Behavior Change and Motivation

Incorporating Resilience Based Thinking in Daily Life

Resiliency is a highly prevalent topic in today’s culture, as there is an increased understanding that mindset impacts wellbeing. Additionally, as work and life demands have increased in our fast paced society, resiliency has become an important part of the solution to decrease stress. 

In the context of this article, resiliency is defined as the ability to bounce back after challenges and cope well with adversity.   It’s also defined as a state of being, and not a set trait. This is an important distinction to make because some individuals inaccurately think resiliency is a permanent trait; you either have it or you don’t.  

The truth is that resiliency is a choice. When stressful situations emerge, we choose how we look at them and if we want to respond in an adaptive way or not.  We have probably all seen individuals respond out of proportion to a small stressor that occurred. Similarly, we have all seen or heard about someone who handled a life crisis with ease.  The common denominator in both situations is mindset, or how a person thinks about and perceives their experiences. When people are resilient, they tend to have a more positive outlook when stressful situations arise; they are open to learning from mistakes and stay committed to continuing forward towards their goals despite obstacles. 

The good news is that resilience-based thinking can be learned. Anyone who might not incorporate this as easily as others can learn how to cultivate more of this type of thinking into their daily life.  By refining this skill over time, individuals can improve how they respond to stress and overcome challenges. Even better news is that the more we practice it, the better we get during times when we need it the most.  The reason this occurs is best explained by author Rick Hanson in his book, “Hardwiring Happiness”. The book educates readers on how they can strengthen different neural pathways and rewire the way they think and respond to stress. 

Personally, I believe that anyone who wants to cultivate more resilience-based thinking needs to make it a daily practice instead of waiting to apply it when obstacles occur.  If we start to practice this skill during small instances in our day-to-day, we will become more skillful at being resilient during larger life challenges.

Listed below are some helpful tips for individuals to consider when stressful situations or obstacles arise. By incorporating these tips, individuals can be more resilient each day to stress.

1. Breathe and pause.

Take a moment to take a deep breath. This will allow you to pause for a moment and decide on the best course of action.  As a result, you will be fully aware of all your options, which will help you decide on how you want to respond.

2. Consider adapting.

Ask yourselves the following questions, “How might I adapt to this situation, and/or adjust my thinking to find a solution? Or, “Is there another way to look at this problem?”  Often, when we emote negatively about a situation, it decreases our creativity on finding new approaches or solutions. Before negatively reacting about an obstacle, take a moment to adapt or consider a new approach first.

3. Let go of what you can. 

There are situations in life we can control and those that we cannot. If something comes up that is out of our control, we need to acknowledge that, and let it go.  It does not help us to ruminate and obsess over something whose outcome we cannot change. Resilient individuals recognize what they cannot control and focus their attention on these details. The practice of doing this continues to cultivate and refine that resilience based thinking.

4. Take a moment to see the bigger picture. 

We have all been guilty of this at times. A small stressor occurs, and it snowballs into a larger experience where “everything is horrible.”  In moments like these, it is important to keep a long-term perspective. How does this minor stressor or obstacle impact the bigger picture? For example, if you are stuck in traffic and late to work today, will it matter a year from now?  Probably not, so try to keep your response appropriate to the stressor at hand.

5. Stay constructive.

Watch out for extreme thoughts as stressful situations arise. If you notice any extreme thinking, reframe and stay constructive about set-backs.  For example, if something goes wrong, acknowledge it and focus on what you learned, and/or will do differently moving forward. Say to yourself, “I learned that ____ from this experience, and I will use this information as I move forward towards my goals”

6. Visualize success.

Instead of getting bogged down by an obstacle, keep your eye on the larger goal for yourself. Visualize where you want to be or go, and stay committed to that despite challenges along the way. 

As you start to incorporate more resilience-based thinking in your daily life, know that this is a practice that will take time if it does not come naturally to you. When you find yourself falling into old patterns, take notice of it, acknowledge what could have been done differently, and remember these tips to keep moving forward and upward.

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The Author

Dana Bender

Dana Bender

Dana Bender, MS, ACSM, CWWS, E-RYT. Dana Bender works as a fitness and wellness Program Manager for Health Fitness Corporation in downtown Chicago. Dana is also a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, an adjunct professor with Rowan University, and an E-RYT 200 hour Registered Yoga Alliance Teacher.

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