Some where down the road of life, we will all be hit with hardships. Perhaps a loved one falls ill, we lose a job, or we go through a bad break up, or even a divorce. These things do happen. And after they happen, we must continue on with a burning fire inside us and a smile on our face. How well we are able to do that is what it means to be resilient (or not resilient). It’s our ability to bend without fully snapping.
Resilient people are less likely to be diagnosed with mental health issues like PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Research has shown that the ability to thrive in difficult conditions can actually speed recovery from injury and surgery, reduce pain, and improve health outcomes for a range of different ailments. People who remain positive and tend to look on the bright side are less likely to suffer from angina and heart attacks.
You might be thinking, “Well, whoop-dee-freakin’-doo for them. But, I am definitely not resilient!” Stop right there. Resilience is not black and white. It is not that we have it or we don’t. It is, however, something we can work towards and build up. Here are five things we can practice in our lives to help build resilience:
Being in control (most of the time).
In situations where we can control the outcome, it is crucial that we remember we have the control, and use it. It isn’t suffering itself that leads to feeling perpetually hopeless, it’s suffering that we think we can’t control. There are times and situations in which we of course cannot control the outcome. But there are things we can do to build resilience in preparation for these situations. The act of preparing builds resilience because it empowers and provides a form of control, even when there seems to be none. Staying focused on the things we can control helps us to avoid wallowing and worrying about that which is out of our hands. We are always in control of our attitude and response to circumstances. This powerful truth is something most of us often forget.
Using critical thinking.
Good judgement is a imperative component of resilience. Trying and wishing for something that isn’t going to happen isn’t helping anyone. After all, doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results is the definition of insanity. You can’t keep trying and doing the same thing! You have to try and do something different! Take a moment to step back and consider your options. Utilize your cognitive abilities. The human brain is capable of so much. When we go through something traumatic, it’s important that we evaluate the experience to learn and grow from it instead of letting it limit us. This doesn’t mean we have to find the good in the bad, it means not letting the bad define us.
Allowing feelings of sadness.
One might think that having a mini breakdown after receiving very bad news is not the action of anyone with resilience. This isn’t true. There will undoubtedly be periods of time in your life when you will feel completely hopeless for a little while. This is totally natural and normal. This is our coping mechanism – it even exists in animals. After experiencing a stressful situation, our brain has to be able to pull through. So the hopelessness and apathy and grief and whatever else set in and we full on FEEL it. And after a few days, it passes and makes room for hope to come back. To understand one, we must understand the other. Kind of like how we can’t have night without day or male without female. It’s beautiful if you ask me.
Finding a role model.
This can be anyone who you admire that demonstrates resilience. It could be someone you know or someone you’ve never met. As long as they have characteristics and strategies to help cope with life’s challenges that you can mirror, they’ll do great as a role model for resilience building. Imitating someone who already demonstrates something you want is a perfect way to build it.
Leading by example.
Lastly, learn to be a role model for other people. Helping others for the sake of helping them is really what paying it forward is all about. And paying it forward is like the ultimate understanding of resilience! People who perform altruistic acts are healthier and happier individuals. Aiding other people makes us feel like we are competent and it improves our cognition. It also gives us a sense of higher purpose. Something greater than the self. It all leads to greater resilience.
re·sil·ience (noun): the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.