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The psychological immune system: Four ways to bolster yours – and have a happier, calmer life

By Ammar Kalia

14 Aug 2023 · 6 min read

informed Summary

  1. New research shows that our brains have a remarkable capacity to make the best of bad situations, a process known as activating our psychological immune system. This self-protective mechanism can help us make sense of adverse environments, assign meaning to what's happening, and find positives for the future.

Our minds are more resilient than we know. According to a growing body of research, first popularised by psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Tim Wilson in the early 2000s, the brain has a remarkable capacity to make the best of bad events: when we encounter negative situations we subconsciously activate what is known as our psychological immune system.

A self-protective mechanism analogous to the body’s own immune system, the psychological immune system is a series of processes that our brain initiates to help us make sense of the adverse environment we might be in, assign meaning to what is happening, and ultimately find positives for the future. If we fail to land a job we had wanted, for instance, our brain might reason that the interviewer was rude and biased, therefore it wasn’t the role for us. Or, we will speak to a friend and gain a new perspective on the benefits of our existing job.

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