5 Simple Ways to Increase Resiliency
Resilience: An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.
I believe you will agree with me when I say that misfortune, change, and stressors, in general, are a part of the human condition, a part of the human existence. To live is to allow such things, for change is as sure and reputable as the laws of physics themselves. While we might chalk up some perceived “misfortunes” to #firstworldproblems, the fact remains that perception is reality to the human psyche, and while you may have food, water, and shelter, cracking your new iPhone X is certainly misfortunate if your mind perceives it as such. Yes, change is inevitable, as is pain, suffering, etc., and I believe we agree that facing trials and tribulations is a part of what makes us human.
But you are not alone. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Resilience is a skill we can all build and develop to help conquer said change and misfortune, and the stronger our resilience muscle, the higher our ceiling of elite human performance, in all areas of life. Thus, today I am going to share with you five simple actions you can start now, starting with today’s read, to help build the strength of your resiliency. These actions work for me, and while yes, I admit, looking objectively from the 30,000-foot view at my life in the developed world, some of my “misfortunes” are in fact the aforementioned #firstworldproblems, I do use my resilience muscle on a daily basis to conquer much more real and problematic challenges as well.
You can build resiliency; the five action items below, while not an exhaustive list, will certainly help you overcome obstacles in your path to achieve ever higher levels of physical and cognitive performance.
- Optimize and Prioritize High-Quality Sleep
- Diligently Practice Gratitude Daily
- Exercise Regularly
- Replace I Can’t With I Can If
- Find a Tribe
It is hard to hold down one who sleeps well. By definition, sleep builds resiliency. Consider a different definition of resiliency, this one from the world of physics:
- The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
In the same way we might say a baseball shows resiliency after connection with a bat, so too the body shows resiliency after a high-quality night of deep, restorative sleep. Sleep heals. Sleep rejuvenates. Sleep allows us to recover our size and shape after the compressive deformations and stresses of the day. This is literal and metaphorical. You can apply the physics or the metaphor. Either way, high-quality sleep is a tool we can use to increase our resiliency. Prioritize and optimize sleep to build resiliency. It is amazing, for lack of a better term, how much easier it is to conquer the everyday troubles of life after a good night of restful sleep. The same cannot be said if one is deprived of such restoration.
A simple way to stay positive and grounded, even in the face of worry or trouble, is to focus the mind on that which is good. A daily gratitude practice, one in which we take the time to stop, think, and value deeply and with conviction that which we have and cherish dear, is a valuable antidote to compressive stress, misfortunate, and change. If we focus on misfortune, we see more of it in our lives. When we focus on gratitude, we exude a cool, calm confidence that centers the mind and allows us to conquer troubles from a state of thankfulness, humbleness, and humility. Practice meaningful gratitude daily, it will build your resilience muscle.
The baseball is resilient because of its high-quality construction, the fibers tightly wound and able to take successive abuse from even the strongest of Major League sluggers. So too the body develops resiliency by becoming stronger, and again one can take this in the literal or metaphorical sense. To increase resiliency against physical illness and literal deformation, exercise. To feel stronger, more confident, and to optimize emotional strength and well-being in the metaphorical, exercise. Once thought by science to be separate, the mind-body connection is one we are just beginning to understand, and we are understanding they are one in the same (of course the ancients knew this all along). Consider exercise and the effects on BDNF levels in the brain as per one small example. We would be foolish to think that increased BDNF levels and increased/optimized neurogenesis do not play a major role in emotional resilience. Strong in body, more often than not, equals strong in mind. Exercise for increased physical and cognitive resilience.
I Can’t vs. I Can If
For a detailed examination of this simple mindset shift, read my previous article on the topic here. Building your resilience muscle requires more than proper sleep, a daily gratitude practice, exercise, a proper diet, etc.. We must also change the way we think as well. To state “I cannot” is the antithesis of resilience. I can’t is finite, final, and without room for improvement. To say “I can if” is to allow the mind to expand, dream, think, and do. Those with great strength and resilience ponder on what could be if...those with poor resilience stop at I can’t. Thus, monitor your self-talk. Banish the word can’t from your internal and external dialogue. I can do all things and so forth. To those facing extreme challenges that require ultra-high levels of resilience, I CAN IF is a sure way succeed. Yes, you can, and you can if...
Find A Tribe
A band of brothers. For the good of the cause. No I in team and so forth. We are motivated by the group, motivated by and through others. We are social creatures, and anyone who is a part of a team with a common goal/cause knows this to be true - we rise above self-perceived ceilings of performance when the “why” of the group is introduced. No man is an island and what have you. Even those in individual sports or the solopreneur find higher levels of motivation and resilence when training or working with others. In a swimming specific example, while yes, technically an individual sport, getting through that last round of the main set, and the resilience needed to do so, is certainly easier when your team is there to help push you through. To build resilience, find a tribe. I co-lead a men’s Bible study here in Lynchburg, and every Tuesday night we challenge each other to become better men. While we might think we can go it alone, and the rugged individual is certainly celebrated in American culture, history and neuroscience alike are proving that the human mind and body can reach higher levels of performance and resiliency when motivated by the group.
In closing, resiliency is like a muscle that we can build, and the aforementioned five simple steps can and will help you build this muscle. We all face challenges, hardships, pain, suffering, and change. The more resilient among us are more successful in navigating said change. We can, yes, and we can if we start implementing the five steps. Start now, start today, and go about building your resilience muscle.