Have you ever noticed that problems can make some people stronger whereas the very same problems can break others? I think almost everyone can name a person that they know or heard of that went through tough things and still came out better off. What is the secret?
I didn’t hear about resilience up until I started studying at university. It would be more right to say that I understood the term long before that, but since I acknowledged that there is a specific word for it, everything that I heard about this finally took a shape.
What You Need to Know About Resilience
Resilience is a very broad topic that actually includes many aspects that can help in our lives. It is not only about positive thinking, for example, or exercising. It combines so many pivotal points that I would like to describe here. First of all, to simply define resilience — it is an ability to recover to the initial state after going through a crisis. The term is explicitly borrowed from physics where resilience is understood by a solid body that takes on its original shape after significant pressure.
I think the first famous person I’ve heard of and who falls under this category was Oprah Winfrey, an American entrepreneur and journalist. When I read her biography I was amazed by how much of a strong person she is, and I immediately started thinking about how it was so easy for her to end up going the bitter way far from successful let alone a famous one. So what happened to her? To put it simply, she was raped by a relative which led her to teen pregnancy and a subsequent miscarriage. Oprah was growing up in a very poor and physically abusive family, which traumatized her a lot. Today she is one of the most prosperous and influential people on earth now and this is amazing.
How to Become Resilient
Resilience is something that can be trained. I collected ten ways that can help to become resilient, they are coming from two American psychiatrists Steven Southwick and David Charney who dedicated several years to interviewing dozens of resilient people of different backgrounds and experiences, until they came up with the principles that are connecting them all:
- Being optimistic. I know I know, this one could sound like toxic positivity, but it’s not. It is about being realistic and seeing the negative as well, but not dwelling on it, believing in your abilities, and being confident that you would be able to handle life obstacles.
- Facing fear. This one suggests you befriend fears, understand their core, nuances, and the steps that could be taken to solve them. Try to expose yourself to situations that scare you little by little.
- Having a moral compass. In order to strengthen the sense of morality, you need to define your principles, which Southwick and Charney believe to be inborn in people, then you need to evaluate them with a role model’s morality and eventually try to use and rely on them each time you are required to be resilient.
- Spirituality. The psychiatrists found out that this notion is also connecting resilient people. However, it is up to each individual whether to implement it or not.
- Having a strong social network. Establish a secure and close circle of relationships that can support you during difficult times.
- Having a role model. This one is powerful as well because we learn many things as children through imitation. As adults, we can try to acquire and imitate desirable skills and traits that we see in people who inspire us.
- Being physically active. There is no better substitute for that. I think everyone can agree.
- Brain fitness. Keep learning, try to maintain your brain work by learning new things and acquiring new skills that will benefit diverse areas of your life.
- Being psychologically flexible. Try to work on adjusting your expectations and on advancing your coping skills, and give a preference to active ones, meaning that you shouldn’t avoid or silence the hardships, and if needed change the way you look at them.
- Last but not least is finding meaning. To search for one, the psychiatrists propose to use a technique developed by Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, author, and a Holocaust survivor, called ‘logotherapy’. Logotherapy guides a person to reassess their life and the hardship and find a purpose or meaning in them to keep striving and thriving, no matter the circumstances.
I want to mention that, it is not necessary to implement all of the principles in order to be resilient, just by doing a few of them you can already strengthen the ability.
It is indeed beautiful to observe resilience in people. If you’d think of many scenarios that can happen to you after trauma, and if you choose the best one — to be resilient, regardless of it being intentional or unintentional, you’d be the person who went through tough things and came out stronger, the person who would inspire others who face similar hardships. After all, we, people, love to relate to others, because it feels safe to think that the nightmare that you are going through someone else has already gone through. If they could do it, so can you. And in a way… that is beautiful.
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