Unfortunate situations are often called setbacks for a good reason: they set you back from your carefully planned life trajectory. For many of us, losing a pet, failing on a work project, or experiencing a harsh rejection can feel like the end of the world.
For some lucky people, these problems don’t seem permanent. Sure, they might feel sad, and yes, even a little disappointment. But they’re resilient: able to bounce back quickly, even from the most serious setbacks. This ability isn’t magic — it’s resiliency, and you can experience it too. Cultivate this life-changing trait by practicing these seven simple habits.
Positive Thoughts Make a Positive Mood
A bad day can leave you down in the dumps for weeks. But some people just bounce back from a setback — no matter its severity. Here’s the secret: they’re thinking positively. Reframing your thoughts might sound like a struggle, but optimism comes easier if you practice positive reappraisal.
Imagine a frustrating situation, like being laid off from your job. It’s easy to turn this into a huge negative. You lost your job! “Upset” is a natural reaction. Positive reappraisal challenges you to find exciting opportunities, even in a downturn. You lost your job,and now you have time to pursue your dream of running your own Etsy shop. Or you can work on that novel you’ve been dreaming about.
Science show that positivity breeds positivity: The broaden-and-build theory indicates that looking at the world through rose-colored glasses might bring you more joy.
(But You Need to Think Positively All the Time)
Positive thinking has to extend to your day-to-day in order to strengthen your ability to rebound. Researchers have found that “infusing ordinary events with positive meaning” can directly affect your resiliency.
What does that mean? Be mindful. Take time to be grateful for your circumstances,and not simply when things are going well. Spend part of every day appreciating ordinary moments and you might just find your ability to appreciate the less-than-ordinary (even when it’s bad) is much-improved.
Good Friends Improve Sad Days
Somehow, moping feels better when you’re alone. Add a glass of wine, an indulgent dinner, and a too-long TV binging session and you’ve fallen into a classic case of emotional coping. Dealing with your emotions can reduce your stress, but it won’t improve your resiliency in the long run.
Instead, build up a good support system. Resilient people don’t hesitate to reach out to family and friends after setbacks — in fact, an extensive social network can actually increase your ability to fight off stress. Relax by sharing your struggles with your friends, and you might just find yourself bouncing back quicker.
Self-Awareness Breeds Resiliency
Falling into a negative black hole is far too easy when you’re unaware of your own pitfalls. In an interview with The Guardian, University of Bedfordshire occupational health psychologist Gail Kinman said that her research has found that “self-awareness is an important aspect of resilience—in fact, it is fundamental.”
Think about a typical bad day. Your boss yells at you. The coffee maker breaks (and spills all over your shirt). Your presentation goes up in flames. And your dog eats a huge chunk of chocolate… the chocolate you’ve been saving for a bad day just like this. Before you know it, you’re skipping the gym, acting rude to your partner, and completely uninterested in playing with your pup.
Cultivating self-awareness means you can cut off the negative cycle at its root, before it grows into a major problem. You’ll be able to recognize your poor coping skills immediately — like that desperate urge to skip the gym — and fight back.
Directly Addressing Problems Makes Things Simpler
Some setbacks can’t be solved — the death of a beloved family member or the loss of a job, for example. But these major complications have solutions. Resilient people use problem-focused coping methods, identifying the root cause of the stressor and seeking to solve that problem. This takes active planning: thinking about how the situation could be solved or prevented in the future and developing goals and a plan that can prevent or mediate the hiccup.
Taking Time to Recharge
Resiliency isn’t merely the ability to persevere through endless mud. Resilient people share one important trait: they’re good at recharging when their emotional battery is low. A continual series of tough days with no break is sure to deplete your energy and willpower.
A strong reserve of willpower is necessary for bouncing back. Otherwise, you might find yourself cracking like an egg. Remember that bad-day routine? Forcing yourself to go to the gym can feel impossible if your whole life is a slog. Set aside time to relax in order to ensure you’ll recover from your next major setback.
Facing Your Fears
Every disruption might feel like the end of the world unless you start dealing directly with your fears. Perhaps you’re terrified of looking foolish or incompetent in front of your peers. So, to avoid this horrible feeling, you’re always avoiding huge projects where you might fail. That might feel fine — as long as it works.
But facing those fears doesn’t only lead to a better, more exciting and successful life. It can also help you gain resiliency. When you already know what it’s like to be scared, dealing with a setback or problem feels much simpler.