Resilience is the capacity to withstand and adapt to the challenges life throws us. It is a skill anyone can learn, not only to survive, but to thrive. Resilient people fulfill their potential despite, even because of, adversity, and tend to see challenges as opportunities for growth and renewal.
We all experience ups and downs in our lives. We adapt to the positives in our lives and the negatives and bounce back based on an Emotional Set Range that varies between individuals. Some people naturally adapt faster and have higher resilience levels than others. While in general we return to the same level, by learning skills, tools and techniques we can gradually increase our emotional range over time.
Resilience can be practiced through any strategy that helps you manage your emotions, dispute negative thoughts or increase the amount of positive emotions you experience day to day. Brain science shows us that our emotions, brain and body are intricately linked. We can change the way we feel by adjusting how we think or hold our body. Positive emotions improve our immune system and calm our system after negative experiences. Equally, positive emotions allow our brain to function well, providing the fuel we need to think clearly. The more laughter, love and good feelings we experience and share with family, colleagues and friends, the more we expand our ability to shift negative emotions and bounce back.
That’s one reason why supportive relationships protect us from stress and strengthen resilience. Resilience studies also show that positive, loving relationships early in life are the strongest predictor of success later in life. Reaching out to others allows us to move past our urge to protect ourselves and open up to new experiences and challenges.
Four steps to resilience: The 4A Model
Use the Four As to improve your ability to manage your emotions and become more resilient. Practice when you feel less emotional to learn to tap into the tools more quickly when emotions are stronger.
1. Awareness. Be aware of what is going on in your body and your brain. Where do you feel tension? What are you feeling? Emotions contain data. Notice what they are telling you about the situation and yourself. What can you do to increase your awareness? Awareness is a critical first step toward mindful action.
2. Acceptance. Accept the way you feel is the way you feel – it’s okay! Emotions are part of our natural response to experience. If you start judging yourself, eg “I should be feeling x” or “I shouldn’t be feeling y”, explore where these thoughts come from and then let them go. Accept the situation and what you can and can’t control.
3. Adjustment. After acceptance comes choice. What adjustments can you make to improve the situation? How can you shift your body, energy and thinking? What negative self-talk might have contributed to this situation and what positive beliefs are more helpful and accurate now?
4. Action. Take action and do something. Do it consciously and intelligently. Use your emotional awareness, even if your choice is not to act immediately. Consider the last time you were in a state of indecisiveness. How did you feel the moment you made a decision and took action? What positive changes happened as a result?
Resilience in action
It is important to cultivate and draw on a broad range of resilience tools to boost our brain and body’s resilience capacity and build a supportive relationship nexus and environment.
Here are some more positive actions and habits you can learn to boost your resilience. We teach these and more in our Diploma of Positive Psychology & Wellbeing.
- Observe your sensitive “buttons”, who pushes them and how you react.
- Develop a minfulness practice. Try yoga, meditation or mindful dishwashing!
- Savour happy events. Find and recall patterns or places that lift your mood or get you through negative emotions.
- Take 6 deep diaphragmatic breaths to get oxygen to body and brain. Take at least 60 seconds.
- Talk to someone. Express your feelings to resolve the situation or just to vent.
- Get out into nature or change your environment to shift your emotion and generate positive energy.
To learn more about positive psychology, download your free white paper that distils the science, practice and impact of positive psychology on human happiness, performance and wellbeing.