There is a new field of psychology, called “positive psychology” that specifically studies the strengths and characteristics that allow individuals and communities to thrive. So of course, positive psychologists have studied the concept of resilience and have discovered significantly valuable information. The most important discovery is that we can learn to build resilience; we are not born with a limited supply. Here are some simple steps that we can all take to become more resilient:
- Get Physical – We know that you’ve heard it before, but it’s true. Exercise makes all the difference! Keeping our bodies healthy, shedding those extra pounds, and bathing in that post-exercise endorphin buzz improves our outlook on life and allows us to better weather changes and challenges.
- You Are What You Eat– You wouldn’t leave a rare Stradivarius violin out in the rain, so don’t put junk in your body. A healthy diet improves not only your waistline, but also your mindset. Healthy food is an important component of resilience building and it starts early in life. You can read more here about the importance of nutrition for individuals and communities.
- Live your Purpose and Passions – Research shows that individuals who have a strong sense of purpose and apply their passions in their daily lives are much more likely to stay healthy and live longer. An absence of passion and the focus that comes from it can leave us more prone to stress and the illnesses that are related to it, and much less resilient when life throws us curve balls. Here is a simple framework from Cornell University for building resilience and you can discover your passions here.
- Challenge Your Brain– You may think that playing games is just for kids, but research shows that keeping your mind challenged through games, learning a new language, or learning new skills is key to thriving. Keep those neuron’s active by engaging in new activities that expand your mind.
- Control Your Thoughts– Mindset matters! Individuals who possess an optimistic outlook better weather obstacles, setback and change. It’s important to quell that ego voice in your head that tells you that you’re not enough. It’s a fear-based message that doesn’t serve you. And it’s just plain wrong!
- Build Relationships– Community is a powerful tool for resilience building. You may think you can go it alone through life, but psychologists tell us that having the support of others is essential, especially when we are weathering trying times. You don’t need 500 best friends; one good one will do. And remember that you can build your community through family relationships, neighbors, social interactions with work colleagues, and through clubs, team sports, religious organizations and volunteering. Find your tribe!
- Anticipate Change– Life is dynamic and change is inevitable. If you learn to anticipate change with a sense of enthusiasm rather than dread, you’re much more likely to successfully navigate the curve balls of life. Remember, this isn’t your first rodeo. You’ve survived change before and you will do so in the future. It’s worth examining the techniques you’ve used in the past to get through tough times and remember that you’ve built capabilities that you can use over and over again. Plus, not all change is bad; sometimes a new and better order emerges, so stay open to possibility.
- Be a Bit Selfish– We’ve talked about taking care of your body and challenging your mind, but part of building resilience requires that we nurture the soul. Look for experiences that bring joy and beauty into your life, or that allow you to relax and feel comforted. Yes, we all have responsibilities to others and to our work, but taking time for self care is essential. So, be good to others, but be a bit selfish on occasion and do something that’s just for you — something that makes your heart sing and your soul smile.