When tough times bring you down, your ability to cope in a positive way is known as resilience. An essential skill for healthy development in childhood, resilience is critical to wellbeing throughout our lifetime. The overriding question is this: as adults can we increase our capacity for resilience in order to lead more fulfilling lives?
The answer is YES!
Resilience is not a super power; it’s an ordinary skill that anyone can develop at any age. Think of it as an emotional muscle that can be strengthened. Research shows that resilience is linked to wellbeing by way of positive emotions and coping strategies (e.g.,optimism, cheerfulness, gratitude, mindfulness). Benefits include:
- a healthier immune system
- lower risk of chronic disease
- faster recovery from illness/ surgery
- improved stress management
- less depression & anxiety
Six Secrets to Pumping Up Your Resilience
Catch It Early. One trait of highly resilient individuals is a keen awareness for when things aren’t going right. We’ve all heard doctors say “good thing we caught it early,” and that applies to stress: Identify stress early in the process and you can be proactive in managing how it (and your emotions) affect you and your health.
Stay in the Light. Optimism is the ability to look at a dire situation and assess its meaning for your life. If a significant relationship has ended, there will be grief, confusion, anger and so on. There’s also an opportunity to re-examine your needs and explore what truly makes you happy. Amid dark times, you can mentally stay in the light by using positive affirmation, hanging-out with supportive people, and monitoring what you watch and read on a regular basis.
Look at What’s Next. We all tend to blame ourselves for setbacks, worrying about what could have been done/not done differently. To bolster resilience, remind yourself that even if you made a mistake, many factors likely contributed to the problem. Focus on next steps and see how the vibe of that situation changes from desperation to opportunity.
Recall Your Victories. We’ve all had shining moments of glory – whether at work, in sports, or potty-training a child. When you remind yourself of the challenges you have overcome, you give yourself a shot of resilience.
Manage Daily Hassles. Whether sitting in traffic or waiting in an unexpected long line when you’re in a hurry, use those moments to practice coping skills (deep breathing, for example). Those mindful-skills will come more naturally to you when a crisis hits and you’ll have made a big deposit in your resilience bank.
Break Routine. Routines feel comfortable and are necessary – to a point – but rigidity breeds stress. A sense of adventure, even a simple but challenging activity, helps build resilience by enhancing skills that prepare you to handle stress. So, instead of the 1-mile fun run, enter the 5k; pass on the beach vacation and plan a guided backpacking trip; ditch date-night at the movies and go to the Escape Room or take a class (e.g. cooking or scuba).
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Mills, H. & Dombeck, M. “Resilience: Physical Health Benefits” MentalHelp.net (posted June 25, 2005) Accessed 26 Nov 2017:
Richardson, G.E. “The metatheory of resilience and resiliency.” Journal of Clinical Psychology. (2002) 58: 307-321. (print) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11836712
______ additional research articles by Professor Richardson
Pinker-Pope, T. “How to be Happy.” Well: NY Times Online. Accessed 23 Nov 2017
“A Positive Outlook May be Good For Your Health.” Well: NY Times Online. Accessed 25 Nov 2017
Tugade, M., Fredrickson, B.L. & Barrett, L.F. “Psychological Resilience and Positive Emotional Granularity: Examining the Benefits of Positive Emotions on Coping and Health.” Journal of personality (2004) 72.6: 1161–1190. PMC. Web. 27 Nov. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1201429/