Resilience & Flexibility

I was inspired to discuss this subject after reading an article in Scientific American Mind on Resiliency.  This term has been popular in the psychology world since the 1980s, so it being important is nothing new.  That said, its core premise is simultaneously simple and huge to our quality of life.  

Resiliency is our ability to cope with stress

And we all know




What makes one person go into a spin after not getting the grade he or she had hoped on a paper, and another able to handle it with ease?  These situations happen to everyone, everyday, big and small.  It could be something as small as getting an unexpected bill in the mail, or as large as the death of a parent.  In addition to our happiness, our level of success is directly linked to resilience.  We know from studying successful people that learning how to fail (and therefore bounce back) is the base for becoming successful.

There are numerous important ingredients to having resilience:

  • Having a strong support system.  Do you have at least two confidants?
  • The ability to remain subjective and have perspective on difficult situations
  • Not taking ourselves and our stories about ourselves too seriously.  Do you have a sense of humor?  Do you recognize that life will move on and continue to change whether or not we always get what we want?

Almost everyone could benefit from increasing their resilience and psychological flexibility.

While at least part of resilience we believe is inherited, it is not static or unchangeable.  These are somethings we can practice everyday to increase our resileince: 

  • Be willing to do things outside your comfort zone.  It could be river rafting, speaking in front of a group or just being around people you dislike.
  • Exercise, period.  We are all aware of the plethora of reasons to exercise for our physical health.  It also protects our mental health (reduces incidences of panic attacks as well as symptoms of depression).  Another important element is being able to do something that doesn’t always feel good (see above).
  • Learn to work with negative thoughts.  Maybe you weren’t born an optimist.  Learning to let negative thoughts pass can help us boost our positive emotions.
  • In difficult situations, remember your values.  What do you want your life to be about, and how can you move towards those things on a daily basis?  It makes the process more important than the results.
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