There is much talk these days of resilience, or a person’s ability to recover from adversity, trauma, and stress. We are encouraged to build and grow our resilience in order to better face challenges and difficulties, and we may work to cultivate this trait. Yet everyone living is resilient. The proof is right there in your breath. The act of surviving is an act of resilience.
Of course, you don’t want to merely survive, you want to thrive.
What does it mean to survive? To thrive? “Surviving” could be a person adrift in the sea after a shipwreck, clinging to a battered raft. “Thriving,” on the other hand, might evoke the image of a person who has roped together two rafts, hauled in some provisions, and constructed an oar out of debris.
It may be difficult to imagine doing anything more than hanging on to a raft when facing adversity. But as you navigate the ups and downs of life, some of the following tips may help you feel more alive—as if you are thriving, instead of simply surviving.
- Schedule downtime every day. Daydream. Stare at the sky. Take an interior body scan to see where you feel most relaxed or tense—when you find a tight area, breathe into it until it relaxes. Listen to the sounds around you, and just be.
- Reflect on your day, preferably in a journal. What brought you joy? What annoyed or irritated you? What are you grateful for? Recording these thoughts will allow you to revisit them later.
- Practice gratitude for as many small and ordinary things you can think of. Being grateful for the little things can radically enhance your experience of life and often goes a long way towards balancing out your inherent negativity bias (our tendency to respond to and remember negative experiences more strongly).
- Meditate. Choose whatever style of meditation works best for you. You may find it helps you most to focus on your breath (Vipassana), repeat a mantra (Kundalini), use a CD or MP3 download of a guided meditation, or go for a long yoga nidra meditation—which may be especially helpful for insomnia and posttraumatic stress.
- Be kind to yourself and others. Yes, this is easier said than done, especially when it seems others consistently push your buttons. You can even push your own buttons with self-criticism. But make a new habit of responding with kindness, and you may feel your mood begin to shift. Be patient with the process, as this change takes practice.
- Look for life’s lessons in the small annoyances and big challenges. These lessons may initially be invisible. But the belief that everything is happening for your highest good can be anchoring, and many draw strength from it.
- Read something inspirational. This may mean something different for everyone. Inspiration might be religious, spiritual, or philosophical in nature. To some, inspiration may simply be wise or encouraging words. If it gives you inspiration, read it. The Pocket Pema Chodron offers short Buddhist-inspired pieces by a renowned teacher. This page contains at least one affiliate link for the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, which means GoodTherapy.org receives financial compensation if you make a purchase using an Amazon link.
- Take responsibility for your health and finances by eating well, sleeping enough, moving your body, and living below your means. Good mental, emotional, and even financial health can all contribute to your ability to thrive. Try the book Your Money or Your Life for one perspective on this.
- Do yoga. An increasing amount of research shows how yoga can really integrate your mind and body. Of course, your mind and body are one organism already, but yoga can put you more in touch with the connection between the two and can help calm both.
- Assume the best in any situation. In general, people are not trying to annoy you. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Keeping a positive perspective when facing difficulty can help you weather any number of challenges.
- Stay curious. Learn something. Put yourself in a different situation. All will create new neural pathways in your brain and can add some vibrancy to your life.
- Take time to be in nature. This might be as simple as looking out your window and watching the sky. If you have more time, take a walk or sit in a park. Even petting an animal can help refresh and rejuvenate you.
- Listen to music. Whether soothing, energizing, or sensuous, music can take you out of your rumination into a sphere of pure emotion, giving your hard-working mind a much-needed rest. Research has shown that music can often improve your mood and benefit your body’s natural healing process.
- Control what you can and allow the rest to be as it is, even if you don’t like it. Routines and rituals are daily reminders of what you can control, and establishing these in your life can increase your sense of agency. Even the simplest routines, like brushing your teeth or taking time to sit down for breakfast, help you feel as if you are the captain of your ship and may provide a sense of safety and comfort in times of stress.
- Interact with people. Savor fleeting micro-connections (like your parting words with the check-out person at the grocery store) as well as enduring, deep ones. All can reinforce a sense of connection to the world and help you enter the deep hum of life.
- Finally, eat some dark chocolate every day. With over 300 phytochemicals, dark chocolate has the power to calm your nervous system and boost your mood. Go for the bars with 70% cocoa solids, or higher.
- Boothby, S. (2013, May 17). How Music Affects Our Moods. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health-news/mental-listening-to-music-lifts-or-reinforces-mood-051713#1
- Fabrega, M. (n.d.). Ten Strategies for Overcoming the Negativity Bias and Increasing Your Quality of Life. Retrieved from https://daringtolivefully.com/overcoming-negativity-bias
- Heart Health Benefits of Chocolate. (2016). Retrieved from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/prevention/nutrition/food-choices/benefits-of-chocolate
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