How to Increase Resilience with Optimism and Positivity
Tough times are a natural part of life, but you can increase your resilience to make getting through them easier. Although biology plays a role in our susceptibility to mental health symptoms, we are not wholly at the mercy of our genetics. Several personality attributes contribute to a person's ability to withstand adversity. What's more, we can increase our resilience by engaging in an intentional practice of optimism.
In the article, "The Benefits of Optimism Are Real,"1 author Emily Esfahani Smith describes research conducted with Vietnam veterans. The results suggested that optimism, altruism, and having something to live for were primary factors in whether prisoners of war developed depression or posttraumatic stress disorder. She also referenced a study out of the University of Texas in Austin that asked participants to write about their most traumatic experiences. The results were fascinating. When analyzing the writing samples, researchers found that those who tried to make meaning of their trauma had better long-term health outcomes than those who used to assignment to vent about their experiences.
Increase Your Resilience with Positivity
The studies mentioned above suggest naturally positive people are more resilient. But what about those who aren't so naturally positive? Is there a way to increase one's positivity and help them increase resilience? Again, the research says yes. Smith wrote of a third study in which participants were given a stressful task to complete and were primed to see the activity as either a challenge or a threat. Results showed the less resilient participants who were encouraged to see the task as an opportunity had the same cardiovascular recovery times as the resilient participants.
I thought the most interesting observation in this study was that both resilient and non-resilient people demonstrated the same levels of anxiety and frustration during the stressful task. That means positive people don't experience less distress than others, they just respond to it differently. In the study, naturally resilient people and those primed with a positive message had equally fast recovery times. This suggests that even if we aren't naturally positive, we can still increase our resilience with an intentional practice of positivity.
Make Positivity an Intentional Practice to Increase Resilience
I consider myself a naturally positive person despite my struggle with depression and anxiety. I think my natural resilience is a primary factor in my overall wellness considering my history of childhood trauma. Despite my optimistic nature, I still need help at times. Even people like me can benefit from an intentional practice of positivity. Here are the things I do that I find most helpful in maintaining optimism and increasing resilience:
- I always look for the lesson in a hardship. I don't necessarily believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe I can make meaning out of everything that happens.
- I try not to exaggerate the bad. I keep things in perspective and look for what is going well.
- I focus on things I can control and try to accept things outside of my control.
- I use positive self-statements to get through tough times. I say things to myself like, "I've made it through tough times before," "I will grow from this experience," and "I always find a way to make things work."
These are the practices that help me foster optimism and resilience. If you want to hear more, check out my video below on how to increase resilience by cultivating grit. I'd love to hear from you. What practices do you use to increase positivity and resilience?
- Smith, Emily Esfahani, "The Benefits of Optimism Are Real". Pocket. March 2013.
Psy.D., H. (2019, January 23). How to Increase Resilience with Optimism and Positivity, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingablissfullife/2019/1/how-to-increase-resilience-with-optimism-and-positivity