How Positive Psychology Helps You Build Resilience

Do you wonder how some people are able to make it through a crisis or push beyond adversity while others crumble? It’s not because they have special superpowers. These people have been able to use positive psychology to build resilience into their everyday lives.

What is “Positive Psychology?”

According to the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, positive psychology can be defined as:

“The scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.”

The key words in this definition are “meaningful” and “fulfilling.” Humans are more than simply creatures who exist on this planet. Indeed, it has been shown that in order for humans to survive we need meaning in our lives–otherwise, we flounder.

What Provides Meaning in Your Life?

Pause for a moment and ask yourself: What provides meaning in my life? Your answers may include:

Personal connections to family, friends, and neighbors.
Your work or profession.
Membership with a house of worship.
Participating in social organizations.
Volunteering for non-profits.
Personal hobbies that you enjoy.
Playing or watching sports and athletic events.
Artistic or creative activities.
All of us have things in our lives that provide meaning. Take a moment to write down what brings meaning to your life.

What is “Resilience?”

The next words we need to understand are “resilience” or “resiliency.” The American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as:

“The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.”

Resilience is how we respond to and face situations that occur in our lives. These could be individual experiences, such as moving to a new city for a job, or they can be an experience shared with many people, such as an act of terrorism. Both require an ability to adapt and change.

How can Positive Psychology Help Build Resilience?

By better understanding the things in our lives that provide meaning, we can use our ability to adapt and change as a source of strength in times of crisis. This can help us to:

Avoid slipping into depression or suffering from anxiety.
Avoid the use of substances to cope with emotions.
Make healthy life choices.
These are the things in our lives that help keep us grounded when life throws us curve-balls. Instead of floundering, we are better able to face these challenges.

How Can I Use Positive Psychology to Build Resilience?

Making a personal inventory of positive psychology attributes is the first step. The second is finding opportunities to build up your inventory so that when times do get tough you have multiple resources available. Some ideas to consider include:

Strengthening your connections with family and friends.
Being active in your local community.
Participating in activities that challenge you mentally and physically.
Keeping yourself mentally and physically fit.

Do You Have any Examples of Positive Psychology and Resiliency?

Yes! The U.S. Army has developed a resiliency training program to teach soldiers how they can better develop positive psychology for resiliency. This makes sense because being in the military requires soldiers to be exposed to many kinds of stressors. For example:

Deploying into combat situations.
Moving frequently because of new assignments.
The pressure of passing certain training programs.
Advancing in rank.
The Army is focused on how it can improve the social, physical, psychological, spiritual, and familial attributes of its soldiers so they can be emotionally prepared.

You, too, can use positive psychology to become more resilient to what life throws at you. Instead of curling up into a ball and hiding, you can face these challenges better prepared and from a place of strength.

Sources:

The University of Pennsylvania. “Resilience Training for the Army.” https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/services/resilience-training-army

American Psychological Association. “The Road to Resilience.” http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx

Questions, Concerns, Thoughts?

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