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Building Resilience

I’ve been thinking about resilience a lot this past month. What exactly is resilience? Textbook definitions suggest that it is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness”. Difficult times are universal: we can all expect to go through them at some point in our lives. What’s difficult for me may not be difficult for you. It could be an illness, a relationship breakdown, stress at work, trauma, death of a loved one, or any myriad of modern life pressures that can test our ability to “spring back”.

From my observation, not everyone is born or made with the same level of resilience. Some people just seem to naturally cope better. But the good news is that resilience is a skill we can all develop. Like everything, this takes practice.

Research has shown that one factor that affects people’s degree of resilience, is the ability to view a difficult situation or event as an opportunity for growth and development rather than traumatic. In other words, the ability to frame things in a positive manner – find the silver lining, if you will – helps you to deal with the situation or stress more easily.

Other research has shown that greater resilience can be seen in people who have what psychologists call an “internal locus of control”. In other words, these are people who feel that they are in control of their own destiny, that they make their own luck. Those with an external locus of control by contrast feel that they are victims of their circumstances. This seems to relate to much of what we learn through yoga, meditation and the like: that whilst we may not be able to control what happens to us, we can learn to control how we react to those circumstances, and how we relate to our feelings.

Sometimes we think that resilience is about enduring difficult times. Just grit the teeth and get through it. But in order to build and maintain our resilience, a crucial ingredient is rest and recovery. This is important on both a mental and physical level. In today’s busy society, we are constantly “on”. Even when we are supposedly having some physical down time – a quiet cup of tea, lazing on the couch or even as we get into bed – we are so often still connected to the wide world through our devices. This means that our brains are not getting a rest. So anything we can do to truly switch off, whether that’s yoga, mindfulness, meditation, tai chi or similar, helps give our minds a chance to rest and reboot.

So what can you do to build resilience? Are you giving enough priority to your own rest and mental recovery? One app that I am using quite a lot at the moment is called Buddhify. It’s a mediation app (it is a paid one but it’s worth it) that offers a range of short meditations for different circumstances including for when you are dealing with difficult emotions. I highly recommend it!

If you are interested in reading some more articles about resilience, here are a few that I have come across:

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