Sometimes, the obstacles, stresses, and calamities of life can weigh you down, making it difficult to move forward. In these times, it’s particularly important to be resilient—to have the inner resources to support and encourage yourself; and to continue on.
The best way to make sure you have the resilience you need when times get tough is to work on developing your inner resources during good times, when you feel healthy and strong. You can do this by appreciating your strengths and positive attributes, such as earning an award at your job or fixing the sink at home; or, making people laugh or feel cared about. You might also appreciate your good fortune for having a healthy body, friends who care, or living in a safe neighborhood. It’s also important to feel positively about yourself as a whole person – not just for some particular trait, ability, or good fortune.
Psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson teaches that by building inner strengths (he names 12 of them), you can actually change the wiring in your brain. As he explains in his book, Resilient, “Minute by minute, step by step, strength after strength, you can always grow more of the good inside yourself.” As a result, you will be more capable of facing and recovering from difficult or even traumatic situations.
One way that Dr. Hanson suggests you can change your brain to be more positive is to write down statements that encourage you to treat yourself with kindness and compassion. For instance, he suggests writing, “I am on my own side” or “I matter, too.” For people who fear that being kind to themselves will make them selfish, the latter statement is particularly important. It affirms that they matter along with, not instead of, other people. If you have trouble really taking in one of these statements, Dr. Hanson recommends imagining that a friend or mentor is giving you the message. (It’s amazing how often we can accept messages from caring others that we reject when they come from ourselves!)
Always remember that you matter; and when adversity hits, that you are not helpless. You can choose to focus on what you do well and how you can get through to better days. Preparing for the tough times, you can also develop your confidence, ability to persevere, and self-compassion. In doing so, you will build inner resources and develop the strength to keep moving in a positive direction, even as you wrestle with life’s greatest challenges.