We all go through challenges and adversities throughout our lives. These unwelcome disruptions to our normal routines can be difficult to process and overcome, often creating distraught and unhappiness. However, research has shown that some people bounce back from these challenges better than others and that the emotional upheaval of a particular difficulty can be managed by a phenomenon known as psychological resilience. Resilience is defined as the continuation or development of a healthy mindset and state of mental health after going through an aversive or life-upending experience. Some researchers have pointed to certain personality traits or the severity of an incident as indicators of resilience. Over time, scientists have agreed that resilience is actually quite complex and is more likely defined as the interaction of a variety of protective and risk factors for each individual.
Risk and Protective Factors of Resilience
Resilience is a complex makeup of a variety of personality traits, social, environmental, and psychological factors. This means that while some people may be more inclined toward resilience, it can be learned and achieved through several mechanisms. In psychology, we like to point to certain risk and protective factors that make people more or less likely to develop a certain trait, and the same applies to resilience. Some of the protective factors of resilience include:
- Positive psychological well-being
- Having a flexible personality
- Few additional stresses
- Engagement with family, friends, and community
- Strong cultural or religious identity
There also risk factors that may inhibit resilience, some of which include:
- Struggle with mental health issues
- Pessimism and stubborn personality traits
- Feelings of isolation and loneliness
- Discrimination or exclusion
- Poor physical health
These are a few of the many protective and risk factors that apply to both resilience and to one’s general perception of life. It is sometimes difficult to tell if levels of resilience are affected by these factors or if resilience determines the presence of these factors. Nevertheless, it can usually be assumed that this process is cyclical and that these factors are a combination of predictors of resilience and a result of resilience. The good news is that even if you are predisposed to be less resilient there are ways to train yourself to develop that resilient factor. Many researchers at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania have begun defining and cultivating resilience training programs to help people process and grow from their adversities rather than succumbing to their difficulties. Similarly, at Long Island Psychology we have utilized research on resilience to create workshops, activities, and therapy tools to help you develop resilience, and create a mindset of psychological toughness and growth.
Well-being vs. Resilience
You may have heard of the concept of well-being. We often refer to humans as either having positive well-beings, healthy well-beings, unhealthy well-beings, and so on. But what is well-being and how does it differ from resilience? Well-being refers to your mindset and mental health at any point in time. You can have a positive well-being or a negative well-being regardless of an incident or setback. Resilience, on the other hand, specifically refers to how your mind processes a specific challenge or aversive experience. If a negative experience hasn’t occurred, resilience is not so relevant. However, well-being and resilience are related. Many studies show that certain indicators of a positive well-being are also indicators of resilience. Essentially, positive well-being and resilience are correlated with one another and often intersect on many levels.
Goals of Resilience Building
Dr. Karen Reivich of the University of Pennsylvania outlined 21 skills that promote emotional, mental, and psychological strength and resilience. She narrowed that into specific skills that resilience training targets and helps to develop in each person. These skills include:
- Self-Awareness- being in touch with emotions and recognizing feelings of loss, fear, and sadness without getting stuck or dwelling on them for too long
- Thoughtful Impulse Control- acknowledging impulses while being able to stop and think about their consequences
- Active Optimism- having a positive outlook on setbacks while recognizing the state of the current reality
- Mental Flexibility- adaptation and perspective-changing skills that allow a person to view a situation from multiple lenses and think innovatively
- Signature Strengths– identifying and developing personal strengths that help with overcoming challenges and fostering personal growth
- Engagement- connecting with family, friends, and members of the community to create a strong support system
Of course, every person develops resilience in a variety of ways and sets their own personal goals. However, through empirically supported studies researchers have found overall skills that result from resilience training that cultivates a strength-building approach to setbacks and allows us to overcome them. At Long Island Psychology we utilized this research to create our Resilience Training Program in which we have outlined specific sub-skills that foster resilience, as well as methods to learn and practice them. To learn more about specific skills and how our program relates to you please visit our Resilience Training Program page or call 516-732-0273. For more information about our Garden City and Rockville Centre, NY locations, please visit our contact us page.