Three Habits of Resilient People
In my previous two blog posts, I talked about the importance of emotional regulation and how it can help us lead happier lives. Today, I will be discussing three habits that resilient people have in common. These habits are important because they help to keep our emotions in check and allow us to bounce back from difficult situations.
Have you ever met a person who seems to live every day joyfully, as if they don’t have a care in the world and with an endless supply of energy? I had a friend like this in college. While I was stressed with class assignments and a job, she was happily volunteering at a soup kitchen after a full day of school and work. While I was overwhelmed, living in a dorm with a constant buzz of noise and people, she was finding ways to make new friends. I didn’t understand her. I envied her. Mostly, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Why was I frequently sick? Why was I so stressed? Why was I easily irritated with people?
As a mental health professional, I now understand that I was not like my friend because I didn’t have parents who helped me learn important skills for building emotional resilience. My friend had parents who helped her learn to cope with stress and adversity. She was fortunate enough to have caregivers who helped her develop emotional resilience. The remainder of this article is dedicated to describing the three habits that build emotional resilience.
Emotional Resilience Habits
The first habit is appreciation. Resilient people take time to appreciate the good in their lives. While these individuals still acknowledge the difficulties and struggles in life, they put more focus on the positives. They are thankful for what they have, rather than dwelling on what they don’t have.
The human brain can be trained to focus on what there is in life that brings joy by intentionally practicing gratitude at the start of each day. Looking for things to be thankful for and writing them in a journal is a great way to practice. Staying mindful and practicing appreciation five minutes or longer two times each day, will grow your joy and build emotional resilience (1). This practice of thankfulness will also have a positive impact on those around you by helping others experience a state of gratitude.
The second habit of emotionally resilient people is that they are able to adjust faulty beliefs and develop a strong adaptive belief system in regard to themselves, their life and the world. Our beliefs are connected to our emotional state and both of these come from our interpretation of the world and life events. As mentioned in the description of the first habit, emotionally resilient people focus on optimism (1). When optimism floods over us, we see our lives as stories of redemption and restoration and form our beliefs accordingly; when pessimism takes control, it feels like nothing will ever change and leaves us with a feeling of doom and our belief system is rooted in that negativity (1).
It can be difficult to shift into a state of optimism when your mind is used to thinking about the negative, but it is possible with practice. Spending time scanning your thoughts and writing out the beliefs that are driving your negative thoughts can help you identify the narratives you believe. When you know those core negative beliefs, you can recognize them when they show up and have compassion for yourself in those moments. That compassionate approach can help you shift into the first habit of appreciation, which will help you develop beliefs grounded in optimism.
The third habit of emotionally resilient people is that they are connected to others. Social isolation kills joy and has many adverse health consequences connected to depression, sleep quality, and executive and cognitive function (2). Emotionally resilient people create connections with people and know they are not alone when they experience problems and painful emotions. “Feeling safe, calm, and connected helps you grow your capacity to deal with hard things” (1).
Creating connection with others is something we cannot wait for others to do. By practicing simple relational skills, we can increase our social connections and deepen relationships. Smiling and showing curiosity are important ways we connect with others. In addition, showing appreciation toward others increases both their joy and yours. These small gestures make people feel seen and valued, and allow you to develop the habit of connection.
Building emotional resilience is a life-long practice. It is something we have to intentionally work on every day. The continuous effort is worth it because it allows us to live joyful lives despite the hardships we face. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, the following book is an excellent resource for getting started: Building Bounce: How to Grow Emotional Resilience by Marcus Warner and Stefanie Hinman.
- Warner, M. & Hinman, S. 2020. Building Bounce: How to Grow Emotional Resilience. Deeper Walk International: Carmel, IN.
- Hawkley LC, Capitanio JP. 2015. Perceived social isolation, evolutionary fitness and health outcomes: a lifespan approach. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 370: 20140114. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2014.0114