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What is Resilience and Ways to Enhance Resilience Skills

Psychological resilience is one of the most popular topics of positive psychology. In positive psychology, resilience is a psychological term which indicates the successful adaptation and ability of an individual to deal with the situation of crisis. People tend to develop such behaviours and mental abilities which will protect them from the detrimental outcomes of distress without any pathological outcomes. In other words, resilience in psychology is the skill of the person to remain calm during the time of calamity without any long-term harmful effects. Definition of resilience has changed over time in the American Psychological Association as well, but the underlying concept remains the same. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) gives the definition of resilience as the adaptive behaviour which helps us to cope with adverse situations and calamities and then recovering well from it.

Background of Resilience:

Psychological resilience is a positive adaptation that helps an individual to work in a more effective way. Even though daily stressors disrupt the flow of our routine, but they help us to develop the skills to enhance resilience. Facing problems and difficulties on a daily basis give us an opportunity to develop a sense of protection against major traumas and tragedies. It is still unclear what is the right amount of stress for different individuals. Some individuals have more capacity to deal with the tension in a positive way than the other individuals. The University of Rochester explains that research on resilience is done on those individuals who hold on to hope and use humour when faced with tragedies of life. Resilience is not just a skill to overcome a stressor, it is the ability to move on from trauma with the capability to function in a more competent way.

History of Psychological Resilience:

Emmy Werner, an American developmental psychologist, was one of those early scientists who used this psychological term “resilience” in the 1970s. She conducted a study on the children of Kauai, Hawaii. Kauai was extremely poor and most of the children grew up in families with abusive and alcoholic parents. Two-thirds of the children who grew up in this detrimental situation showed the same disruptive behaviour. Whereas, the rest of the children did not exhibit these destructive behaviours. Werner used the term “resilient” for them. Once again, the researches were being done on children with schizophrenic mothers in the 1980s and the concept of Resilience emerged as a major psychological topic for researches. The results were the same as the results of the first study. There were children who grew up to be better people and thrived in their academics and careers. These were the children who had developed mental assets that shielded them from experiences of troublesome childhood.

How Resilience Works:


Psychological resilience is not a trait, it is merely a process. It is a practice through which individuals learn to interact with their environment in a constructive way. When people face an inauspicious circumstance, they approach that situation in three ways

  • They resort to anger

  • They are overwhelmed with negative emotions and they go numb

  • They are distressed and upset

Resilient people employ the third approach which ensures their well-being. They acknowledge the fact that they have to change their coping mechanism to effectively deal with the situation. Whereas people who adopt first and second approach assumes a victim role and they start blaming other people. They are unable to critically evaluate their pattern to cope with a stressful situation.

Biological Basis for Resilience:

Our nervous system has different parts which are associated with self-confidence, self-worth and self-concept. These parts are somatic nervous system, the autonomic system and central nervous system respectively. These three aspects of our personality lay the basis for resilience. Scientists are vigorously researching to find out more about aspects that improve resilience skills. For instance, the group of compounds like neuropeptide Y (NPY) and 5-Dehydroepiandrosterone (5-DHEA) help our sympathetic nervous system in reducing its response to stress. This protects our brain from raised cortisol levels, which is produced as a result of stress.

Importance of Resilience:

The importance of resilience will always be underestimated. Our blog will give due importance to resilience in making our lives all the more beautiful. There is a significant amount of scientific literature that signifies the relationship between positive emotions and resilience. Positive psychology implies that people who stay positive during a difficult situation have flexible thinking and better problem-solving skills. Resilience and positive attitude towards a stressor help people to recover from a traumatic experience in a more favourable way. Psychological resilience helps us to adapt a coping mechanism that is healthy for us in longer run and it also makes our lives better.

Psychological resilience is known as “bouncing back” from the calamity. Susan Kobasa introduced a concept known as psychological hardiness in 1979. She explained the personality characteristics of those managers and directors who stayed healthy under pressure and stress, as compared to those managers and executives who developed health issues. According to her research, resilience has three fundamental elements.

  • Challenge: People who are high on resilience view their difficulty as an opportunity for them to strive and better their skills. They see these events as a chance for growth.

  • Commitment: Resilient people have a strong sense of commitment. They have set their goals and they are devoted to their commitments. Commitments do not just revolve around their work but also their relationships and religious beliefs as well.

  • Personal Control: Resilient people focus on the events where they have the most control over the situation. They put all the effort where they have a huge impact to feel empowered, unlike people who dread uncontrollable situations and feel helpless.

Martin Seligman, an American psychologist and an author of self-help books, says that our perspective about a particular setback is very important. He explains resilience in terms of optimism. Resilient man always views the troubling situation as an opportunity, he is more optimistic rather than pessimistic.

Studies about improving Resilience Skills:

The paper on Resilience theory measures the authenticity of the resilience theory through qualitative research method. A sample of 19 professionals was taken. They were asked about the factors that act as a cushion to stress and calamity in their lives and which helped them to cope and increase their resilience. The factors that emerged a lot more than others were education, religion, their attitude towards those events, and various attachments. This data highlights the importance of those skills that can intensify resilience in people.

It was a prevalent notion for a long time that there is a genetic basis for resilience. Southwick (2012) also researched the impact of biology on resilience. He had studied the effect of unfortunate and disastrous events on children. Southwick and his fellow researchers took three different groups of highly resilient people. One group was of prisoners of the Vietnam war. The second group was Special Forces instructors. The third group was those people who went through tragedies. Southwick (2012) studied different aspects of their being. He analyzed hereditary, mental, societal, biological and spiritual. The results depicted that anyone is capable of developing resilience through practice and training. Southwick was of the view that we should learn how to use stress to our advantage. He said that stress helps us to grow. It is a good exercise for our body and mind to attain strength otherwise they will grow weak.

Another study was done on resilience in paper “Psychological Resilience, Positive Emotions, and Successful Adaptation to Stress in Later Life” by Anthony D. Ong and C. S. Bergeman, Toni L. Bisconti, Kimberly A. Wallace. They posed different hypothesis to understand the relationship between positive emotions and resilience a little better. They found out that highly resilient people showed more positive emotions and low resilient people could not manage to regulate their negative emotions. Positive emotions help highly resilient people to “bounce back” from the situation of adversity.

Emmy E. Werner was an American psychologist who played a major role in the field of child development. She conducted a longitudinal study of forty years on 698 Kauai infants in Hawaiian island in 1955. It was a dominant belief that children, who were exposed to environmental difficulty and reproductive trauma, are more inclined to develop mental illness. But, this study showed the contrary results. Werner’s study showed that one-third of the children who underwent high-risk exhibited resilience. They grew up to be caring, loving and confident people despite their unfortunate childhood. Later, Werner and her fellows meticulously searched for the factors that cancelled out the effects of risk factors during their developmental period. Those factors were strong, reliable relationship with their caretaker (non-parent).

These studies show how resilience is an important process that is developed through love, care and reliable, trustworthy relationships. We can always work toward developing our resilience skills by staying positive and having an optimistic perspective. We have mentioned the ways you can enhance your skills.

How to Enhance Resilience Skills:

Positive psychology helps us to find ways which will make our lives worth living. It explains the beneficial outcome of adapting resilience skills. It is of extreme value that we learn simple steps to strengthen and intensify our resilience skills. If you are looking to change your perspective about life and you want to have a more positive approach towards everything then you should continue reading this blog.

10 Ways to Increase Resilience:

The American Psychological Association (APA) is an organization of the psychologists that is based in the United States of America. It is the biggest scientific, research-based and professional organization. The American Psychological Association has published “10 Ways to Build Resilience” in the article “Road to Resilience.” The road to resilience is actually the roadmap towards achieving a better sense of resilience to improve ourselves. These are the ways that have been scientifically proven and passed APA’s standard test.

1) Develop Positive Relationships:


It is always a wise idea to establish new and reliable relationships. You should always surround yourself with people who love you and take care of you. This can help you a lot in promoting resilience in difficult times. Social support is also very important in giving a positive spin to yourself and your capabilities.

2) See crisis as an Opportunity:


It is inevitable to remove the obstacles that come your way, but this is in your control to change the way you think about them. You can either see them as an impediment or as an opportunity for your growth.

3) Accept the Change:


You should always be ready to face the change and adapt yourself to the new situation. If you do not keep upgrading your old self, you will become outdated. You should always keep evolving and bettering yourself. Go with the flow!

4) Achieve your Goals:

learn about fear

Find a way to always keep yourself motivated to work towards your goal. Keep performing any task, be it a small task, that will ultimately lead you to your goal in the longer run.

5) Take Conclusive Actions:

Always be ready to face adverse situations. Instead of avoiding reality, you should work on how to solve the problem and how to remain positive and high-spirited.

6) Take a moment for Self-discovery:

intrapersonal intelligence

We are a product of the experiences that we go through. We learn that we have grown and become a better version of ourselves after undergoing a life-changing trauma or tragedy. Resilient people have reported having better relationships and emotional intelligence. This increases their self-worth.

7) A positive image of yourself:


It is of crucial importance to have a respectable view of ourselves. If you trust your ability to solve your own problems instead of being drowned under their burden, then that develops your resilience.

8) Have the right Perspective:

emotional intelligence

Always have the right perspective of the unfortunate events happening in your life. Try not to blow them out of proportion. You should always look for a broader context and give a positive meaning to these events.

9) An Optimistic Outlook:


Psychological resilience means viewing one’s painful events as a chance to nurture and growth. You should always be hopeful that “after every rainfall must come a rainbow.” If bad things are happening in your life, then you can expect to have good things following them.

10) Look out for yourself:

peace of mind

If you do not take care of yourself and you do not respect yourself then no one will. If you want someone to love you then you have to learn to love yourself first. You can take care of yourself in different ways: exercising regularly, doing yoga, meditation to calm your mind. These activities will help your body and mind to deal with the situations that will require your resilience.

There are studies approved by the American Psychological Association, which show that our resilience can increase exponentially if we have healthy relationships in our lives. We will be able to deal with stressful situations in a more effective and positive way if are surrounded by people who genuinely care for us, respect us, and love us unconditionally. We cannot deny the importance of resilience in making our lives better, we should try to adopt the steps aforementioned.

Role of Community and Family in building resilience:

Communities play a major role in nurturing resilience in people. As we have learnt the importance of resilience in positive psychology, we should work as a community to foster resilience starting from children. If we are living in a cohesive and sympathetic society then there are better chances that individuals living in that culture will advance in their resilience capabilities. This kind of environment will allow a healthy mental development from an early age.

Children start learning from a very early age. They keenly observe whatever is going on around them and imitate those actions. Therefore, it is very important to show them support and love. This way they will be able to learn how to love and care for other human beings. Those children show better resilience abilities which have at least one reliable and strong relationship in their lives. Even in the case of divorce, family and society should offer support to children because children are the ones who suffer the most.

Seek a Professional for help:

You can find some links below, where you can learn more about psychological resilience and the techniques that will help you to cope with stress in a more effective and positive way through professionals. Even though American Psychological Association maintains the standard through which we can improve understanding of ourselves by learning more about psychology, there can be other ways to develop that understanding as well. We hope that this blog helped you to have a better attitude towards your life and the people around you. If you learnt something positive from our blog, then do not mind sharing it with your beloved ones. You can play an important role in improving their lives by helping them to be more optimistic. You cannot know what one is going through in his life. Let’s help each other and make this world a better and peaceful place to live in. Let us travel down the road to resilience, hands in hands, and adopt a new lifestyle.

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