We may take time to think about how to be healthier, but we don’t often spend a lot of time thinking about how to become more resilient. Resilience is mental toughness. With it, you can bounce back from setbacks more quickly and find the positive in challenging circumstances.
In his book, The Resiliency Advantage, the late Al Siebert, Ph.D., contends that highly resilient people are more flexible, adapt to new circumstances more quickly and "thrive in constant change.”
If you want to begin to build up your resilience muscle, here are nine things you can do:
1. Change your self-talk
Pay attention to the thoughts that pop up into your head. If they are critical or negative, replace them with a positive thought or two.
According to positive psychology pioneer Martin Seligman, Ph.D., you can give yourself a cognitive intervention and counter negative thinking with an optimistic attitude.
Treating yourself with self-compassion sometimes takes work, but when you are kind to yourself it increases your resilience because you have your own back. Treat yourself like you would a best friend.
2. Celebrate your wins
If you don’t think you can do something, or your self-confidence is flagging, think of a time when you succeeded. List your wins—those times when you achieved something you didn’t think you could do.
Recalling your wins restores your belief in yourself. Psychologist and author Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., says we need a three-to-one ratio of positive to negative experiences to build our resilience and flourish in life.
3. Be solid in how you see yourself
One of the easiest ways to boost your self-image is to make decisions that make you feel good about who you are, according to psychologist and Ohio University professor Gary Sarver, Ph.D.
With a positive self-perception, you won’t let the moods and opinions of others knock you off course. You will realize that the opinion that matters most is your own opinion of yourself.
4. Give yourself a pep talk
If you repeatedly tell yourself you are strong, not only will you begin to believe it, but you also will look for ways to prove that it’s true. Most of us are a lot stronger than we think; we just have to believe it first in order to see it in our own lives.
5. Push outside your comfort zone
It’s hard to believe in our fortitude if we hide within a comfort zone. Do the things that scare you a bit and watch your resilience build up.
Afraid of public speaking? Try talking to a small group first. Nervous to change jobs? Just start interviewing. Afraid to have a difficult conversation? Write out what you want to say first. Fear dissipates with action.
Make up your own mantra. Try … Let’s do this. Be bold. Keep moving forward. Or, forget fear. Power up big with a tiny sentence.
6. Cultivate your relationships
Resilient people tend to have strong support systems with family, or they cultivate strong, supportive relationships with friends and mentors. Knowing you have people you can turn to when times get tough makes you a little tougher.
7. Boost your energy
Running on empty is a quick way to deplete the positive way you feel about yourself and leave you feeling like you’ve run out of resources. What activities recharge you? Is it exercise? A day on the golf course? A coffee shop and a good book? Seeing a good movie? A hike in the woods? When you feel your best, your mental resilience stays strong.
8. Brood less
If you find yourself ruminating over problems or having anxious moments, try to take a 20,000-feet perspective and realize that a lot of what we dwell on never happens or won’t matter a week from now. Try letting go of more things so you can spend your brain power thinking empowering thoughts and taking positive action steps. In Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman writes that self-awareness is "the building block of the next fundamental emotional intelligence: being able to shake off a bad mood.”
9. Sleep more
Sleep makes everything better, including our resilience. When you are sleep-deprived, it’s easier to get stressed out, be more reactive, make poor decisions and feel mentally drained. Sufficient sleep (that’s about eight hours a night) boosts your mental brain power, restores mental clarity and is more likely to contribute to a positive outlook.
Read more about the importance of sleep for well-being.