Resilience Building Activities for Tough Times

Tough times call for tough minds. While good old-fashioned grit comes easily to a lucky few, most of us could use some resilience strength training. Time to hit the mental gym and give yourself a leg up in handling adversity head on, creating a never-give-up attitude that will help you face setbacks and come out stronger. These strategies build flexibility and confidence, a good network of connections and relationships, and an ability to navigate change with openness and curiosity, rather than fear.

Focus on the good

Resilient people share a positive outlook in common. They see silver linings even in the most difficult circumstances. Not the sticky sweet kind of optimism that ignores problems and glosses over stress, but the ability to see the full complex picture. When your positive mindset is missing, negative reactions to problems become all consuming. There is no balance, and negative thoughts lead to more negative thoughts, creating a vicious cycle.

If seeing slivers of light on the darkest of days doesn’t come naturally to you, remember that we are hard wired to notice the negative, even dwell on it. Our survival used to depend on it. You are not alone, but there are several ways to turn it around while still leaving room for the messiness of real life.

Research by Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, the author of Positivity, shows that a 3-to-1 positivity ratio is key to bouncing back. In other words, for every negative experience or negative thought, you need three positive experiences or positive thoughts to get you back on track. If you feel like you’re skewed to the negative, use this one-two punch to fight back.

First, proactively increase the number of positive experiences in your day by seeking out things that bring you joy. Second, focus on noticing the positive things that are already happening. Taking the time to recognize and appreciate these joyful moments, no matter how small, can be very effective in turning your day around.

Say you got some bad news first thing in the morning, and you can feel it ruining your whole day. Counter those negative thoughts with three positive emotions, and flip the script. Maybe you reach out to a friend who always makes you smile. Perhaps you relax in the tub with a book and soak your stress away with a revitalizing mini spa session*. And maybe you stop to think about your day objectively and realize that you really enjoyed that cuddle with your cat earlier, and thinking about it gives you some seriously warm fuzzy feelings.

*Psst!  For the ultimate self-pampering routine, check this article out!

Learn from everything

Along with seeing moments of joy within sadness, resilient people see opportunities within setbacks and failures. They may even approach them with a different set of questions – neutral rather than judging. “What are my choices here?” rather than, “Whose fault is this?” By focusing on what we can learn, we give ourselves a path forward, rather than spin around and around the problem looking only for validation of how terrible it is.

When facing a setback, you are not ignoring the hard parts, just backing up to see the big picture. If you also view it as an opportunity to grow and possibly learn something new about yourself, you might find that the path forward becomes clearer. What neutral questions can you ask about what’s worrying you? What might you learn?

If you’ve been laid off from your job, for example, you may feel mired in frustration, fear, or anger. It’s a scary time and you may have strong feelings about it. Rather than only complaining about the situation, a resilient person might ask, “What can I do now that I wouldn’t have done if this hadn’t happened?” They may see an opportunity to approach coworkers and solicit endorsements, or decide to seek a certification they’ve always wanted, or work toward a career change they were too afraid to make before. Asking this type of question encourages you to be proactive, rather than grind to a halt. Refocusing your energy can be a great distraction.

Practice giving and gratitude

When you are feeling a little rough around the edges, acts of kindness can refill your cup. They give you serotonin boosts that create a well of resilience to draw from in times of need. Whether it’s planned generosity, like volunteering at your local food bank, or spontaneous good feelings, like smiling at a fussy baby in a grocery store line, opening your heart reminds you that all is not lost. It shines a beautiful light on the power of human kindness and shows you that you’re still in this, going strong.

While offering kindness is important, accepting it also strengthens that sense of community that is so vital to a resilient life. Gratitude is the secret ingredient to accepting the help and support of others. Frederickson calls it “un-adapting,” consciously drawing attention to the good things in life you may have adapted to, or started taking for granted.

To remind yourself of the good in your world, try a gratitude journal. You can also try considering the alternate view of your life. What could life be like without the people that make it so warm? What experiences have you had that couldn’t have happened any other way?

Take good care of yourself

It’s no secret that self-care plays an important role in happiness and resilience. Your daily habits matter, from getting enough sleep, to eating right, to choosing only natural products for your hair and skin.

Keeping your mind sharp is just as important. One of the best ways to nurture your brain is through regular mental breaks, says Carol Orsborn, PhD, author of The Art of Resilience: 100 Paths to Wisdom and Strength in an Uncertain World. “It could be something as formal as a regular meditation practice[SP1] ,” she says, “or it could simply be letting yourself daydream.”

Nature is another key element. Research suggests that just 20 minutes outside leads to “more expansive and open thinking,” according to Fredrickson. Other studies have shown that spending time in nature combats anxiety and depression, strengthens immunity, and lowers levels of inflammatory chemicals in the body.

Try a session of yoga, Tai Chi or Qigong. Even simply getting outside for an easy walk around the neighborhood can do wonders for your mental health.

Finally, your friends really are good for you. We sometimes forget how important personal connections are to our wellbeing, but the science shows how beneficial friendships truly are. A 2006 breast cancer study found that women with 10 or more friends were four times more likely to survive the disease, compared to those without a good network of friends.

Keep on laughing

A good belly laugh reduces stress to a manageable level. Rather than getting mired in fight, flight, or freeze, it allows you to take stock of the situation from all sides and examine it for ways forward. It also strengthens bonds and feeds that ever-growing sense of gratitude.

Humor also has a way of empowering you. When you can laugh at something that intimidates you, you are saying that you are bigger, badder, and stronger than what scares you. You take control, even for a moment. That moment shows you how strong you really are.

Armed with these tools – a positive mindset, a focus on learning, a giving and grateful heart, consistent self-care, and a sense of humor – you’ll build the strongest you possible, ready to face it all. We would love to hear your stories of resilience and grit, and how Morrocco Method helps you thrive through whatever life throws your way.

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