What Makes Us Resilient?

Resilience is defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as:

  • the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
  • the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
  • the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.

Resiliency is hard-wired into our bodies. We naturally encounter stress in our life and our body is able to physically respond by chemically engaging our fight or flight response. We can think of resiliency as the ability to return ourselves to an original balanced state. As we progress throughout the stages of life, we can learn to further develop our resilience as well. Our ability to adapt to stress, adversity and change is an important part of aging well. Here are 6 components of resilience that we can focus on in our own lives.

Sense of Purpose & Value: Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “The person who has a why to live can bear just about anything.” Each of us has core values of great importance in our lives. When we are able to pursue what matters most to us we are fueled by a deep sense of purpose and doing important work. When our lives are not aligned with core values that matter to us, our lives can feel unbalanced and can weaken our resilience when hardships come.

Connection to Others & Giving Back: Just like any seed, resilience needs more than one thing to grow. Our individual efforts are key, but we also need to connect to others who can encourage us to live well and support us during difficult times. Making an impact on the lives of others and giving back also helps us to stay connected and grateful.

Healthy Lifestyle/ Wellness: When we feel well, we feel most like ourselves. As we age, it is common to start seeing more health challenges. Being a resilient person doesn’t necessarily mean having a perfect bill of health. What matters is participating in the simple daily lifestyle choices that benefit our own health and wellness. Having a strong physical foundation can really help us down the road.  

Healthy Mindset/ Focus on the Positive: One of our great freedoms as human beings is that we get to assign and make meaning out of what happens to us. When we keep a healthy and positive mindset, we are able to be more resilient when difficult things happen to us and are better equipped to rise above our circumstances.

Continual Learning/ Curiosity: Our minds are made to grow, take in new information, change and develop throughout our lifetime. When we maintain a healthy curiosity and pursue new ideas, our minds are better able to adapt and create new thoughts and perspectives in response to challenges. 

Cultivating Joy, Humor, and Enjoyment of Life: Some of the most resilient people you’ve met probably have a contagious joy and peace about them. People who are able to genuinely find joy and pleasure in life often remember the importance of play. When we are engaged in activities that we enjoy, we are more easily able to bounce back from setbacks. We are able to return to our original shape, to have balance and be well.

Developing a physical and psychological resilience is a key life skill, regardless of age. It serves us well in relationships, work, family and also in the way our body ages. The more we age, the more changes we experience in our lifetime. Taking good care of ourselves and paying close attention to what matters most to us will help us face our longevity with confidence. 

Published on January 1, 2017.