Resilient people not only recover from their setbacks but also often find meaning in their suffering. As a result, they grow from it. 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:
- 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.
- 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
Resilience in the face of adversity is fairly common. A study found that even when 50 to 60 percent of the U.S. population is exposed to traumatic events, only 5 to 10 percent of those people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The rest bounce back to normalcy.
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Finding out how to “grin and bear it” or just “get over it” is not the same as learning to be resilient. Resilience is not about avoiding stumbling blocks or opposing change. Building resilience is a process.
Resilient people use their psychological flexibility to reframe mental patterns and learn to work through barriers using a strengths-based approach.
- Showing resilience in one situation does not mean we have been hardened for all other hard times.
- Resilience is not a permanent state. A person may feel equipped to manage one stressor and overwhelmed by another.
- There’s something native and deep-rooted in us that makes us resilient. We can make ourselves more resilient by practice.
- 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, and 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 also clear from the research is there isn’t one “hardy personality” type. It’s not that some people are more capable and others aren’t. We’re all capable. Though, sometimes, it may not feel truly so in all areas of our lives or all at once.
While resilience may be personal to each of us, science points to some areas that are good, generally, for all of us. Exercise, sleep, good nutrition. Positive, supportive relationships and meditation. These habits are good for our minds and bodies, they often make us happy.
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 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.
Here are some science-backed tips to build personal resilience:
- Finding a sense of purpose in life
- Having positive beliefs in your capabilities
- Updating your skills. Build your core strengths
- Fostering a supportive social network
- Accepting negative emotions. Embrace change
- Nurturing oneself by eating, sleeping, and exercising well
- Staying hopeful and optimistic when situations are difficult
- Setting up meaningful, trustworthy, and realistic life-goals
- Focusing on what one can control and letting go of other things
- Taking bold actions and calculated risks to solve problems
- Keeping and fostering a positive attitude/mindset
- Building optimism and a hopeful attitude
- Having the ability to regulate the emotions
- Being able to see re-frame failure as feedback
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.
6 Characteristics That Make People Resilient
According to The Resilience Institute, here is a shortlist 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 brain changes in younger years can reduce the capacity to regulate negative emotions, and lower their resilience to adversities.
Studies also show 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, happiness researcher. Founder and chief editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
• We are Happiness Project.
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