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What are the best ways to improve resiliency?

by Nicole Ross1 min read11th Jun 20215 comments



What are things you can do to make you more robust to "life shit" that happens? What have you tried and found to be pretty helpful?

To kick things off, here are a few things I've tried, which have helped to varying degrees:

  • working fewer hours
  • exercising
  • focusing on improving my sleep (with mixed success)
  • journaling
  • therapy, especially ACT, CBT, and EMDR
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Resiliency matters, and you should work to build it. It makes us more receptive to creativity [1, 2] with higher life quality [3] and faster recovery times [4]. A resiliency coach suggested four strategies for building resilience, based on experience and some literature.

1. Practice Mindfulness. It is important to identify and stop rumination before it spirals out of control. Rumination is a mind-killer. By being able to recognize and stop rumination, we can see our options in the moment more clearly.
2. Build Self-compassion. We can be more resilient if we have the ability to forgive our own mistakes [5]. Resilient people are able to offer support to themselves. Additionally, we may make more clear updates to our map if we can think objectively about mistakes.
3.  Develop high-quality social connections. A strong support network can help you rebound when you can't do it yourself. High quality social connections are an indicator of life satisfaction [6, 7].
4.  Positive-weight your map. Humans tend to weigh negative experiences more heavily [8]. Recognize this bias and re-calibrate the map accordingly. Prioritizing positivity may help with resilience [9]. Strategies include practicing gratitude, journaling, and mindfulness sessions with the goal of noticing positive moments.


[1] G. Rowe, J. B. Hirsh, and A. K. Anderson, “Positive affect increases the breadth of attentional selection,” PNAS, vol. 104, no. 1, pp. 383–388, Jan. 2007, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0605198104

[2] C. A. Estrada, A. M. Isen, and M. J. Young, “Positive Affect Facilitates Integration of Information and Decreases Anchoring in Reasoning among Physicians,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, vol. 72, no. 1, pp. 117–135, Oct. 1997, doi: 10.1006/obhd.1997.2734

[3] W. W. S. Mak, I. S. W. Ng, and C. C. Y. Wong, “Resilience: enhancing well-being through the positive cognitive triad,” J Couns Psychol, vol. 58, no. 4, pp. 610–617, Oct. 2011, doi: 10.1037/a0025195

[4] M. M. Tugade, B. L. Fredrickson, and L. F. Barrett, “Psychological resilience and positive emotional granularity: examining the benefits of positive emotions on coping and health,” J Pers, vol. 72, no. 6, pp. 1161–1190, Dec. 2004, doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2004.00294.x

[5] K. Neff, “The Self-Compassion Scale is a Valid and Theoretically Coherent Measure of Self-Compassion,” Mindfulness, vol. 7, Feb. 2016, doi: 10.1007/s12671-015-0479-3

[6] “Grant Study,” Wikipedia. May 04, 2021. Accessed: Jun. 11, 2021. Available Online.

[7] D. V. Jeste and M. Gawronska, “Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study,” AJP, vol. 171, no. 2, pp. 230–231, Feb. 2014, doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.13111502

[8] A. Vaish, T. Grossmann, and A. Woodward, “Not all emotions are created equal: The negativity bias in social-emotional development,” Psychol Bull, vol. 134, no. 3, pp. 383–403, May 2008, doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.134.3.383

[9] L. I. Catalino, S. B. Algoe, and B. L. Fredrickson, “Prioritizing positivity: an effective approach to pursuing happiness?,” Emotion, vol. 14, no. 6, pp. 1155–1161, Dec. 2014, doi: 10.1037/a0038029

Meaningful work and strong close relationships (romantic, family, friends, colleagues).

When you do have slack, explore, especially situations where you're forced to interact with the world. E.g. talking to people in new contexts, making physical objects, etc. Conjecture: there's a sort of "can charge full speed ahead into the unknown" that's basically trainable, and it's about doing things where you start off not at all knowing how it's going to go / how you're going to deal with it; training in low-stakes will transfer to high-stakes.

For me, antidepressant medication makes a huge difference in how much I can tolerate setbacks, demands, interruptions, and other annoying bullshit.


This kind of tolerance is not always a good thing, however, as this anecdote shows:

The punch line comes when he asks one of his patients how her antidepressant medication is working. “It’s working great,” she says. “I feel so much better. But I’m still married to the same alcoholic son of a bitch. It’s just now he’s tolerable.”

Practice listing tons of hypotheses. Then when the life shit hits the fan, you can list many hypotheses of what's going on and plans to untangle stuff.