Challenges, struggles, and failures are inescapable facets of life. While we cannot control our circumstances and failures, we can choose how we respond to them. That’s where resilience comes in. Resilience is defined simply as bouncing back from difficult experiences, “adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors.” It is our capacity to rise above adversity. According to psychologist Peter Kramer, it is resilience, not happiness, that is the opposite of depression.
Research shows that resilient people tend to be more positive and optimistic and can better effectively regulate their emotions. This is not to mean that they experience negative emotions any less than non-resilient people. In fact, many resilient people have both high levels of positive and negative emotions. Resilient people are emotionally complex.
Resilient people are not resilient because of a trait that they specifically have. Rather, resiliency involves behaviors and thoughts that are developed and learned. Thus, we can cultivate resilience in ourselves through positive practices and habits. I have compiled a short list of ten things that resilient people consistently do, offered by experts at the Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and the American Psychological Association.
1. They move forward, toward their goals. Resilient people develop realistic goals and they move regularly towards it. Instead of focusing on just one task that may seem unachievable, they ask themselves how they can do at least one thing that will put them in the right direction.
2. They accept their battle. Acceptance does not mean admitting defeat or simply giving up. Rather, it is about embracing all of the emotions from whatever setback or challenges we are experiencing and trusting that we can thrive in the face of them.
3. They practice patience. This may be one of the hardest to maintain. Highly resilient people possess a strong control over their attitude, values and how they relate to people. They are not only patient with others, but also with themselves.
4. They live in the present. Resilient people practice mindfulness- being in the present moment without judgment or avoidance. Try focusing on a task you are doing, just on the task and nothing else. It sounds easy, but can actually be quite hard. Living in the present requires practice.
5. They trust people and build strong support systems. Studies show that having a social support system increases resilience over stress. Helping others in their times of need also benefits the helper. Moreover, resilient people are not afraid to reach out to others for help.
6. They express gratitude and mean it. Resilient people realize what they have and are grateful. Those who express gratitude show better physical health and mood than those who complain.
7. They see opportunities and are open to possibilities. Negativity puts people in defense mode and shuts them off from possibilities. Resilient people practice an optimism that allows them to be open to possibilities. They seek out opportunities for growth, which provides them with confidence. To the resilient person, challenges and setbacks are learning opportunities.
8. They develop flexibility and embrace change. Resilient people are highly adaptable and flexible. However, prideful stubbornness without emotional flexibility can turn us into “emotional glaciers,” which can increase our chances of “stress fractures” when we experience an unexpected change. Resilient people understand that certain circumstances cannot be changed, but recognize the ones that can.
9. They keep things in perspective. Instead of blowing things out of proportion, resilient people consider things in a broader and long-term context. In the midst of adversity, resilient people understand that their suffering is temporary and that it should not take over their permanent identity.
10. They take care of themselves. At the heart of resilience is a belief in oneself. Resilient people understand their own needs and feelings. Thus, they engage in activities that they enjoy. They take care of themselves such that they keep their body and mind strong to deal with difficult situations.