The Great Recession of 2007-2008 has impacted people across the entire economic spectrum. Even the wealthy have lost jobs, homes, and possessions. And those who have yet to be negatively affected worry that they soon will be. Fear and uncertainty are everywhere. How do we cope?
The times require a fresh look at a valuable concept that research in the new field of positive psychology suggests might make significant contributions towards maintaining human happiness. The concept is resilience.
Resilience in things is the ability of material to return to its original shape after being stretched or bent. Resilience in people is the ability to recover quickly from a life altering event like job or income loss, illness, natural disasters, or the death of loved ones.
One only has to look to the bombardment of negative news to realize that far too many people have been “bent and stretched” in many ways. Hard times have come and gone before and some people have had the ability to “snap back” from them. Here are seven things essential for developing your resilience.
- Do Something
- Set Simple Goals
- Look for New Meaning in Your Life
- Reach Out to Those Around You
- Have a Good Laugh Now and Then
- Stay Hopeful
- Start a Diary
Some people react to adversity by burying their heads in the sand and hoping it will all go away. Resilient people adapt by getting over the impulse to moan and complain about how bad things are and instead take action to deal with the situation as it exists. This generally involves objective assessments of where you are and developing plans to move forward.
Set Simple Goals
You can’t have a plan without a goal. Goals keep us focused towards the future, not the past but it is important to be realistic and start out with simple goals that can lead to a sense of accomplishment. A good practice is to set one or two goals for the day. Before retiring at night, reflecting back on successful goal achievement keeps us positive and on track towards setting new goals.
The ideal in most western industrialized societies is a pleasurable life, where pleasure is derived from our material possessions. Some of us find meaning in our lives from our work, but if you are out of work, what do you do? Take action and look for different sources of meaning. Many find building and enhancing relationships with other people to be the key.
Humans have been social animals since the dawn of time but in today’s fast paced achievement oriented society; our relationships with others often take a back seat to other concerns. Job becomes more important than family. If we have little time for our families, we have even less for friends and neighbors.
For centuries, reaching out to other people has provided significant meaning to those who take the time to do it. Look to family and friends for support and acceptance. Find opportunities in your community to volunteer your time in the service of others.
Humor has always been a great healer. There is humor to be found even in stressful situations, if you take the time to look for it. Have a good laugh as often as you can. Try watching good comedies as a way to get the laughter flowing.
Few things facilitate resilience as much as hope. Believing that things will get better, coupled with actions to make things happen, are the keys to bouncing back. Once you lose hope, you stop taking action.
Start a Diary
Take the time to keep a record of all you are doing. A good way to get started is to adopt an exercise popularized by positive psychologists called the “three things exercise.” Before you retire, think back on your day and identify three positive things that happened to you. These are thinks for which you are thankful. This kind of “counting your blessings” and recording them keeps us focused on the positive around us, not the negative.
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