Updated: Jan 13
Resilience: The ability to bounce back from life's challenges, difficulties and traumatic events and carry on living a meaningful purposeful life. It is a process of adapting well in the face of adversity. It is tolerating loss and hardship with less reactivity and more steadfast calm. It is finding opportunities for growth from life's most stressful events.
What exactly makes a person resilient and how do we get in on this incredible superpower? Recent studies* have revealed some consistent resilience factors, that reach beyond genetics, economic status and neurophysiology. I'm going to let you in a just a few of them here:
Let's start with Optimism. If you wake up each day calm, grounded, with a bright outlook for the day and a plan to make it happen, this is called realistic optimism. You believe that a sunny future is possible, but you also know that it takes effort to get there. Optimism boosts physical and mental health. Yes it's true, perhaps some personalities are predisposed to optimism, but even if your'e not you can boost yours by taking positive actions each day, and focusing your attention on the positive around you, even the little things like fresh air, sunshine, a good song on the radio.
Next let's talk about Social Support. Supportive social networks, whether family, friends or professionals, have the power to protect us and strengthen us. People who reach out for help and surround themselves in the support of others, are simply more resilient. And, having a resilient role model somewhere in there adds a double dose of resilience!
Spirituality. It's been well documented that those with spiritual belief will turn to faith and prayer in the face of serious illness, trauma or stress. And this faith, this spiritual dimension, seems to increase their resilience to life's hardships.
Physical and Mental Fitness. A regular physical fitness routine and physical challenges helps people recover from trauma and in fact physiologically improves health, mood and cognition. Simply put, the brain loves exercise. And many an athlete will tell you that a regime of physical training and recovery transfers over to resilience in the rest of their life.
Now for the brain fitness. Being a lifelong learner, challenging the brain with activities, training, reading, studying, learning languages, and practicing mindfulness; all of these are ways to maximize the use of the brain. This requires discipline. But these mental and emotional abilities help us to face adversity and recover from setbacks; essentially to be more resilient.
Purpose. Those with a clear purpose in life, who feel that they are making a difference, who find meaning in what they do for themselves and others, these people seem to handle adversity better. These people are survivors.
So you see, it's not just fluke that some people are more resilient than others. You can improve your own resilience by adding some of these factors gradually to your life, if you don't practice them already. Becoming a resilient person is a journey. But if you are able to nurture the above qualities, face your fears, and learn to grow from your injuries or hardships, the reward is strength and resilience.
*Research done by professors Southwick and Charney, as discussed in the book "Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges", 2021