Self

11 Little Habits Of The Strongest, Most Resilient People

Photo: Joao Serafim / Shutterstock
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Now, more than ever, resilience has become a differentiator for joy and success.

If you're able to bounce back from hard times, you can achieve so much more in life and be happier. If you're less resilient, struggling more with change, loss, or difficult circumstances, it can negatively affect your well-being and hold you back from achieving your goals and dreams.

Distress and discouragement can keep you stuck.

Emotionally strong people have learned that they can't control what happens to them; they can only control how they react to what happens. They withstand more stress and move through adversity because they’ve developed the resiliency skills to handle whatever comes their way.

The good news is that while personality traits like grit may be inherited, resilience can be developed and exercised just like any muscle at the gym.

It might not be easy, but resilience is attainable and those who demonstrate it provide plenty of clues on how to do that in the small things they do every day to build their mental strength.

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Here are 11 little habits that can make you stronger and more resilient:

1. Do something uncomfortable.

Resilient people value effort and experience and don't get caught up with having a perfect result. Playing safe closes you down to life. Make your motto "fail fast," and every day get a little bit out of your comfort zone.

Finally, say "yes" to the rock-climbing invitation, put your hand up to volunteer in your community, or message someone you don’t know.

2. Move your body.

When your emotional brain kicks in, you need to do something to process that energy in a positive way. Get out of your head and connect to your body by taking a brisk walk, doing jumping jacks, or dancing.

You’ll feel a sudden burst of energy and realize that you can channel your reaction into action.  

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3. Talk to yourself.

It's perfectly normal and desirable to engage in self-talk – especially if it's compassionate.

Monitor your thoughts, remind yourself that sometimes there are alternate facts, and don’t automatically let your beliefs drive you. Say an affirmation, such as, "This is my worry talking. I can do this."

What would you tell your best friend? That's what you need to say to yourself, too.

4. Spend time alone.

Mentally strong people are comfortable with silence; in fact, they enjoy their own company. After a few years of the pandemic, you might not be as keen to be alone as much, but consider whether you’ve had quality time with yourself, reflecting on your life.

Book a weekly date with yourself or spend 5 quiet minutes in the car before you pick up the kids.

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5. Practice mindfulness.

Every day, set aside time to be still and connect with your breath. With mindfulness, frequency is better than duration, so start with 5 minutes once a day, and then twice. From there, graduate to 10 minutes.

Allow yourself to press pause and focus on the present. You'll grow to be more grounded and accepting of what your day brings to you. 

6. Gratitude practice. 

When you regularly give thanks for all that you have – even the smallest of things, you learn to appreciate them more.

A number of my clients enjoy journal writing to express their gratefulness, but you don’t have to like to write to start a gratitude practice. Something as simple as writing 3 things you're grateful for each morning or reflecting on 1 good thing that happened during the day before you go to sleep can remind you of the good that's happening for you.

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7. Laugh out loud.

Laughter can alter dopamine and serotonin activity and it may also improve a person's subjective sense of well-being. Put on a comedy instead of the news, make a joke or do something silly and laugh aloud.

8. Accept your emotions.

Life is messy and human beings are, well, human and emotional. Being strong doesn't mean that you ignore your feelings when you go through tough times, it means that you experience them. Not facing your emotions can push them underground, so it's better to be honest with yourself about how you feel.

I recommend that you name it to tame it and get as specific as possible about the label. Declare, "I'm frustrated right now" or "I'm disappointed that" or "I’m worried about" so that you can problem-solve around what will inevitably be a temporary situation.

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9. Reinforce a boundary.

When you're overwhelmed by volumes of life problems or what seems like insurmountable odds, simplifying your life can help. Step back and assess what you can manage and be okay with saying no to even little asks like a barbeque next weekend or completing another report at work.

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A polite "I don’t have the bandwidth," or "Not this time; thank you for the invitation," is all you need to say. It can take getting used to, but in the end, you'll be stronger by saying yes to yourself.

10. Ask for help.

Resilient people know that they can’t move mountains alone. Strength comes from knowing that you have people to lean on and that sometimes extra or specialized help will make all the difference to your success.

Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, so don’t be hesitant to call a friend to lend an ear, a family member to watch your child, a professional to navigate the way forward, or a support group to validate your experience.

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11. Be curious.

Reflect on your difficulties without judgment. Those who have adopted a resilient attitude, don't ask, "Why is this happening to me?" Instead, they ask, "What if this is all happening for me?"

Sometimes you must look hard, but there is usually an important lesson from every experience. And, when you get used to looking for the blessings in disguise in little things like missing the train, it's easier to step back and see the silver linings when the bigger things hit.

To improve your mental strength, it takes small and consistent shifts in how you live your life.

Whatever this looks like for you, realize that it won't be a straight line in getting there. Building resilience takes time, effort, and trial and error.

You'll experience setbacks and wonder if you'll ever make it, and your definition of success might even evolve over time. But begin with one of these habits and practice it. Then, add another one. Before you know it, you'll be stronger and more ready to deal with everything life throws at you.

Which one little habit will you adopt today that will make you more resilient?

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Lisa Petsinis is an ICF-credentialed life and career transformation coach who works with women to build lasting life skills — like confidence and resilience — that will help them achieve their life goals. For more information, contact Lisa via her website.

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