Developing Resilience and Mentally Strong Habits: Do’s and Don’ts
How well do you stand up to adversity? When times are tough and setbacks occur, what is your reaction? Do you “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and keep going? Or do you falter and waver, perhaps feeling weak, inadequate or lacking in the internal resources needed to meet the challenges before you?
Your answers to these questions will tell you how resilient you are.
Resilience: A Key Asset for Success in Recovery
Resilience is an inner strength that keeps you going despite hard times, setbacks or difficulties. It is what allows you to bounce back from trauma, tragedy, disappointment or extreme stress. Contrary to common belief, resilience is not an innate trait…you are not born either with it or without it. Resilience is a character attribute that evolves over time from behaviors, thoughts and actions. It can be learned, and anyone can develop or increase their capacity for resilience.
Resilience in recovery means withstanding impulses and cravings, while remaining true to your goals and intentions for sobriety. It means being mindful and aware of personal triggers and potential setbacks so you can take steps to decrease their likelihood. You develop resilience by strengthening your mental and emotional control, and creating positive social interactions that support your recovery goals.
Habits That Increase Mental Strength and Resilience
Amy Morin, psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, shared in a Psychology Today blog (Aug. 2015) “8 Things Mentally Strong People Do Every Day.”
How many of these do you do every day?
#1 Use Mental Energy Wisely
Morin describes the “wise” use of mental energy as deliberately choosing to do things that lead you toward your goals, and not letting yourself become distracted by unimportant or non-productive tasks. In other words, maintain focus on what’s important.
#2 Reframe Negative Thoughts
Mentally strong people refuse to “entertain” negative thoughts. They do not let themselves dwell on criticisms, worries or negative internal dialogue. Instead, they act as their own “cheerleaders” and talk themselves into viewing things from a more positive perspective.
#3 Work Toward Established Goals
Mentally strong people create definite, specific goals that give their lives meaning and purpose, and hold themselves accountable for reaching them. By prioritizing their long-term goals, mentally strong people find it easier to resist giving into short-term gratifications that could take them off track.
#4 Reflect on Your Progress
Morin suggests setting aside time each day, as mentally strong people do, to reflect on your goals, evaluate how they are progressing, and consider where you might to make improvements or fix mistakes.
#5 Become Tolerant of Discomfort
Mentally strong people learn to tolerate discomfort, when it serves a greater purpose. While neither enduring pain simply to prove their toughness, nor avoiding pain at all costs, mentally strong people choose to forge ahead despite discomfort, if this serves their long-term goals.
#6 Practice Gratitude
Mentally strong people are grateful for any good fortune they have, knowing that a mindset of gratitude, rather than a perspective of lack, sets them up for more good fortune.
#7 Balance Emotions with Logic
Mentally strong people recognize the role that feelings play in creating perceptions and motivating behavior. They consciously strive to balance feelings with logic, in order to avoid biased judgments, so they can make better decisions.
#8 Live According to Your Values
Mentally strong people measure their success and sense of self-worth not by beating the competition, but by staying true to their own personal values. If they know they did their best and acted according to their values, they feel good about their actions, no matter what the outcome.
Habits That Undermine Mental Strength and Resilience
Now that you know some habits that help mentally strong people stay strong, consider these habits that mentally strong people avoid:
#1 Feeling Sorry for Yourself
Mentally strong people don’t dwell on past slights or lost opportunities. They recognize that life is not always fair, but if you focus on the lessons learned, even adversity can offer positive effects.
#2 Giving Away Your Power
Mentally strong people don’t place their self-esteem and sense of worth in the hands of other people. While they may appreciate the acceptance and positive evaluations of others, they know that it is their view of themselves that matters most. (Remember, it is called self-esteem, not other-esteem.)
#3 Resisting Change
Many people are wary of change because they dislike uncertainty. But mentally strong people know that the greater danger lies in becoming stagnant and numb, or indifferent and dispassionate. Uncertainty can induce fear, but it can also induce energy and vigor for life.
#4 Letting Failure Stop You
Failure is disheartening. But mentally strong people dust themselves off and keep on going, seeing failure as a learning opportunity, rather than a dead end. They use the knowledge they’ve gained to keep moving toward their goal.
#5 Reacting Instead of Responding
If we allow strong emotions to sway us we become reactors, motivated by auto-pilot internalized behavior patterns that often lead to poor outcomes. But if we take the time to evaluate a situation and allow clearer thinking to emerge, we can be responders, behaving in more deliberate and purposeful ways.
#6 Don’t Try to Go It Alone
Mentally strong people know the value of positive relationships. Even with their own abundance of positive mental resources, they recognize the value of seeking counsel from trusted friends. They surround themselves with others who share and support their upbeat, optimistic perspective on life.
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