Are you Resilient?

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If you lost everything tomorrow would you be able to bounce back? Do you have the skills or talent, the strength or determination to turn failure into success? In spite of obstacles and setbacks, are you willing to keep going…to keep doing…to not give up? All of this relates to resilience.

Let’s start with this example – why is it that a child who grows up in an extremely adverse circumstance may end up doing well in life, whereas a child who grows up in a well-to-do family may end up doing so poorly in life?

It comes down to the fact that there are two basic elements to resilience – surviving and thriving in life. So what does this mean exactly? Another way to consider resilience is that it’s the ability to survive, or the ability to bounce back in life from tough situations. And then, thriving is about the ability to do what matters most in life, and optimizing well-being.

Fall seven times, stand up eight – Japanese Proverb

So where does resilience come from? Is it genetic? Well, here’s some great news – resilience can be acquired! Anne Masten from the University of Minnesota is one of the foremost experts in resilience and her research has shown that resilience can actually be acquired. Acquiring resilience happens by having a general awareness of resilience, engaging in intentional practices, being open to learning, and applying and integrating good lifestyle habits and routines.

Here are six ways you can practice resilience and in essence get the most out of life…

  1. Practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness includes actions such as meditation, mindful breathing, and bringing your awareness to the present moment. These things can help you achieve mental clarity and lower life stressors. One study on the link between mindfulness and resilience in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences found that “Mindful people … can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down.” Pausing and observing the mind may help us get un-stuck in our story (thoughts) and as a result empower us to move forward.
  2. Ensuring your goals are in line with your overall values (more on this important concept in a future blog…stay tuned!).
  3. Managing negative emotions. Negative emotions narrow attention and behaviour. While emotions are generally a positive thing (some anxiety, anger, happiness is good); emotions can become overly negative when they start to impair – panic, violence, and mania for example. This is where rational and logical thinking get tossed out the window.
  4. imagesHJKZCJWOCultivating positive emotions. This is all about paying attention to positive emotions such as joy, serenity, hope, love, etc. Why is this important? First of all, this is essential to building resilience. Also, cultivating positive emotions can help to undo the after-effects of negative emotions. Positive emotions tend to broaden attention and behaviour. Because paying more attention to positive emotions helps you to bounce back from adversity, helps you cope better with stressful situations, and generally creates a more satisfying life. Choosing to pay attention to the positive relates to searching for the silver lining in things, and choosing to see the positive in others. Practicing gratitude is a part of cultivating positive emotions as well. For more information on gratitude, see one of our several gratitude posts.
  5. Meaningful relationships. This includes social connectedness, social support, mentorship, doing good for others, and including positive role models in your life. Regarding mentorship, the relationship includes the mentor – which is someone who can provide knowledge and wisdom on various things, and the mentee which is someone who is seeking to grow.
  6. Therapeutic lifestyle choices (TLC’s). TLC’s combine to optimize physical and mental well-being. What are the three biggest TLC’s?…exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Yes, that’s it. Getting some adequate exercise, paying attention to what you eat (you are what you eat), and for adults – getting approximately 7-9 hours of sleep every night. When it comes to nutrition, I’m not suggesting that you never eat ice cream or pizza again. Moderation is key. Other TLC’s include getting out in nature (or anything else that calms the mind), and scheduling time for relaxation (e.g. deep breathing, listening to music, gardening, etc).

The more difficulties and obstacles you face and overcome or conquer, the more resiliency you will naturally develop. Generally, resilient people are able to welcome change and difficulty as an opportunity for self-reflection, learning, and growing.

So go ahead and practice the six aspects above. See if you can work your way to bouncing back from life setbacks or adversity to RESILIENCE! Good luck and let us know how it goes!

-Kevin

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