Many people have lives with moments of adversity, whether they are small frustrations to serious losses. For some people, it is easy to let these struggles wear them down, and leave them feeling hopeless, discouraged, or anxious. However, other people are able to “bounce back” and withstand the struggle. This internal strength and ability to adapt and just move on in the face of trial, is called “resilience.” Resilience doesn’t mean that you will not experience grief, pain, or worry, but it does help you work through those emotions and put them in proper perspective. Fortunately, resilience is a quality that can be built up and strengthened at any time. Here are some ways to increase your resilience.
Keep in touch:
The first step to gaining resilience is reaching out to other people. Your brain can perceive information in a wide variety of ways, some of which can be more helpful than others. Often, things might not be as bad as they seem in your head. Thinking too catastrophically, that every bad thing will never end, or will lead to serious negative consequences, can lead to needless worry and anxiety. Other people can give you a broader perspective, and can share and support you in the midst of your hard feelings, making things more bearable and helping you see where there might be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Care for yourself:
Self-compassion can sometimes be difficult, and it can be easy to blame ourselves or feel bad about failures, mistakes, or losses. Sometimes, it might be easier to extend compassion to someone else facing our situation than to ourselves. Learning to look at things from a neutral perspective can help us understand things that are not our fault. This can in turn help us to meet our needs and care for ourselves, rather than disparaging or giving up hope. Practices of regular self-care, through regular exercise, healthy diet, and moments of relaxation can help decrease your stress levels, allowing you to go through the world from a calmer perspective.
Care about others:
One of the strongest ways to build resiliency is to work to help other people. Consistent acts of kindness give your life a sense of purpose, and help you receive other people’s gratefulness, empowering you to see the good you are capable of bringing to the world. Forms of mutual help, where you both give and receive kindness from others, is one of the strongest ways to help your life feel happy and purposeful, and this can go a long way towards building up your ability to put your all into meeting the challenges of life.
Seek out the positive:
One common mental trap that can get in the way of your ability to lighten up and enjoy the moment is called the negativity bias, or perceiving threats and hard thoughts and feelings more than positive ones. Our ancient ancestors had to be aware of predators all the time, taking every potential threat seriously, so it was in their best interest to assume that every long skinny thing they saw was a snake, not a stick. Modern humans have inherited this trait, and many people find it far easier to remember the negative over the positive.
For example, a basketball player might have an easier time remembering the shots he or she missed, rather than the successes. Dwelling on the negative can make things feel harder than they really are. An important way to build resilience is go beyond this natural bias by giving special attention to the positive. By taking moments to enjoy positive experiences, relaxing, and finding things to be grateful for, you are helping to gain a more balanced perspective on life, that helps intensify your awareness of things that can contribute to a sense of happiness.