Get strong! 4 ways to build your mental resilience

By Roxanna Guilford-Blake –

Resilience. It’s hard to miss hearing or reading about it and, if you didn’t know better, you might think it’s just the latest self-help fad.  But it’s not.  Researchers have studied it for years, and the science is clear: High resilience is significantly associated with successful aging, lower depression and longevity. Overall, resilient individuals have better physical and mental health – and better a functioning immune system. They’re also happier.

Sounds pretty solid, right?  Has this helped quiet your inner sceptic? Good. Because resilience isn’t trendy; it’s essential.

Now, you may be wondering what resilience really means. It’s simple: It’s the ability to bounce back, to adapt to whatever life dishes out. Mental flexibility (resilience), like physical flexibility, can be cultivated through exercise.

Here are four of the many ways you can build your mental resilience.

Get enough sleep. That sounds like an easy exercise–until you actually try to fit eight hours of sound sleep into your already-overfull 24 hours!   But the research shows that getting enough rest –especially actual sleep – builds resilience.  Sleep helps you recover and rejuvenate. (That’s the same reason completely disconnecting from your electronic devices during your vacation also builds resilience.)  And really, if you think about it, it just makes sense. When you are sleep deprived, you become the opposite of  resilient: You become more brittle and fragile.

Fail and move on. Yes, failure can help you cultivate mental resilience. We  discussed this in an recent  blog post, and it bears repeating.  And just as failure can make you more  resilient, being  resilient helps  you cope with failure. But there’s a catch:  You have to learn from your failure for it to be of value. But it can often be the very nudge you need to move in a different direction, to spread your wings.  We’ve all heard of someone who lost a job but, after a little re-focusing, found an even better one.  (We talked about this in an earlier blog post, too.) Or maybe you know an athlete who began  to find her groove only after losing the big game.

Don’t catastrophize.  It’s second nature for some of us, but try not to assume the worst. When something bad happens, avoid blowing the event out of proportion. It may be heartbreakingly awful; you don’t need to make it any worse.  One way catastrophizing makes us less resilient is that it narrows our thinking, reducing the range of options we see. So as you built the worst case scenario, you pay less and less attention to the potentially positive courses of action. Things begin to feel even more stressful, and it simply snowballs.

And honestly?  You may  not be able to make it better, either. But although you can’t control the event, you can control your response. For many people, keeping a sense of humor plays a crucial role in remaining resilient. This doesn’t mean the situation itself is comical, but humor can keep you from being sucked into the sheer awfulness of an event. And this takes us to our final bit of advice.

Practice optimism. This one may be the hardest exercise for the cynics and Eeyores among us, but it’s probably has the most evidence behind it. Not only that, but optimism and resilience feed each other. (See a pattern here?) Optimistic people build resilience, and resilient people become more more optimistic.

We’re not suggesting you to be a natural-born optimist. You may be a natural-born pessimist, but you can practice being optimistic. In fact, you can be an optimist without feeling optimistic.  Brazilian author Paulo Coelho said, “You must be the person you have never had the courage to be. Gradually, you will discover that you are that person, but until you can see this clearly, you must pretend and invent.” Or, if you prefer: Fake it until you make it.  It’s never too late to start.

For more helpful tips and advice why not check out Paula’s Book Your Life Your Way

Your Life Your Way