Resilient people battle hardships and emerge from them even stronger. They not only recover from their setbacks but also often find meaning in their suffering. How did these people build resilience?
People are more likely to master resilience when:
- they can successfully avoid strong, frequent, or prolonged stress
- they have supportive relationships to buffer the ill effects of hard times
The two most prevalent mistaken beliefs about resilience are:
- Myth 1: Resilience is a nature-given quality; a person either has it or doesn’t. The truth is, we all have resilience, some people have more and some others have less.
- Myth 2: Resilience cannot be learned or taught to a person. The truth is, all of us can learn how to build our resilience.
How To Build A Strong Personal Resilience
While resilience is unique to each of us, science points to certain general habits that are good for building our resilience: regular exercise, adequate sleep, good nutrition, positive and supportive relationships, and mindfulness. These practices not only strengthen our minds and bodies, but also boost our happiness.
Here are 15 science-backed tips to build personal resilience:
- Finding a sense of purpose in life.
- Fostering a supportive social network.
- Having the ability to regulate emotions.
- Building optimism and a hopeful attitude.
- Having positive beliefs in your capabilities.
- Being able to see re-frame failure as feedback.
- Updating your skills and building core strengths.
- Keeping and fostering a positive attitude/mindset.
- Accepting negative emotions and embracing change.
- Nurturing oneself by eating, sleeping, and exercising well.
- Setting up meaningful, trustworthy, and realistic life goals.
- Being ready to continually work at building your resilience.
- Taking bold actions and calculated risks to solve problems.
- Staying hopeful and optimistic when situations are difficult.
- Focusing on what you can control and letting go of other things.
Maysoon Zayid is a comedian with cerebral palsy who personifies resilience.
Learning to “grin and bear it” or “get over it” is not the same as being resilient. Resilience is a process that involves confronting problems, navigating them with difficult emotions, and emerging stronger as a result of them.
Resilient people use their psychological flexibility to reframe mental patterns and learn to work through barriers using a strengths-based approach.
How To Build Resilience At Work
According to Paula Davis-Laack, M.A.P.P., resilient employees do these seven things differently:
- Develop high-quality connections.
- Manage their stress and avoid burnout.
- Are authentic, and work on their values and strengths.
- Take care to pursue their passions.
- Stay, and try to keep themselves, inspired.
- Have mental toughness and flexibility.
- Manage changes and setbacks.
Facts About Resilience
Resilience in the face of adversity is not rare, but fairly common. A study found that even when 50-60% of the U.S. population is exposed to traumatic events, only 5-10% of those develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The remaining 90-95% bounce back to normalcy.
- As humans, we are naturally resilient.
- All of us can make ourselves more resilient through practice.
- Resilience is not a permanent state. Showing resilience in one situation does not mean we have been hardened for all other hard times.
- Resilience in one area (like professional life) may not hold good for another (say, personal life). A person may feel equipped to manage one stressor and still be overwhelmed by another.
- Resilience is a dynamic state of physical and mental health. It needs maintenance because stressors come in varying sizes and kinds—and they often come out of the blue.
- Resilient people can be anxious, angry, afraid, or sad, which doesn’t make them any less resilient. It makes them only human.
- Resilience is a process of learning how to manage stressful situations, work around them, and transform ourselves for future moments that may require stronger resilience.
- What’s clear from the research is that there is no single “hardy personality” type. It’s not that certain people are more capable than others, but that we can all be resilient. Though it may not always feel that way in all areas of our lives or all at once.
Happiness helps resilience. When we’re happy, we’re more likely to stay unaffected in difficult situations. Some researchers even suggest, ice cream also makes us happy. Even small wins are vital.
Gratitude practice has been shown in studies to rewire our brains to be more optimistic and resilient.
Positive emotions such as thankfulness, according to Dr. Rick Hanson, “have many physical health benefits, including boosting your immune system, preserving your cardiovascular system, and increasing the chance of living a long life.”
The goal of thankfulness practices is not to minimize whatever difficulties you are facing; but, taking the time to concentrate on the positive aspects of your life can transform your perspective and give you a greater feeling of self-control.
6 Characteristics That Make People Resilient
According to The Resilience Institute, here is a short list of attributes when we seek to recover from serious adversity, in approximate order of impact:
- Strong relationships of respect, love, and trust
- Impulse control and positivity
- Physical fitness, good sleep, and nutrition
- Capacity to stay calm under pressure
- Ability to focus attention and be situation-aware
- Ability to plan and execute effective solutions
We can learn to improve each of these and can measure how we fare.
3 Sources of Resilience In People
1. Personal Factors
The following personal factors all evidently contribute to resilience:
- Personality traits — openness, extroversion, and agreeableness
- Mastery, self-efficacy, self-esteem
- The positive interpretation of events, positive self-concepts, and mindset
- Optimism and Hope
- Intellectual resourcefulness
- Psychological flexibility
- Social attachment and adaptability
- Emotional regulation and internal locus of control
- Positive emotions
Some other personal factors that influence resilience are age, gender, race, ethnicity, and stage of life.
2. Biological Factors
Findings from recent research on biological factors in resilience reveal harsh environments at an early age (as children growing in war-ravaged Syria) can affect the development of brain structure and function.
There can be changes in brain size, nerve networks, receptor sensitivity, and neurotransmitter production.
These changes in our brains during our childhood can reduce our ability to regulate negative emotions and lower our resilience to adversity.
Past and current life and social experiences can lead to sizable and long-term changes in genes. Later on, one can transmit these genes to the next generation. So, resilience as a trait can be genetically inherited.
3. Environmental Factors
The factors in one’s environment can sufficiently increase or decrease their ability to show resilience.
- Social support, including family, teachers, and peers
- Stable family, good parenting, non-abusive father/mother
- Depression or substance abuse in the parents
- Good school and supportive community
- Sports and artistic opportunities
- No exposure to violence near home or neighborhood
Example of Psychological Resilience
Amanda Lindhout, a Canadian freelance foreign correspondent, was kidnapped while reporting in Somalia in 2008. She was just 27 then.
Amanda was held captive for 15 months and subjected to every form of torture, including rape. What we’re experiencing right now, isolated in our homes in self-quarantine, is nothing compared to hers.
She wrote about the harrowing experience in her 2013 bestseller A House in the Sky: A Memoir of a Kidnapping That Changed Everything.
The normal trajectory of human experience is that life will bring you to your knees at some point, if it hasn’t yet.
We try to ready ourselves for what life might throw our way, but I know that not everybody is building that muscle of resilience, and it is that which carries you through.— Amanda Lindhout
Think of resilience as a process. Resilience is an ongoing process.
Resilient people are not born with the mental toughness to cope with challenges. But they know how they can learn fast and bounce back to normalcy after handling traumatic situations and difficult emotions.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher, who writes on mental well-being, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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