Happiness 4 Ways to Boost Your Resilience for Tough Times By Derrick Carpenter Derrick Carpenter Facebook Twitter Derrick Carpenter is a positive psychology coach at Happify, a website and app that uses science-based activities to help people live happier lives. Learn about our editorial process Updated on March 06, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Amy Morin, LCSW Medically reviewed by Amy Morin, LCSW Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print ONOKY - Fabrice LEROUGE / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Reframe Your Interpretations Identify What You Can Control Seek Support Embrace Challenge and Failure A Word From Verywell The differences among us lie not only in the shape hardship takes but also in how we respond to it. Do you find yourself weighed down by your seemingly unlucky lot in life? Or do you embrace the struggle? Resilience is the ability to cope with adversity and to use challenges to forge strength and prosperity. Having resilience does not mean that you don’t struggle, make mistakes, or need to ask for help. Resilient people keep plugging along even when the situation becomes ugly or exhausting. They learn from their mishaps and misfortunes, and they rely on others with confidence and trust. Even when tragedy strikes, growth is possible. The positive changes that result from a traumatic experience are called post-traumatic growth. These changes can include a deeper appreciation for life, a bolstered sense of one’s own capabilities, and stronger connections to others. Whether the struggles you face are traumas or everyday setbacks, being resilient will help you gain greater control over your own path and cultivate positive change. These four strategies can build your resilience reserves. Reframe Your Interpretations Resilient people find a way to explain their situations in a more positive light while still accepting reality. Imagine a news broadcast interviewing victims of a natural disaster a year later. Some brood: “We’ll never get our lives back.” Others find the silver lining: “This was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, but this community has come together and shown its strength in so many unbelievable ways.” We have the ability to decide how we’re going to interpret the adversities we face. When we work to find an appreciation for what we've gained as we persevere, we develop a more grateful approach to living. The hardship that scars us also grants us wisdom. When all you see is negative, broaden your perspective by asking yourself, “What good has come about as a result of this adversity?” Identify What You Can Control Optimists are among the most resilient of us, and they succeed by virtue of focusing their attention on how they can make their situations better. When faced with a challenge, pessimistic thinkers are more likely to be blind to opportunities to enact positive changes. In short, they adopt a victim mentality. 5 Unbelievable Facts About Optimists Optimists maintain a more accurate view of the control they do have. Consider Admiral James Stockdale’s trials as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. The Stockdale Paradox, a term coined by author Jim Collins, is the recipe for resilience that combines a harsh and objective assessment of reality (“Being a prisoner of war is awful”) with confidence and faith that drive hope (“This will get better and I can make it better”). Despite being stuck in solitary confinement, Stockdale and his fellow prisoners developed a system of tapping to communicate with one another. Once they could communicate, they could support each other. Realistic optimism identifies points of control—in this case, the ability to communicate—and takes advantage of them. Resilience is the act of taking a step forward despite dire circumstances. When we look critically for something we can control, we lay out the path for ourselves. When you feel stuck or bogged down in adversity, find one thing you have control over and take action on it. Seek Support There are many images in our culture of the self-reliant, lone hero whose personal willpower provides enough strength to withstand any obstacle. But while personal strength matters a lot, it is ultimately a sense of community that enables true resilience. Studies of children undergoing significant hardship find that kids who have one adult in their lives who provide stability and support are much more likely to do well than kids who don’t. The ability to relate and process one’s struggles in the context of a safe relationship buffer against many of the potential negative effects of childhood trauma. And relationship benefits extend to adults. Consider Stockdale and his fellow prisoners. Their communication system fostered a "we're in this together" mindset. Knowing that there’s someone else out there who cares is invaluable when we’re facing a hardship. Tending to your most important relationships when times are good builds the trust and intimacy that will help those relationships stay strong when adversity hits. Embrace Challenge and Failure Failure is hard for many of us to take. We’d rather step back from a challenging situation than risk making a fool of ourselves. But when we adopt the perspective that challenge can strengthen us, and that we can learn from both successes and failures, we’re exercising our resilience muscles. This is not to say that we should seek adversity. But finding small, manageable ways to challenge yourself builds confidence. Take that class you’ve been interested in. Make that phone call you’ve been avoiding. Push your limits little by little and adopt a view of exploration and curiosity. Whether you soar or crash and burn, you’re gaining knowledge and insight. Identifying with the process of trying, rather than outcomes, is a resilience-building approach to life. Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares ways to develop mental strength. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts A Word From Verywell Everyone has varying levels of resilience, but it is a skill you can work to build. Put in the effort to develop it before you encounter hardship, and you'll be able to meet challenges and learn from them. If you're struggling to deal with a traumatic event or adverse experience, seek professional help. You may be at risk for developing an adjustment disorder, or PTSD, without professional intervention. A therapist can assist you in reducing your risk, increasing your resilience, and managing your distress in a healthy way. Quiz: How Resilient Are You? 2 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Iacoviello BM, Charney DS. Psychosocial facets of resilience: Implications for preventing posttrauma psychopathology, treating trauma survivors, and enhancing community resilience. Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2014;5. doi:10.3402/ejpt.v5.23970 National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Supportive relationships and active skill-building strengthen the foundations of resilience: Working paper no. 13. 2015. By Derrick Carpenter Derrick Carpenter is a positive psychology coach at Happify, a website and app that uses science-based activities to help people live happier lives. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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