists and Psychologists are increasingly interested in the science of happiness and this has led to fascinating new discoveries in how individuals can build and cultivate their levels of resilience. 

 

Here’s my top 5:

  1. Train your brain with mindfulness. In people who are traumatised, developments in fMRI scanning in recent decades have shown measurable changes in the part of the brain called the limbic system. The changes affect the regions of the brain that play an important role in learning and memory (hippocampus), emotional regulation (medial prefrontal cortex), and encoding of emotional memories, sensitization, and fear conditioning (amygdala)[4]. These parts of the brain are also changed by practicing Mindfulness, but changed in a positive direction that facilitates resilience.

  2. The stress hormone cortisol can be positively influenced during and after potential stressors in your life by controlling your heart rate variability and achieving and maintaining coherence. It is possible to regulate your emotions so the stress response does not become all consuming. You can simply do this by focussing on the area around your heart, breath slow and easy and think of an experience that causes you to feel positive emotion. This can be a memory or a future wish (e.g. love, gratitude, happy event etc.) [5]

  3. Build a strong support network around you. Nothing predicts future happiness or acts as a buffer to the traumas of life more than good quality relationships [6]

  4. Prioritise your physical health. If you eat well, sleep well and exercise, you give your body and mind the nutrients, energy and rest it needs to operate optimally. Prioritise your physical health. 

  5. Improving the quality of your sleep can't be underestimated. 7-8 hours of cumulative time asleep is recommended generally over a 24 hour period. If you find it difficult to get off to sleep or wake up too early, mind racing with unwelcome thoughts, try meditation to calm your mind down.

 

So, yes, happiness after psychological trauma is not only possible, but increasingly possible when you build your resilience resource. There’s real power in taking responsibility for our own health and wellbeing. And if we commit to becoming our optimal selves and building our resilience by adopting the top 5 tips above, we are likely to live very healthy, happy lives and reduce the burden on the NHS to boot!

 

What additional tips do you have to improve your resilience to psychological trauma? I'm really interested what works for you or people you know. Would be great to share!

 

  1. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/crimeinenglandandwales/yearendingmar2017

  2. https://www.victimsupport.org.uk

  3. Wasserman, Eidell, and Carroll Ann Ellis. "Impact of crime on victims." 2007 National Victim Assistance Academy, Tract 1, Foundation-Level Training(2007).

  4. Wasserman, Eidell, and Carroll Ann Ellis. "Impact of crime on victims." 2007 National Victim Assistance Academy, Tract 1, Foundation-Level Training(2007).

  5. McCraty R., Barrios-Choplin B., Rozman D., Atkinson M., Watkins A. D. (1998). The impact of a new emotional self-management program on stress, emotions, heart rate variability, DHEA and cortisol. Integr. Physiol. Behav. Sci. 33 151–170

  6. http://www.adultdevelopmentstudy.org/ 

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