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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

What Is Resilience and Why Is It Important?

What Is Resilience and Why Is It Important?

Have you ever wondered why some people remain calm in the face of adversity, while others crumble?

People who are able to effectively navigate the highs and lows of life have what psychologists call resilience, or an ability to effectively bounce back from adversity.

Whenever you come across a difficult situation, you have two choices: you can either let your emotions get the best of you and become paralyzed by fear, or you can uplift yourself from the negative and transform pain into possibility.

I think we can all agree that life is a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. Even if you consider yourself to be a happy person, it is inevitable that you will encounter challenges at some point along your journey. These experiences may bend you, but they do not have to break you.

Building resilience is the key to turning challenges into successes.

Don’t get me wrong… being a resilient person is not an easy feat. However, I believe that all of us have the power to develop a resilient mindset; just like a muscle, it needs to be conditioned and strengthened every single day.

Sometimes it takes hitting your emotional threshold, which I like to call, rock bottom, before you are able to tap into your personal resilience. This is how I came to discover my strength.

What Is Resilience?

The construct of resilience has its roots in the field of developmental psychopathology during the 1970s. In the course of studying children with psychiatric disorders, psychiatrists and psychologists noted that a small number of children did not display the expected maladaptive behaviours.

Instead, they displayed behaviours that were within the normal range of social development.[1]

However, it was the studies of children of schizophrenic parents and the findings that some children thrived despite their high-risk status that led to the expansion of research on resilience. These included multiple adverse conditions, including socioeconomic disadvantage, parental mental illness, maltreatment, illness and catastrophic life events.

During the late 1980s and 1990s, research on resilience revealed it to be a much more ordinary phenomenon than it was first thought to be. The construct of resilience evolved to presume exposure to significant adversity.

Defining Resilience

To date, there is little consensus among researchers about the definition and meaning of the construct of resilience. In the last decade, the concept of resilience has shifted. It was once confined to a set of stable individual traits.

However, the concept shifted to an outcome and dynamic process, dependent upon interactions between individual and contextual variables, evolving over time.[2]

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Today, resilience is commonly referred to as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.[3] This definition captures the ‘bounce-back’ characteristic, which reflects one of the central characteristics of resilience.

The Importance of Resilience

Ever-increasing demands on time and energy have created an environment where people feel overwhelmed and unable to manage the high expectations of their daily lives.

As a result, people find themselves constantly multitasking, chronically distracted, and pulled in way too many different directions. If you want to stay at the top of your game in life and in work, it is imperative that you learn how to successfully navigate your way through the tough times.

In a study sponsored by Nationwide and Vodafone, nearly 100 percent of participants cited resilience as a factor in job success.[4] Numbers don’t lie. Resilience is the secret to success.

Here are four reasons why possessing resilience is a critical life-skill in today’s world:

1. Transform Failure Into Success

In my experience, the road to success is paved with a lot of failure. It’s a normal part of life. You cannot build resilience unless you are willing to fail. End of story.

When you mess up, you’ve got to get back up.

Those who are unable to bounce back from adversity end up internalizing failure and inevitably, giving up altogether. If you can relate to this way of thinking, it’s important to understand that failure is an event. It does not define who you are as a person.

Research shows that when you try, fail, try something else, fail, try again, and ultimately succeed, you get a nice kick from your dopaminergic reward system.[5] This is what gives you the momentum that you need when adversity hits you like a ton of bricks.

Failure is merely a steppingstone which everyone goes through on their path to greatness. You’ve got to ask yourself… are you willing to take bold risks in order to become the person you’ve always desired to be? If you don’t try, you will never know.

2. Develop an Internal Locus of Control

Do you believe that life happens for you or to you? In order for you to improve your happiness in any area of your life, you have to ask yourself the difficult question – “Who is responsible for my happiness?”

Your answer to this question will determine how effectively you are able to overcome challenges in life.

People who adopt an external locus of control struggle to bounce back from life’s blows. They believe that external forces determine the direction that their lives will take.

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Not surprisingly, this beliefs leave them feeling powerless. They play the victim in their life story, and trust me when I say that this is no way to live.

As researcher, Julian Rotter once said,

“Those who are passive about their well-being believe they have little or no control over their lives.”

If you ascribe to this way of living, the great news is that at any given moment, you can decide to change this pattern of conditioning.

Conversely, people with an internal locus of control see themselves as the CEO of their lives. They know that they are in control of every single decision that they make.

When they get knocked down, they are able to bounce forward, meaning that they are able to use life’s greatest adversities as springboards for success. When you do this, you become the driver of your destiny and resilience becomes your natural state of being.

3. Build Positive Beliefs

When your world comes crashing down on you, it’s easy to fall into negativity mode and play the ‘why me’ game. However, you cannot overcome challenges in life if you think that the Universe isn’t on your side. Negativity will get you nowhere in life.

Research shows that one major factor that contributes to resilience is the experience of harnessing positive emotions, even in the midst of an especially trying or stressful time.[6]

A resilient person works through challenges by harnessing the power of positive emotions. They are able to reframe adversity into something that is positive, which allows them to bounce back a lot quicker.

You will surprise yourself how much more calm you will feel in the face of adversity when you choose to be happy and optimistic.

4. Help You Embrace Change

At the heart of resilience lies a simple truth – change is inevitable. The reality is that we live in a world of constant change. In fact, uncertainty is the only certainty that we can count on.

People get into trouble when they ignore or resist change. As a result, they end up living a life of pain and suffering because they are unable to find comfort in the chaos.

You will not build resilience by hanging out in your comfort zone. The only way to truly grow and expand yourself is to break free from the chains of stability and dive into the unknown.

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Yes, this will be scary at first. It will require that you do some deep inner work, like shifting your limiting beliefs, breaking bad habits, and learning how to make friends with stress.

Let’s face it… nobody is excited to face their “stuff”, but it’s an integral step on the road to becoming a resilient person. In the words of Socrates,

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

When you master change, you master your life. Are you ready to jump on the change train?”

How I Discovered My Resilience

It wasn’t until I suffered two near-fatal car accidents that left me with a spinal cord and brain injury that my entire perspective on life changed.

I had hit rock bottom and it felt as if my life was crumbling before my eyes. The doctors told me that I may never walk again and that the best thing that I could do was to accept my new reality.

In that moment, I just wanted to give up, but I didn’t. In its simplest form, that’s what resilience is all about – choosing to keep going when every bone in your body tells you not to.

Rock bottom ended up being the foundation upon which I rebuilt my entire life.

From the traumatic events in my life, I discovered that there were recurring patterns of strategies that I used in order to be resilient. For example, I learned how to make friends with my pain and healed my emotional trauma through yoga, dance and meditation.

Despite my doctors orders, I continued my Psychology degree, while lying in bed with a back brace on for 6 months. I was determined to keep feeding my brain with new knowledge. Falling into depression wasn’t an option.

That being said, there were a lot of moments when I thought, “Why me?” or “Life isn’t fair.” However, through it all, my bounce-back ability remained strong.

I refused to define myself by my pain.

Instead, I took action to create a new reality for myself. It may not have been the reality that I asked for, but nevertheless, I made it work. I become a new version of myself, one that was stronger and more wiser.

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In the words of John Assaraf,

“No matter what your current circumstances are, if you can imagine something better for yourself, you can create it.”

I like to think of myself as a Resilience Junkie, a woman who is addicted to thriving through adversity.

Today, I am a resilience mastery coach. All along, my purpose was hidden within my wounds. I empower women to shift their lives from surviving to thriving so that they can master resilience in every dimension of their lives.

When you tap into your resilience and unleash your inner power, there is no challenge that you cannot conquer.

Final Thoughts

The next time that life throws you a curveball, trust that you are strong enough to stay in the game. Adversity may bend you, but don’t let it break you.

It doesn’t matter how many times that you fall. All that matters is that you get back up again and keep moving forward. In the words of the famous Japanese proverb,

“Fall seven times. Stand up eight.”

You’ve got this. Whatever you do, don’t give up. I am living proof that the comeback is always stronger than the setback.

Are you ready to live a more resilient life?

More on Building Resilience

Featured photo credit: Brad Barmore via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ashley Elizabeth

Women's Transformational Coach & Dance Movement Therapist

What Is Resilience and Why Is It Important? How to Be More Self-Aware and Strive to Be a Better Person What Motivates You to Succeed in Life? 5 Ways to Help Yourself Advance Your Mental Strength How to Stop Feeling Guilty and Free Your Mind

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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

How to Use the 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

How to Use the 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

I was 10 and it was a white Lisa Frank journal with a red bubble gum dispenser on the front. It also came with a heart-shaped lock and key which was a must considering I had an older brother living under the same roof who was always looking for new and inventive ways to humiliate me.

That one little journal (okay…I called it a diary back then) unlocked a world of potential to me which quite literally became my saving grace, my happy place, for the rest of my life.

Over the years, the aesthetics of my journal evolved, as did my writing subjects and style thankfully. But the one thing that’s been constant is that, no matter how sad I am or how bad things have seemed before I started writing, somehow the world and my place in it always becomes clearer and less noisy after just 5 minutes of “writing it out.”

In this article, we will take a look at how investing a few minutes a day in the 5 minute journal can lead you to happiness.

The Benefits of the 5 Minute Journal

For most of my life, I never really knew or cared why writing for even 5 minutes made me happier, I just knew it worked.

If I was feeling lost or unhappy, I’d eventually realize I hadn’t written in a while (duh!). So I’d meet myself back at the blank page and word by word, start feeling more like me again.

To be completely honest, I did (and still do) this forgetting-to-journal dance way more often than I’d like to admit. For the life of me, I don’t know why I don’t keep doing the thing I know makes me happy every day instead of waiting until I’m unhappy to do the thing. Can you relate?

I’m pretty certain it’s not just a me thing: it’s a human thing. We know we’ll be happier if we eat better, exercise, disconnect from technology, get more sleep, etc. but often times, it takes us feeling unhappy in order to put in the effort to be more happy.

A couple of months ago, I found myself in that place:

I’d hit a wall of resistance around my business and a downturn in my health that caused me to doubt what I was capable of accomplishing. I was completely confused and indecisive about the direction of my business and where I should be focusing my limited energy, so I hired a coach to help me sort through my noisy brain.

As I laid out all of my decisions and endless to-do lists in front of her, she asked me an important question:

What’s one thing you can start doing everyday that will have a positive impact on all of these things?

In other words: What if instead of having to worry about ALL THE THINGS to be happier, you could just do ONE thing and everything else would get better too?

I could start every day with a few minutes in my journal.

It’s both hilarious and embarrassing that as a coach and a writer (and a coach who works with writers), that I hadn’t thought of this myself. Alas, as the saying goes, doctors are the worst patients.

Of course, the answer was writing in my journal! Isn’t the answer almost always the most obvious thing?

But sometimes, the answer is so obvious, so simple, so free and convenient that we convince ourselves that it can’t possibly do that much to improve our situation. Somehow in the busy-ness of life, I’d convinced myself I just couldn’t spare that time to do something so…(cringe) arbitrary.

Yet, as I thought about my coach’s question and the ONE THING that could positively affect all the things, I realized that journaling for me has always been so much more than a random outlet for exploring my feelings.

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Sure, nothing actually happened but me sitting on my bed in my pajamas writing. Over the years, from breakups to big moves, my most life-changing moments–like my decision to pursue writing as a career, to uproot my entire life and move cross country, and my finally feeling ready to become a mother–happened in the quiet moments between me and the pages of my journals.

How to Be Happy with the 5 Minute Journal

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about writing this article. I asked her how often she journals and if she thought it made her happier.

In general, she said, yes, journaling does seem to help her get things off her chest but she doesn’t always feel better afterward. And, in fact, sometimes if she’s already in a negative place, she can spiral even worse while journaling and go to an even darker place.

She told me that usually with time and perspective, she can see that just the act of writing and getting out of her head is therapeutic but, suggested that for people like her, prompts to help her not spiral into the negative abyss would be super helpful.

And so, in order to make sure you get the most out of your 5 minute journal, I’ve broken up each writing prompt based on how you’re feeling so you can let your emotions guide the best prompt for you that day to increase your happiness meter.

1. When you’re burnt out, talk to your inner hero (a.k.a the “real” you).

What’s the one thing everyone tells you about maintaining happy, healthy relationships?

You’ve gotta have great communication!

But what about your relationship with yourself? How do you connect with you? How do you continue being the hero in your story?

The same way that you have to make the time to connect with the people in your life who mean the most to you, you also have to make the time for you to hear your voice:

To remember what YOU sound like amidst all of the noise in the world. To listen to your inner hero.

For me, the only way I know how to do this, the only way I’ve ever known how to do this, is through journaling.

Our brains can go down negative spirals, especially when we’re tired and stressed.

In my last Lifehack article about finding motivation, I walk you through some questions you can ask yourself about whether you’re playing the role of victim or hero of your story. Definitely check it out if you’re really on the brink, or in the midst, of some serious burn out.

Essentially, if you’re burnt out, you’ve somehow let your circumstances take control of your life. In other words, you’ve started to act like the victim instead of the hero.

Luckily, just 5 minutes in your journal can help you find your inner hero (your true voice) and reclaim your right to live your happiest life.

Write down these questions in your journal and answer them one at a time–permission to be 100% honest granted:

  • What do I believe is the #1 reason I’m feeling burnt out?
  • Who or what did I blame in my last answer?
  • Taking 100% responsibility for my own life and decisions, and casting blame on no one (including myself), how can I improve this situation?
  • What decisions am I currently making to stay in these circumstances (how am I choosing them)?
  • What new decisions can I start making to get closer to where I want to be?
  • What do I need to let go of in order to get my energy back? What do I need to say “no” to?

When you start to own your role of hero, you start to realize how your current choices and limiting beliefs may be holding you back from living the happiest version of your life.

The great news is once you realize your past choices have brought you to your current circumstances, you also realize that you can make different choices to bring you to a happier place.

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2. When you’re doubting yourself, write off the gremlins.

Whenever I’m feeling down on myself, it usually has less to do with what’s happening on the outside, and more to do of what’s happening between my ears. In other words, how “I’m” talking to myself.

We all have little shame gremlins (I call mine “Mean Girls”) who live inside of our heads and tell us we’re dumb and ugly and worthless. The only way to combat those noisy buggers is to expose them for the liars they are.

Writing down these lies makes them powerless. Once they’re out of your head and on paper, you realize how ridiculous they truly are (even though they were completely owning you just moments before).

I like to write out all the nasties and put them in their place (which is on the page and out of my head, pronto). Then I can go back to living my happy truth.

Here are some powerful questions to ask your inner gremlins (perhaps better known as you being a real jerk to yourself). Write down each question and answer them in your journal.

Ask your gremlins:

  • What are you saying about me? (Don’t hold back. Really write down all of the terrible thoughts you’re having about yourself)

Then ask:

  • Is anything true about each of the things I just wrote?
  • Repeat this same exercise for each of the nasty things your gremlins are saying about you and expose them in their lies once and for all.

When you’re done, answer these powerful questions:

  • Knowing what I know now, what’s one thing I can do to improve each of these areas of my life?
  • Knowing that the voices of the gremlins are strong, what are 3 new beliefs or positive affirmations I can say daily about myself to drown out their negativity?

For example, let’s use a fictional character of a guy named Sam. Sam’s gremlins are telling him “you’re a lousy parent, a terrible spouse, and mediocre at work.”

If Sam asks himself, “Am I really a lousy parent?” Maybe his answer is “No, I love my kids and I’m doing the best I can. I just wish I could be more attentive when I’m with them instead of so distracted by work.”

So maybe Sam decides to not bring his work computer home with him anymore and really unplug once he leaves the office so he can give his kids his full attention.

Sam decides that his new daily affirmation is: “I’m a loving father and am fully present for my kids. I save the best of me for my family.”

Imagine how much better you’ll feel when you start to take back control over your self talk and program in the messages that empower you and get you closer to the person you strive to be.

3. When you’re indecisive or afraid, talk to your fear.

Those same shame gremlins or mean girls inside of our heads feed off of fear. It’s like a good piece of gossip they can’t help but spread and exaggerate.

Luckily, when we write out how we’re feeling and what negative thoughts are spiraling, we can generally recognize when it’s actually just our fears talking.

You’re probably wondering how to tell if it’s fear talking or your intuition, right? This is where exploring your feelings comes into play.

Are you feeling powerless? Are you feeling anxious or sad? Everyone’s response to fear is different but it’s never a positive feeling.

If you’re at peace and calm but feel nudged that something isn’t right, that’s most-likely your intuition talking. But if you’re in a glass cage of negative emotions, you can bet fear is the culprit.

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Don’t hate on fear too much though. Our fears are just trying to protect us from something–the rub is they also usually keep us from something even better in the process.

I like to use journaling as a way to have a little talk with my fear, understand where it’s coming from and then decide if it’s worth listening to.

Here’s your journaling prompt for hashing it out with your fear:

Again, write down these questions in your journal one at a time and answer each one:

Ask your fear:

  • What are you trying to protect me from?

Once you answer that, ask:

  • What are you preventing me from having if I listen to you?

If the thing you really want is on the other side of your fear, then you know what you have to do next (luckily journals are a great place to make to-do lists as well)!

My last and favorite questions to ask fear is:

  • What’s the absolute worst-case scenario?

For example, let’s say you’re terrified of breaking ties with a client who is making your professional life miserable. You may answer this question with something like “My client blacklists me and smears ugly rumors about me all around town and not only do I lose one client but my entire business goes down.”

Eeesh. That does sound scary. Now ask yourself:

  • What are some steps I can take to ensure the worst case scenario doesn’t happen?

And then:

  • How likely is it that the worst-case scenario will actually happen (especially if I use the plan above)?

Maybe, when you think about it, the client is actually preventing you from bringing in new business because they’re taking up so much of your time.

And maybe that client doesn’t even have the best reputation so the chances of them being able to bring you down are pretty small.

What if you spent one hour a week for the next 3 weeks working on bringing in new business to replace the the income you make from that client, and figure out a way to end the contract in a very respectful, classy way to hopefully make the odds of them making a stink minimal?

Now you have a plan! But there’s one more question to ask yourself:

  • If the worst case scenario happened, what would you do?

Maybe you realize that if you really needed to, you could always go back to your previous job; they loved you and beg you to all the time. Or you could get by for a couple of months until you were able to bring in some more clients, especially if you cut back on expenses.

Once you stare your fear in the face, it magically loses its power. Left inside of your head, it can destroy you; but taking a few minutes to look at it and use it as a friend who’s showing you where you may need to implement a plan in order to protect yourself, you can take back the reins of your happiness and realize that fear really isn’t all that scary at all.

At this point, it needs to be said that journaling isn’t only good for getting out the nasty feelings, it’s also super useful for recording the good stuff of life which leads me to the fourth writing prompt.

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4. When you’re in a funk, focus on gratitude.

Just about any happiness book or article you read will tell you that being in a state of gratitude dramatically increases your happiness. For me, having a place to get down to the truth of my life and what’s actually going really well and what I’m grateful for helps put everything into perspective, especially when I’ve got a case of the blues.

Here are some of my favorite gratitude prompts to help get me out of a funk and focusing on the sunnier side of life.

Write down these questions in your journal one at a time and answer each one:

  • What is something good that happened today?
  • What made me laugh or smile today?
  • Who am I grateful for today?
  • What am I grateful for today?
  • With my “gratitude glasses” on, how do my problems or the funk I’m in look in relation to all of the good things I have in my life?

Take a look at this article too to learn more about keeping a gratitude journal: How a Gratitude Journal and Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life

Shifting out of a funk and into gratitude shifts your energy out of “woe is me” and into “yay for me” which means, based on the Law of Attraction, you’ll begin to attract more of the things you want and less of what you don’t. Seriously, yay for you!

5. When you’re uninspired or bored with the status quo, let it flow.

One of the best and easiest ways to tap into your inspiration and feel a little bit of creative magic in your life is through stream of consciousness writing.

I dare you to put your pen on a blank page for 5 minutes and do nothing but make sure the pen doesn’t stop moving.

No thinking. No judgements. The only thing you’re not allowed to do is overthink or judge your writing. It’s all good. Everything that comes out is good (even if it’s total crap).

When I was in grad school, I took this awesome class on creativity and in it read a book called From Where you Dream by Robert Olen Butler. The book is mostly about fiction writing but essentially, he says that the best time to tap into your subconscious (where your “flow” lives) is when you first wake up in the morning. Since you’re fresh from dreaming, your brain is still tuned to that frequency, so to speak, and not clouded by “reality” from your day-to-day life.

So my last and final 5-minute journal prompt for you, uninspired one, is to wake up and let yourself keep dreaming on paper.

Here are your instructions:

  1. Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  2. Open your journal.
  3. Pick up your pen.
  4. Keep your pen moving until your timer stops.

What I love about this is it requires releasing all expectations and giving yourself creative freedom to let whatever needs to come out come out.

Become Happier in 5 Minutes (or Even Less)

Giving yourself a safe space to not expect anything other than to just show up and be honest is incredibly liberating.

In a world where there are endless things we are supposed to be doing, and ways in which we’re supposed to be doing them, I love showing up to a blank page with no requirements other than to just let my hand move.

It’s free and requires nothing from me other than just showing up wherever I am–talk about an endless source of grace!

Plus it gets my myriad thoughts out of my head and allows me to release them from my body, which research at top universities has shown can dramatically reduce stress.[1]

You don’t need to change EVERYTHING in your life all at once (it doesn’t work anyway, trust me, I’ve tried).

Start with giving yourself the gift of reflection in your journal every day and see how your life starts to change. I guarantee you’ll feel more connected with yourself in the process and over time everything in your life will start to be a better reflection of you and what you value.

And that, my friends, is the key to lasting happiness.

More Journaling Ideas

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Writing about emotions may ease stress and trauma

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