You have to get knocked down in order to learn how to pick yourself back up.
If you are resilient, then when life knocks you down, you bounce back and you keep going. Sometimes life’s challenges can even make you stronger.
So how do you become a more resilient person?
Unlike positive thinking, self-compassion, or gratitude — which can all be developed when things are going good or going bad — you need challenges in your life to develop resilience. You have to get knocked down in order to learn how to pick yourself back up. Over time, you’ll start to see that being knocked down makes you stronger — plus it makes you less afraid to get knocked down again.
Not sure if you approach challenges in the ways that build resilience?
Maybe you have room to grow and become a more resilient person. To find out how resilient you are, take this super-short well-being quiz, which not only gives you a general idea of you how resilient you are, but can also help you identify the other skills you need to build to improve your happiness and well-being.
What did you discover? Do you need to build your resilience? If so, here’s how to do it.
Although there are lots of ways to build resilience, I’m focusing on research-based strategies, from the more basic to the more complex. Choose your favorite strategies to start building your resilience today:
11 Ways To Be A More Resilient Person
1. Stop your negative thought cycles.
Often when bad things happen, we get stuck thinking about negative outcomes. We repeatedly think about what we could have done differently in the past, or how we are going to mess up again in the future. We ruminate on these events, because we mistakenly believe that thinking about our hardships over and over again will help us solve them. Unfortunately, negative thought cycles just get us caught up in our thoughts, instead of taking the actions we need to move forward.
To put an end to these negative thought cycles, which have become well-worn pathways in our brains, we need to short-circuit our thoughts mid-cycle. To do this, we can create a behavioral break or an action plan for what we’ll do when our negative thought cycles get going. Here’s how this works in my life.
I’ll sometimes find myself dwelling on something negative, getting myself worked up more and more as I think about it, until my blood pressure is through the roof, and I just want to scream. When this happens, my negative thought cycles have complete control over me; I know from experience that no amount of positive thinking is going to stop the negative emotions at this point — they are in charge.
So instead of trying to think my way out of my emotions, which is incredibly hard when your negative emotions are strong, I’ll drop everything and go for a five to ten-minute run. This behavioral break forces both my brain and my body to completely switch gears and focus on something else entirely, thus breaking the negative thought cycle.
Exercise seems to be a really effective behavioral break. But if exercise isn’t possible (maybe you’re at work or with other people), try to do something else that uses both your mind and your body. For example, you could excuse yourself for five minutes to practice deep, slow breathing. Deep breathing helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which can both calm you and switch off your stress.
For your behavioral break to work, you need to decide what you plan to do before actually being in the situation that calls for it. So take a moment now to decide what you will use for your behavioral break, and how you will know the right time to use it.
When learning to use this strategy, it can be helpful to use it often, even if you’re only a little worked up. This can make it easier to implement during more challenging situations. Try it a few times to start short-circuiting your negative emotional cycles, helping you to recover from challenges more easily.
2. Question the catastrophe.
Catastrophizing is when we expect the worst possible outcome in a situation. For example, you may have lost your job and now believe that you will never be successful, and everyone will think you’re a failure forever. This may sound extreme.
Most of us don’t catastrophize quite this much, but many of us do sometimes believe that the worst possible outcomes will come true. Although being aware of possible negative outcomes can be helpful for planning ahead, when we believe the worst will come true, we set ourselves up for unnecessary stress and poor resilience.
One way to break this thought pattern is to wear a pendant or carry a stone or other small object with you. Every time you find yourself imaging the worst — about a person, situation, or outcome — touch the object. While you are touching the object, remind yourself that the best possible outcome is just as likely to occur as the worst possible outcome. Besides, worrying about it does you no good.
By gaining control over our negative thoughts, they stop being so scary. We start to see that negative thoughts come and go, and we have the skills to handle them. Now we can start actively pursuing challenges — challenges which give us the opportunity to develop resilience and improve our lives in unforeseen and amazing ways.
3. Overcome your fear of failure.
Unfortunately, many of us avoid failure at all costs. We do so, because we are afraid of failure; we worry that people will think poorly of us if we fail, and we feel ashamed when we fail. But by treating failure like a disease to be avoided, we never give ourselves a chance to overcome challenges and practice resilience. As a result, we prevent ourselves from becoming more resilient.
So how do you conquer your fear of failure, so that you can start building resilience?
If you think failure is a threat, like many of us do, your body will prepare for a fight — and you’ll feel like you’re in a battle. On the other hand, if you choose to view doing something hard, something you could fail at, as a challenge, then you’re more likely to think you are capable of handling it. As a bonus, when you view things that you could possibly fail at as challenges, you actually will be more capable and less likely to fail at them.