This week Elevate London’s wellbeing experts brought their invaluable sessions to the Collective HQ. They taught us a thing or two about resilience and we’re feeling primed and ready to apply our learnings to this big old thing we call life.
Elevate founder and positive psychologist Lucy Faulks explains that resilience doesn’t mean keeping on going like a Duracell bunny. It’s about recognising the things that help us to thrive and negate stress, and ensuring that we’re doing more of them so that we can bounce back when we do face adversity. Adversity could be something as small as missing your train, to something as huge as a relationship break down. Being able to bounce back quickly is a skill that can be learnt and developed over time. Here are Lucy's 8 ways to develop your resilience for when you need it most:
1. Include mindfulness in your day.
This doesn’t need to be spending hours meditating, it simply means being in the present moment. It could be spending your lunch break focusing on the food you’re eating, rather than your phone; or instead of browsing Instagram on your way to work, observing the things and people on your journey, tuning in to your present experience. By becoming more aware and more mindful, we can start to better recognise the helpful and less helpful thoughts that arise in our minds and react in a more controlled manner.
2. Practice optimism.
We know that optimists live up to 15 years longer than pessimists and are much better equipped to deal with difficult situations that crop up in everyday life. A great way to practice optimism is to write down three things at the end of each day that have gone well (it could be as simple as a nice comment from your boss or a hug you shared with your partner).
3. Notice negative thoughts (and write them down).
By allowing ourselves to become taken over by negative thought processes, be it rage, self-criticism, guilt, or blame we react rather than respond to difficult situations. These negative thoughts then drive negative emotions and as a result, negative behaviours. If we’re able to take a step back and recognise the thought - realise that we are not our thoughts - then we can better cope with the situation. But this takes practice! The first step is simply starting to recognise when these thoughts pop into our head and labelling them.
4. Cultivate a growth mindset.
This is a mindset that thrives on challenge and sees failure not as a disaster but as a springboard for growth and to develop our existing abilities. One of the key traits of someone with a growth mindset is that they are open to criticism and see it as a way to improve. So the next time you receive any criticism ask yourself, ‘how can I view this as a chance to develop?’
5. Utilise your support network.
It may sound obvious but having a good network of people you can speak to makes you much more resilient. This can include family and friends but also colleagues, ex-colleagues, spiritual or community groups, or perhaps old friends who you may not have been in contact with for a while. It can help to write down everyone in your support network and remind yourself of all of the people you can lean on when needed.
6. Recognise your stress symptoms.
Some people comfort eat, turn to alcohol, retreat and shut themselves away from everyone, or become snappy and irritable. It’s important to start to recognise your own personal symptoms of stress so that you can start to address the cause before it spirals. Think about the physical and behavioural signs you spot in yourself when you’re particularly stressed.
7. Assess what you can and can’t control.
This is essential for staying resilient. If your train is delayed and you’re late for work ask yourself ‘is there anything I can do about this?’ The answer is ‘yes I could’ve got up earlier and got an earlier train’ but if you’ve already done this and all of your trains are delayed then it’s out of your hands. By accepting that this is not something you could’ve controlled it will make you feel much calmer and better able to deal with the situation.
8. Acknowledge your strengths.
By learning to recognise what you’re good at you can start to utilise these qualities in harder times. For example, if you’re a great communicator, you can trust that you’ll be able to express yourself and share your difficulties, if you’re really creative, ask yourself how you can use this to your benefit yourself when things get tricky?
As humans we will forever face adversities - big and small - so spending a little time each day, investing in a tool box full of skills and practices unique to us and built on our own self-awareness, strengths, insights and resources, will prove invaluable to our long-term happiness and resilience.