Resilience training: 5 powerful ways to build mental toughness

In moments of sadness and grief, after suffering through an emotional and psychological tsunami, have you ever looked at someone else who had gone through a similar experience (or even something worse) and wondered, “How did they do it?”

It’s a question we all ask ourselves at one point or another.

How do others seemingly have this endless reserve of mental strength and emotional fortitude, that they can withstand the worst circumstances imaginable and walk away from it unscarred?

Meanwhile, you might feel yourself reeling from every misfortune and roadblock you come up against, with no end to your own self-pity.

Why do we struggle so much where others seem to prevail? Where is our resilience?

In the best-selling book The Resiliency Advantage by Al Siebert, he names three traits of resilient individuals: flexibility adaptability, and the ability to thrive in instability.

These people have the power to hold onto their sense of self and their source of power no matter how bad things get around them.

So how do you build your own resilience? Through resilience training with these 5 proven ways:

1) Expand Your Heart

Expand your heart and make yourself important in the lives of the less fortunate.

Volunteer at homeless shelters, donate to charities, work with NGOs, or even just help out a friend or family member who is going through rough times.

Whatever you do, so long as it is an act of kindness, you will find yourself building your own resilience while helping someone else rebuild their life.

This is mostly due to the chemicals in our brain.

Whenever we engage in an act of kindness that we genuinely believe in, our brain gets a boost of serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter most commonly linked to happiness and positivity.

So help out and be selfless for your own selfish reasons. Over time, you’ll see that acts of kindness will become a natural part of your life.

2) Don’t Let Go of Humor

“Playful humor enhances survival for many reasons. Laughing reduces tension to more moderate levels,” Al Siebert writes regarding resiliency.

By holding onto laughter through our darkest days, we keep ourselves open to an open door, a light in the darkness.

We give ourselves a psychological advantage over whatever cloud is looming overhead, because we prove to ourselves that no matter what happens, we won’t forget what it is like to laugh.

Seibert adds, “Playing with a situation makes a person more powerful than sheer determination does. The person who toys with the situation creates an inner feeling of ‘This is my plaything; I am bigger than it… I won’t let it scare me.”

3) Be Kind to Yourself

The worst thing you can do when you are going through a slump is to start mistreating yourself.

You might stop taking care of your body, you might say that you are fat, stupid, and ugly, you might destroy all of your self-confidence in a prolonged episode of self-hatred and self-loathing.

Like an avalanche, the situation snowballs and worsens with every passing day, and the only victim? You.

While it might feel natural to give up on everything when you are feeling down, remember that it only makes things worse.

Keep your sleep normal, keep eating healthy, and stay out of stressful situations.

The more you take care of yourself, the easier it will be to climb out of your slump when you are emotionally ready.

One expert suggestion comes from Carol Orsborn, author of The Art of Resilience, who says that we should take mental breaks and turn it into a daily meditative habit.

4) Embrace Learning

The events in your life are processed according to how you view and understand them.

If you insist that every negative event that happens to you is negativity and nothing else, then you might walk away thinking that your life is just a series of negative events.

But if you redirect the way you feel about your obstacles and difficulties, you can change the way you process and remember these experiences.

Learn to use pain as moments of growth and learning; transform the hurt that you feel into an opportunity to learn and discover yourself.

Figure out what went wrong, and turn your emotional fog into a learning experience.

The more often you do this, the easier it is to move on from the next storm that comes your way.

One strategy is called “Question Thinking”, developed by psychotherapist Marilee Adams. Adams wants us to ask ourselves calm and innocent questions with no judgment every time we find ourselves at a crossroads—What happened? Who’s to blame? What can I do to move on?

5) Stay Positive

And of course, perhaps the most obvious tip: stay positive.

According to one researcher in positivity, Barbara Frederickson, she found that “The resilient person isn’t papering over the negative emotions, but instead letting them sit side by side with other feelings.

So at the same time they’re feeling ‘I’m sad about that,’ they’re also prone to thinking, ‘but I’m grateful about this.’

So it’s not about burying or hiding your negative emotions. It’s about learning to live with them in a non-destructive way.

Once you can accept that negativity will happen and you must live with it every now and then, you can better handle it every time it occurs.


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