7 Ways To Build Resilience From the Inside Out
We’ve had lots of deep and meaningful thoughts running from our minds and onto our blog in recent weeks, and in our last article, we uncovered some common myths or misconceptions about resilience that we’re often brought up to believe; we then dove into the truth about resilience that it helps us to know if we are to truly become resilient men, women, and people.
Well, here we are, out with the false, and in with the true. And the question that begs itself is “How do we go about building this thing called resilience?”
As I sat and asked myself this very question in preparation to write this article, I thought “Hmm, well I can cheer you on like a coach, and tell you to “go get ‘em!” I can tell you that “you’re strong, have everything you need, and to stop wasting time feeling sorry for yourself”. I can also tell you “not to worry about what anyone else thinks, to stop letting others influence your emotions, and to stop dwelling on the past”– essentially, to leave behind any of the things that can thwart your resilience. Or I can fill you with positive affirmations, tell you that “I believe in you”, and that “you are strong and can take on the world”.
But I won’t do any of those things.
Not because dwelling on the past is a great thing to do, or because you’re not strong, or because I don’t believe in you.
But because I am all about real change. Metamorphosis from the inside out. Not the “quick fix” sad today, happy tomorrow “breakfast of champions” kind of fix… The “let’s go a little deeper, get real with ourselves, maybe even cry a little bit, and come out even stronger, braver, and better on the other side” kind of fix.
If you’re willing to try it, and are feeling safe and supported to do so, come with me. Here are the seven no nonsense ways to build resilience from the inside out.
1. Feel your feelings
To be resilient is to acknowledge and deeply know that wanting to give up and feeling crushed are temporary feelings. Every feeling is temporary and that is one thing tough (i.e., resilient) people know– that tough times don’t last forever.
Though feelings are temporary, they don’t disappear as a function of magic. They disappear, transmute, and transform as a function of being felt. The only way out (of anger, sadness, despair) is through.
When you can feel your feelings, and wrap them up in a blanket of self-compassion, you’ve practiced the foundation of resilience. It allows you to meet yourself where you are, rather than “should” on yourself for where you ought to be. And the sooner you meet yourself where you are, the sooner your life expands to new versions of joy, meaning, and all of the other experiences that make us happy to be alive.
What might it feel like if you let yourself have your sadness, anger, irritation, or fear while it’s fresh, new, and alive? What might it feel like to welcome all of your feelings, no matter what they are? What might it feel like to not try and take the experience of feeling away, to not distract, to not hide, to not numb? To show up as your true self, thoughts, emotions, and all? All feelings, as you may have heard, are simply visitors who come and go. They do, however, tend to stick around a lot longer when we ignore, deny, or push them away. Every feeling simply wants to be acknowledged, heard, and responded to with compassion.
The essence of being human is to feel all of your feelings– every single little one. Not just the happy ones, not just the peaceful ones– but all of them. It’s alright to be alright. And it’s equally alright not to be alright.
2. Practice acceptance
We mentioned in our last article that to be resilient means to be agile. The fact is: you can’t be agile without practicing acceptance. If you are resisting life, you are not flowing with it.
So, in order to build resilience, we practice acceptance. We don’t have to like or even be okay with what is happening, but we are nevertheless willing to see things as they are without resisting them; instead, we acknowledge and work with them accordingly. This becomes easier, of course, if you practice #1 and know that the situation you are experiencing and its emotional impact, no matter how bad they seem in the moment, are not permanent.
It is said that “Not all storms come to disrupt your life. Some come to clear your path”, and I’d say this is largely true, yet it takes many people a long time to notice the cleared path. Some people never do, because they are so busy fighting their reality, wishing it wasn’t so, and using up all of their energy to combat what they perceive to be a tragedy or inconvenience that they are blinded to the blessing and new path that’s been afforded them. If we don’t get to acceptance, we stay buried in the discomfort of regret, grief, and disappointment and this prevents us from seeing and living life anew.
If you don’t want to stay buried in stale, negative emotions, it pays to practice adaptability in the form of acceptance, which means befriending that fine line between wanting to make and see change happen and accepting this moment and this life exactly as they are right now. When you tune in to your mind, your body, and your soul, where do you notice tension or heaviness? This is likely the place where you’ve been resisting reality. What can you do, in this moment, to ease up on that just a little bit? What can you do to more consciously walk that edge of accepting the situation or person as it is or as they are, while also actively embracing the potential and hope for change?
3. Practice self-care and relaxation
The significance of rest and relaxation can’t be emphasized enough. When we hone in on what kind and how much regular rest and self-care we need, and give it to ourselves, there is less resilience required in the first place. Sure, situations in life can be tough, but they feel, appear, and are less tough when it is our well-rested self that experiences them. Without rest, resilience can be quite hard to come by. So, if resilient is what you want to be, let the most important thing you do each day be to practice some form of rest and relaxation.
Sleep in, take time to sit and read while you drink your morning cup of tea or coffee, take breaks during the school or work day, go for a walk, take a conscious breath, put away your phone, spend ten extra minutes cuddling with your partner or enjoy an extended hug with a friend, take a few more conscious breaths, read a few pages of a book, skip your daily workout, go to bed earlier, take a day off. Whatever version of rest and self-care resonates most with you right now, do it. Because emotional resilience can seem so difficult to come by sometimes; yet it’s so much easier when approached after a walk, a breath, a rest, or a break from the typical hustle and bustle of life’s activities.
4. Nurture your close relationships
I bet you didn’t think you’d find close relationships on a list of ways to build resilience. But, guess what? No matter the personal characteristic– whether it’s reliability, honesty, passion, or resilience– it doesn’t exist in isolation of the people, relationships, and communities around us. Keeping connections around and keeping them close alone can catapult resilience up from a 1 to a 10. After all, it’s the difference between thinking “I’ve got to do this on my own” and “I’ve got the help that I need”. So, whatever you do, nurture your close relationships, keep them feeling like the zone of safety, security, and vulnerability that they are designed to be, and make social connections and support the crux of your life. When you’ve got the foundation of support, don’t be afraid to use it. It’s the person who knows when they can’t do it all alone, who seeks advice, and who asks for help when necessary that is ultra-resilient.
Keep in mind that close relationships don’t start close. They become close over time after an ongoing exchange of giving and receiving, appreciation, connection, trust building, and an experience of mutual ease. Notice who you feel most yourself around, and around whom words, ideas, stories of your past, and dreams about your future flow easily from your lips. Notice around whom life feels like a blessing instead of a chore, and who approaches you with the same curiosity, respect, and desire to support you as you do them. It’s easy as 1… 2… okay, maybe not. But rest assured, the more you appreciate those who appreciate you, laugh with those who laugh with you, and invest in those who invest in you, the more your social life will begin to serve as, and will remain, a solid framework of resilience and support well into the future.
5. Practice gratitude
Notice the difference between how you feel when you think that there isn’t enough and that you aren’t enough, relative to how you feel when you endorse the idea that there is always enough, and that you are always enough.
Gratitude is the ability to see the good– to not miss the blessings that are right in front of us and that are influencing our life experience each and every single day. Because it’s a perspective, gratitude can be changed with a simple redirection of attention.
Are you feeling less than good? Try redirecting your attention. Look up, right, left and around. Do you find yourself focusing on a current difficulty or challenge? Invite yourself to redirect your perspective from “things happen to me” to “things happen for me”. “Be it positive, empowering, challenging, or difficult experiences, they happen for me.”
Suddenly, you envision a brighter, more clear present experience. You envision positive and negative experiences alike as your teachers. You open yourself up to strength, growth, and wisdom. You haven’t moved, your physical position has stayed the same, and you’ve stayed the same; yet things have changed. Simply because your view has changed.
That, right there, is the power of gratitude, and it’s one that can change your life for the better and best in a matter of moments and in myriad ways. When you can say thank you for today, you tend to see so many things to say thank you for, and so many reasons to be happy on the road to tomorrow.
6. Keep your locus of control internal
An internal locus of control implies that it is you, your thoughts, and your actions– and not anyone else’s– that impact your destiny. It is the idea that your thoughts matter; your habits matter; your hard work matters; what you do every day between the time you wake up and go to bed matters in determining the course of your life. It is the grounded belief that “things don’t happen to me” but rather that “I am the one who makes things happen”.
This belief that “I make things happen” and that “the future can be better and I certainly have the power to make it so” makes all the difference in an active, resilient pursuit of your greatest dreams. In contrast to a stagnant, helpless acceptance of, and inability to move on from, your current reality, an internal locus of control implies taking responsibility. Nothing can change as long as you’re busy pointing the finger of blame, but when you take responsibility and claim power over your life, anything is possible.
Where does that power come from? It comes from your attitude, your habits, your willingness to feel your feelings, your ability to practice acceptance, to rest, to maintain a close network of supportive friends, and all of the things we talk about in this article– all of the things you are in control of, in fact. Even more so, it comes from being very keenly aware of the things that are within your control and the things that are outside of it, and leading your life as such.
7. Let go of attachment to the outcome
Similar to practicing acceptance, when you let go of attachment to the outcome by letting go of your grip on what you want and think should happen, you allow space for things to unfold as they will– and hence, you can be agile.
Sometimes it feels like letting go of wanting what we want so badly will keep us stagnant. But, in fact, it’s the only thing that keeps us moving forward. To hold a tight grip on what, according to our mind, must happen in order for us to feel happy, satisfied, and okay is like stepping in a puddle of crazy glue. Try all you may, but you can’t move forward because that crazy glue’s only mission is to keep you in the place you once were, with the goals, desires, and thought streams you once had. To accept things as they come, to allow others to leave when it’s time, and to trust the beauty of change– that’s more like getting on your bicycle and maneuvering down through the hills and valleys before jumping into the river for a quick dip and getting back on your bike to skillfully navigate the trails back to the mountain top.
Although it helps to believe that you have control over your life so as to avoid complacency and helplessness (the crux of #6 above), at the end of the day, when, why, and how things happen is not up to us. As Kate Eckman so beautifully says, “Being okay if it happens and okay if it doesn’t is a very powerful place to be”. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful and empowering places to be, because as long as we are trying to control the future, we are anxious. And anxiety tends not to be the foreground from which a resilient attitude and a quality life are built.
The best part about these 7 strategies is that they all work in unison, complementing each other in augmenting who you can become as a resilient human being. Going at it from this perspective, i.e., from the inside out, is incredibly efficient, effective, and it’s my favourite way to go about any change aimed at making us better at who we are and what we do in life. And it doesn’t mean that we don’t also work at it from the outside in. In fact, sometimes, some of our greatest inner strength comes from having a nutritious meal, engaging in an energizing workout, and taking time to connect with and enjoy mother nature.
I’m ready for a thirst-quenching smoothie and a hike in the mountains. How about you?