Life isn’t always going to be plain sailing, no matter how hard you work on yourself, sometimes shit just happens. Ok, let’s really labour the pillar metaphor, and what else are metaphors for… Imagine your happiness is being held up by these seven pillars, and a few of them crumble and lose their strength. Your self-belief starts to crumble, your productivity goes to pot, you lose your mindfulness and power of living in the now, worrying about the future, looking back to better times in the past. I think you can probably see where I’m going with this. Without a strong solid core of resilience in the middle, the whole lot can come crashing down. Resilience is your home insurance.
Happiness can be generated by many things, but to build a sustainably happy life, you absolutely have to be able to deal with the bumps in the road which will undoubtedly come your way. That’s resilience. The ability to get through hard times without losing our spirit, and bounce back from life’s setbacks better than we were before.
While studies on Korean Cancer patients, Saudi medical students, and Catalan Psychology students, among others, have shown there is a significant link between resilience and life satisfaction, the main way in which resilience helps us live a happier life, is essentially not by causing happiness, but by minimising unhappiness. It’s hard to be happy when every setback knocks you out of action. Resilient people encounter the same amount of trouble and strife in their lives as the rest of us, they just manage to get through it with less pain and suffering, and bounce back quicker. But how do they do it?
Thankfully, resilience isn’t something we are simply born with. It is a set of skills, and the great thing about skills is that they can be trained. In the same way that doing push-ups will make your arms stronger, there are things you can practise that will give you the mental ability to deal better with the challenging situations in your life. In fact, some of those things are push-ups.
Not only does regular exercise keep you physically fit and healthy, but the evidence seems to point to the fact that it makes us emotionally stronger too. People who take regular exercise train their minds to recognise and deal with the same sorts of physical feelings we feel when we’re under stress, like raised heart rate, sweating, rapid breathing. Familiarity with these sensations makes them far easier to deal with when we encounter them out of the blue.
There are all sorts of exercises we can do with our minds which have also been shown to increase resilience. Learning how to reframe negative experiences and turn them into learning opportunities has great benefits, as does learning to develop a more positive attitude, and look on the bright side. You can find a range of exercises to develop these skills in the free areas of the Mindshine app.
But one of the most intriguing findings in the world of resilience research of late is that mental toughness can apparently be trained by the softest of methods: mindfulness. Learning mindfulness techniques weakens the mental links which otherwise lead us to wallow in our misfortunes. Another interesting study recently showed that mindfulness helps us be more self-compassionate, which increases resilience by making us less likely to beat ourselves up about failures and mistakes.
So there you have it. Resilience - our fourth, central, and perhaps most important Pillar of Happiness, and a skill that’s well worth working on in your daily practice. Being resilient might not be the one that generates the most joy, but it’s the one that’ll keep you smiling when the chips are down.
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