As the title of this blog suggests, resilience is a key to happiness. According to recent research, resilience is ordinary not extraordinary. To be resilient doesn’t mean that you have experienced a major difficulty or unhappiness. Emotional sorrow or agonies are common in any of us who have suffered from a serious trauma in our lives. Resilience is not something that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone. Perhaps a definition would help?
There are as many definitions of resilience as there are websites on the topic. The one I chose is from an article titled The Road to Resilience which is on the website of the American Psychological Association. Their definition is: “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.” The good news is that we can learn to be resilient. We just need to learn to “bounce back”.
The fact that there are several major focal points in the research on resilience, suggests the importance that resilience has in both the scientific and happiness movements. For example: in the The Penn Positive Psychology Center website they are “… recognized as a leader in state-of-the-art, evidence-based resilience curricular and resilience programs….we teach skills to prevent and reduce stress-related problems such as anxiety, depression, burnout, and attrition, as well as increased persistence, well-being (happiness) and performance.” If you click on the title above you’ll find more information about their training in resilience. One of the things that stood out to me was the fact that Penn has “…trained more than 30,000 individuals to use and teach the resilience skills”. They must be doing something right!
Another website that has an abundance of articles on resilience is not surprisingly named the Resiliency Center . Here’s an article from their website entitled Five Levels of Resiliency by the late Al Siebert, PhD, who had studied highly resilient survivors for over fifty years. He was also the founder of the Resiliency Center and authored the award-winning book, The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure and Bounce Back from Setback . Resiliency is described briefly in a review of his book as “…the ability to adapt to life’s changes and crises—is key to a healthy, productive life. Based on the deep knowledge of the science of resiliency…” It also explains how and why “…some people are more resilient than others and how resiliency can be learned at any age.” At my age, those last words are very comforting.
In addition to Dr. Siebert’s anecdotes, exercises and examples, in his book he specifies a five level program for becoming more resilient. The same five level program is also in the article Five Levels of Resiliency .
The five levels of resilience that he recommends are:
1) Maintaining Emotional Stability, Health and Well-Being. This level is essential to sustaining your health and energy.
2) Focus Outward: Good Problem Solving Skills. The second level focuses outward on the challenges that must be handled. It is based on research findings that problem-focused coping leads to resilience better than emotion-focused coping.
3) Focuses Inward on the Roots of Resiliency—strong self-esteem, self-confidence, and positive self-concept.
4) Covers the Skills Found in Highly Resilient People.
5) It describes “What is Possible at the Highest Level of Resiliency.” It is the talent for serendipity—the ability to convert misfortune into good fortune.
The article goes on to warn us that “…when faced with adversity it is useful to remember the following:
- Your mind and habit will create either barriers or bridges to a better future.
- Resiliency can’t be taught, but it can be learned. It comes from working to develop your unique combination of inborn abilities.
- The struggle to bounce back and recover from setbacks can lead to developing strengths and abilities that you didn’t know were possible.
Here are two TED TALKS that represent typical resilience programs. The first one, the ABCs of Resilience , by Kathy Meisner, PhD is based on the research of the Penn Positive Psychology Center mentioned above. The second one is Cultivating Resilience by Dr. Greg Eells, who outlines exactly what it means to build resilience in our lives.