I’m probably not alone in thinking that 2020 has been sent to test our resilience. The coronavirus pandemic has plunged us into a world of uncertainty that has brought massive changes to our day-to-day lives. As a result, resilience has become more important than ever as a skill for helping us find happiness in the face of adversity.
What is resilience?
Resilience can be defined as the ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences. Resilient people are better placed to adapt to the changing demands of stressful situations than those who lack resilience. The good news is that resilience can be learned and, like a muscle, it can be strengthened every day by practicing some daily habits.
Here are some things that resilient people do on a daily basis to maximise their coping strategies and mental wellbeing.
1. They check in with themselves
Self-awareness is a fundamental aspect of resilience. To be truly self-aware you need to have an understanding of your emotions, thoughts and behaviours. You also need to understand how they affect both you and those around you.
Mindfulness can help build self-awareness by allowing you to be fully in the present moment. Taking regular pauses to check in with yourself and acknowledge the full spectrum of your feelings will help you identify emotions before they overwhelm you.
2. They are kind to themselves and to others
An act of kindness doesn’t have to be a big, grand gesture. In your everyday life, it can be something as simple as letting the car in front merge into your lane, bringing the bins in for your elderly neighbour or buying a cup of coffee for your colleague.
While kindness to others is important, it is equally vital that we are kind to ourselves. You can’t be at your best if you don’t look after yourself. Self-compassion is a key part of resilience and is the opposite of self-criticism. It increases our ability to cope with negative emotions and makes us more willing to accept both our strengths and our imperfections.
3. They look after their physical health
Resilient people know that a healthy body equals a healthy mind. Being active can help to reduce feelings of stress and even small changes, such as taking a regular walk outside, can make a big difference.
When we are stressed or anxious, it is tempting to skip meals or reach for sugary snacks. Eating healthy foods that nourish your body will boost your energy levels and help you power through tough situations. The same is true for sleep and prioritising sleep by creating a relaxing bedtime routine will rejuvenate your mind and body.
4. They connect with others
Having good, close relationships with friends and family members strengthens resilience. At a time when many of our normal socialising activities have been put on hold, it is natural to feel isolated or lonely. Making the effort to call an old friend or meet them for a coffee in the park (if it is allowed in your local area) can have a profound impact on your wellbeing.
Connecting with others, whether in person or virtually, releases the hormone oxytocin in our brains, which calms the mind and reduces feelings of stress. It also helps us gain perspective on situations, makes us feel energised and allows us to explore different options for solving problems.
5. They practice gratitude
Gratitude practices are scientifically proven to rewire our brains to be more positive and resilient. According to Dr Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness, positive emotions such as gratitude “have many physical health benefits, including boosting your immune system, protecting your cardiovascular system, and increasing the odds of a long life”.
The point of gratitude practices is not to minimise any hardships that you are experiencing, but taking the time to reflect on the good things in your life can change your perspective and give you a greater sense of self-control.
6. They embrace teamwork
Being resilient is not the same as being superman or superwoman. Resilient people know that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Teamwork and collaboration build resilience by creating an environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves and sharing concerns, questions and mistakes.
7. They see the silver lining
Resilient people tend to be more positive and optimistic. They look for the silver lining when facing challenges and are more open to new experiences than less resilient people. Maintaining a realistic sense of optimism can enhance our quality of life by helping us see the world and ourselves in a more positive light.
In fact, Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Power of Meaning, argues that optimism is THE most important building block in resilience: “Far from being delusional or faith-based, having a positive outlook in difficult circumstances is not only an important predictor of resilience—how quickly people recover from adversity—but it is the most important predictor of it.”