Even the most carefree of people can carry terrible scars. The difference is in how we wear them. There are so many tremendously happy and strong people who hold the aftershock of terrible demons – addiction, depression, divorce, physical injury – just beneath their sunny surface. What is their secret? Resilience. This quality is often applauded, but what is it made of? I dissected this concept and outlined its most important components here.
These are the three basic building blocks of resilience:
Getting past a traumatic experience often involves letting go of massive amounts of negativity. As much as we would like to wish it away with a magic wand, that is just not how letting go works. It’s not a gentle act of waving of glitter into the wind. Rather, it’s more of a trudge through the wilderness, through millions of miles of thick brush and chilly mountain ridges, through territory that might have been entirely undiscovered until now. Someday you turn around and realize that the darkness isn’t following you anymore, because you lost it somewhere along the way. Faith is the belief that you can outrun that darkness and find happiness on the other side. Hope is not enough because it implies wishing, but not certainty. Faith is not hoping that things will get better, but believing it in the deepest parts of your soul. It’s the only thing that can keep you going when things get truly tough.
I’m not talking about head-over-heels, weak-kneed, pulse-racing love. Of course this can brighten up hard times, but it is not the kind of thing that truly matters. The type of love that builds resilience is the kind exhibited by small acts of kindness and a long track record of caring – family type love. Resilient people usually have tremendous support networks, while people who lack resilience often struggle to ask for help. Leaning on others does not make you weak – rather, it makes you much, much stronger. Cultivate your relationships when times are good, because you will need them to be strong for that inevitable moment when the clouds start to roll in and the rain comes pouring down.
Dr. Les Kay cites a positive outlook as one of the most important components of resilience – and the quickest way to build a positive outlook is to practice gratitude. No matter how dark life gets, there is always an infinite number of things to celebrate. The problem is, most of our daily blessings go unnoticed because of our natural human tendency to focus on our problems. Start writing a gratitude list, and don’t stop until you feel better. It might take a list of a million things, but I have great news for you – you actually do have a million things to be thankful for! Once you realize this, you will find it easier to be positive, strong, and determined in the face of adversity. After all, what are your troubles when you compare them to the miraculous glory of simply being alive?
Even if you are not going through tough times, it can be beneficial to practice these three components of resilience. When adversity does inevitably strike, you will be well prepared. If, by some miracle, the rest of your life is smooth sailing, you will still be glad to have built a strong sense of faith, substantial and loving support network, and humble mindset of thankfulness.