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Last Updated on January 18, 2021

We Don’t Need a Lot of Self-Help Books, We Need Resilience

We Don’t Need a Lot of Self-Help Books, We Need Resilience

Have you ever noticed that some people are just really good at bouncing back? They roll with the punches life throws them with almost effortless ease. For years, I wondered what their secret was.

I’ve gone to hypnotherapists, looked into Buddhism, read through a frankly weird amount of self-help books (I think the people at my local library are a little concerned), all to little avail. I wondered if these people were unusually tough? Perhaps even unusually uncaring?

No, in the end these people who stand against adversity have resilience, nothing more.

The good news is, resilience can be learned and developed.

Surprisingly, there is no single agreed definition for resilience; however, in general resilience is that X factor that makes people keep going through adversity. To some degree, resiliency is a product of biological factors, or was formed in childhood when the brain was in development.[1]

A thirty year study followed 698 children for the first three decades of their lives.[2] During the study, particular attention was paid to reactions to trauma and stress. Two thirds came from comfortable, stable homes, and functioned generally okay.

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The other third were considered “at risk,” and had been exposed to unusual stress or difficulties in their home life. Two thirds of this group unfortunately grew up developing learning and behavioral issues. The remaining third, like the ones from safe, comfortable homes, grew up to be good, caring adults. They developed resilience.

The reasons for this were twofold:

  • Some of the “at risk” had access to a supportive caregiver who helped make sure they didn’t go through their problems alone.
  • Others were fiercely independent from a young age and went through their lives on their own terms.

Interestingly, some who initially weren’t resilient, later developed resiliency.

To develop resilience, you don’t really need to do the tough stuff.

So, what does it take to actually get some extra resilience? Well, here are four ways to build some up, and all of them involve finding peace in yourself.

1. Always look on the bright side, especially in stressful situations.

This is a key, underlining aspect to it all. It makes a lot of sense, because, for example, if someone were to react to a stressful event by thinking it was the worst thing in the world, it will seem as such. But were they to somehow remain positive, to see the silver lining in it, then it will seem less overwhelming, and as such they will be more resilient.

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So it is important to remain positive about the past, present and future.

In some of my experiments with Buddhism, I have been told that the world appears to us as we imagine it to be, and the real trauma is not the event itself, but our emotional reaction to the trauma (if you want the point backed up by Eastern spirituality).

2. Stay connected with someone supportive.

One unifying factor of the most resilient children in the study mentioned earlier is that they had a support structure. They had parents, guardians, or a teacher that had their back. Other reports and studies have suggested the same.[3]

All you need is someone who wants to see you succeed and is willing to help you do so. To children it can be a parent, guardian, or teacher. But for you, having a group of good friends is just as effective.

3. Do good to make people feel good.

Studies have shown that doing good increases production of Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, in the body.[4] Low levels of serotonin are often found in people suffering from depression.

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So, doing good makes you feel good.

Doing good can also help put things in perspective if you are faced with people who are suffering tougher challenges in their lives.

Some have also suggested making an effort to note when kindness is done to you, perhaps by creating a gratitude journal or blog.[5] People are more likely to remember when they have been mistreated, so having a reminder of the many times you have been treated well may help cancel out negativity.

4. Take very good care of yourself.

With this I don’t just mean keeping active and eating well (which can’t hurt), but paying attention to your mind. Stress can accumulate, which by extension can have a lasting impact on your mood and make you react severely to stressful situations, ultimately exacerbating them.[6]

A setback you might easily be able to take might knock you down if you already have a lot of stress in your life. To counter the effects of this cumulative stress, you should make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep and rest.

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Even when you are just relaxing, parts of your brain are working on overdrive, especially when stressed. Rest and sleep can counteract this.

Practicing all of the above could greatly improve your resilience and ability to stand tough against setbacks and trauma, as well as be better equipped to handle stress and feel good while doing so.

I’ll leave you with the last stanza of a poem: “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.[7]

This poem was one that proved a great benefit to Nelson Mandela during his 25 years in prison, as well as me during much less inspiring stuff. The poem summarizes resilience in a nice way.

“It matters not how straight the gate
How charged with punishment the scroll
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.”

Reference

More by this author

Arthur Peirce

Lifestyle Writer

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Published on April 15, 2021

How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You

How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You

When life gets tough and you are facing big obstacles, it is so hard to be an optimistic person. As we try to deal with these challenges, our feelings tend to be consumed by fear, frustration, and disillusionment. Inertia and indecisiveness overwhelm us, and being optimistic is the last thing we feel like being.

“I think I am going to have to supercharge my optimism to arm myself for the battle ahead.”—Rebecca Bloom

Why Is It Important to Be an Optimist?

Being optimistic is one of the best ways in which you can deal with the hard knocks in life. Having an optimistic outlook on life also has amazing health benefits as well.

Scientific research shows us that staying in a place where we feel fearful and disillusioned—where we have no energy and no hope—is not good for our overall wellbeing.

“Optimism helps people cope with disease[s] and recover from surgery. Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity. Research tells us that an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years.”[1]

Your Power of Choice Is Key to Living an Optimistic Life

Although you may not be born a natural optimist, using your power of choice wisely can help you develop an optimistic attitude that will enable you to defy any odds that are against you. You are the only person who has control over whether you want to be optimistic or not! As the Dalai Lama has said, “choose to be optimistic it feels better!”

I love this quote from Neale Donald Walsch as he explains very clearly how the power of choice can be used by you to get the results you want:

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“Therefore, be honest with yourself as to why you are choosing to do a particular thing. Then, do it gladly, knowing that you are always getting to do what you want. The statement “I have no choice” is a lie. You can choose. You simply do not prefer the alternatives available to you, for whatever reason. So you select the outcome that you most prefer.”—Neale Donald Walsch

Being an optimist opens you up to exploring new ideas, new experiences, and new possibilities. It frees you up to consider new options for how you can live your life for the better. It helps you look to the future with hope and positivity.

What Is Optimism?

The definition of optimism, according to Elizabeth Scott MS, is that it is “a mental attitude characterized by hope and confidence in success and a positive future. Optimists are those who expect good things to happen, where pessimists instead predict unfavorable outcomes.”[2]

However, being an optimist does not necessarily mean that you will be able to successfully deal with the challenges of life. Having a positive mindset along with an optimistic outlook enhances your chances to defy the odds and challenges you face in life.

What Is Positive Mindset?

The Oxford dictionary definition of optimism is “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something” while positivity is defined as “the practice of being, or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude.”

Positive thinking looks for solutions, whereas negative thinking dwells on the problems and obstacles. Positive thinking is an emotional and mental attitude that focuses on the good and expects results that will benefit you. It’s about anticipating happiness, health, and success—essentially, training yourself to adopt an abundance mindset and cultivate gratitude for your own successes and those of others

Optimism and positive thinking go hand in hand. You can’t be an optimist and not have a positive mindset.

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To defy the odds and sustain an optimistic and positive outlook Gabriele Oettingen, a motivation researcher at New York University and author of Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation, believes that it is not just about having happy thoughts—but it is actually planning for and anticipating those positive outcomes that get us results.

She describes optimism as having positive expectations about the future based on past experiences and positive thinking as wishful dreaming, which is not a bad thing if applied correctly!

She believes that if we apply optimism (which is a personality trait), we inherit with positive thinking (which is a choice we make) what Oettingen calls “mental contrasting,” which is important for motivation and setting in motion unconscious cognitive processes that are important in goal attainment.[3]

3 Strategies on How to Be an Optimistic Person

Applying these 3 strategies will help you to defy the odds you face in life while still being an optimistic person with a positive mindset.

1. Use the WOOP Model

Gabriele Oettingen combined her ideas with those of fellow researcher Peter Gollwitzer, and they came up with a motivation exercise called WOOP.

Using the WOOP Model, you work on goal attainment by applying these 4 steps:[4]

  1. Wishing for something you’d like to achieve.
  2. Imagining a good outcome.
  3. Examining the obstacles that might get in your way.
  4. Coming up with a plan for overcoming those obstacles.

Research results conducted by Gabriele Oettingen have shown that employing WOOP is more successful than positive thinking alone in helping people to fulfill their desired goals.[5]

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Knowing how to activate your positive and optimistic outlook on life to get the results you want is key to you building your resilience to manage the hard knocks and challenges that life throws at you. Having a positive outlook on life takes work and the WOOP model is a framework that you can use to put your goals into action so that you can start to feel good about achieving the goals you set in life.

2. Cultivate a Positive and Optimistic Mindset

Adopting a positive mindset can help us get through difficult times. However, if we are not careful, we can tend to focus on thinking positive thoughts and banishing all negative ones. This can be exhausting and not a realistic way to deal with life’s challenges

I believe that the combination of a positive mindset and an optimistic view of life that is realistic is the secret weapon to successfully dealing with the obstacles and pitfalls we face in life.

Here are 4 things that you could do now that would enable you to grow and sustain a positive and optimistic mindset:

  1. Once a day, share positive feedback with a minimum of three people—work colleague, partner, children, friend, or anyone that you meet on the day. Making other people feel positive has lasting effects on your own life.
  2. Every morning when you wake up and at night just before you go to bed, praise yourself and reflect on all the positive things that happened to you during the day. Keep a journal and note down at least three positive things that you did today or are grateful for.
  3. Imagine a positive future for you – get a journal, and for seven days, write down all the great things you want to happen—tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year! This is the first step to dreaming big with an optimistic outlook on life!
  4. Consider a serious challenge or obstacle you are facing in your life right now and write down at least five possible positive outcomes. This exercise allows you to look at your challenges with an optimistic and positive mindset.

3. Recognize Negative Thinking

When you are dealing with challenging times and it feels like the odds are against you, it is hard to maintain an optimistic outlook on your life. You can’t push away or bury your negative feelings—what you resist will persist.

The best way to be optimistic despite the challenges you are facing is to acknowledge that bad things happen. Ignoring your reality isn’t helpful. Being realistic about your situation is important to you working out how to best work with the difficult situation you are facing. A healthy and realistic outlook of your life is a great way to accept that all you can do is your best and that you will be okay, regardless of the outcome.

When you are thinking negatively, take a moment to assess how realistic your thoughts are. Reframe your negative thoughts into more realistic statements that can help you maintain an optimistic view of the future and potential solutions.

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Final Thoughts

As an optimist, you believe in hope, opportunities, and a brighter future. Choosing to be an optimist is a choice that comes with surprising benefits. Scientific research has shown that an optimistic and positive view of life allows you to live a healthier and happy life, despite the odds that are against you![6] When you are trying to be optimistic, especially when the odds are against you, having a positive thinking mindset is a secret ingredient to you successfully riding that rollercoaster of life!

Optimism and positive thinking go hand in hand. Positive thinking looks for solutions, whereas negative thinking dwells on the problems and obstacles. There is no doubt that the more optimistic you are about life the happier you will be.

Applying the three strategies above will help you to remain an optimist while successfully navigating your way through the challenges and tough times in your life.

“True hopefulness and optimism are what leads one to dare. It is also what lifts one back up to dare again after a failed attempt.”—Bibi Bourelly

More Tips on Being More Positive

Featured photo credit: Hudson Hintze via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Optimism and your health
[2] VeryWellMind: What Is Optimism?
[3] Positive Psychology: What Is Mental Contrasting and How to Benefit From It?
[4] WOOP: What is WOOP?
[5] Greater Good Magazine: Can Positive Thinking Really Make Dreams Come True?
[6] Harvard Health Publishing: Optimism and your health

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