Building emotional stability: And mental capacity the toughness model

Richard A. Dienstbier, Lisa M. PytlikZillig

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Stress and aging deplete some neurochemistry and degrade various brain structures, ultimately affecting stress tolerance and cognitive capacities. However, engaging in various toughening activities prevents and even reverses the ravages of stress and aging. The toughening activities described here include mental stimulation, physical exercise, meditation, self-control, and affectionate activities. Toughening activities enhance neurochemistry and important brain structures by activating or deactivating various genes-sometimes temporarily, but sometimes for a lifetime. Those aspects of physiological toughness lead, in turn, to positive mental/psychological toughness including emotional stability, enhanced mental/cognitive abilities, and even self-control. We review research describing how much each toughening activity fosters mental/psychological toughness, and then the research showing how each activity leads to the components of physiological toughness. Finally we show how physiological toughness leads to mental/psychological toughness. We discuss the usefulness of the toughness concept by assessing the overlapping impacts of the various toughening activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780199396511
StatePublished - Mar 7 2016


  • Aging
  • Cognitive capacity
  • Exercise
  • Genetics
  • Meditation
  • Neurochemistry
  • Nurturance
  • Stress
  • Stress tolerance
  • Toughness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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