How to improve mental resilience
Some people seem to cope better with setbacks than others. Despite life’s challenges they seem to be able to rise above the trouble and emerge stronger. The reason for this is their mental resilience. It is one of the most important skills you can learn to improve your quality of life and reduce stress.
People who catastrophise and think up worst case scenarios invite unnecessary stress into their lives. Possessing mental flexibility is one of the most important ways to be mentally resilient. The ability to be able to look at a situation in different ways and think up rational alternatives tends to produce people who are happier in life. Of course, what happens to you in life is important but even more crucial is how you wish to perceive what happens to you. The story you tell yourself about your life. A pessimist might respond to a difficult life situation by saying to themselves, “This is just confirmation of what a loser I am. Nothing ever works out for me”…whereas someone with mental resilience would probably think more along the lines of:
“I’m not happy about this situation but there are things I can try to help the situation”.
Situation: You greet someone and they ignore you.
Person without mental resilience “They obviously don’t like me.I must have done something wrong”
Person with mental resilience “They could be tired or stressed about something else. It might have nothing to do with me”.
2. No overthinking
Mental resilience involves awareness of thinking and knowing that thoughts are not facts. The reality of the situation might not be as we think it is. Being aware of types of worry can improve mental resilience. There is real worry and there is hypothetical worry. Real worry can usually be actioned immediately – such as a broken washing machine or a flat tyre. A hypothetical worry is a ‘what if’ worry – it may never happen. The less we preoccupy ourselves with thoughts of possible problems, the more we free up our minds for more productive thinking.
3. Avoidance of irrational thinking
Irrational thinking is something we all do but being aware of the types of irrational thoughts that exist can help us to dismiss these thoughts quicker. There is never obvious clear evidence for irrational thinking – we assume things that may not be true.
Mind reading – when we assume that we know what others are thinking
Overgeneralising – assuming one example means all in that category will be the same
Black and white thinking/all or nothing thinking – this type of thinking does not allow for ‘grey’ areas which is unrealistic
Comparing and despairing – looking at other people’s lives and feeling worse off. We don’t know what is really going on behind closed doors
Catastrophising – thinking of the worst possible outcome when faced with a problem
Personalising – self blame when there is no evidence to suggest a person is at fault
4. Tolerating uncertainty
Trying new things regularly is a good way of learning to tolerate uncertainty. Uncertainty is something we all have to face so it’s a good idea to learn acceptance and find a way to cope well with it. Instead of resisting uncertainty by never trying anything – the more you can push yourself out of your comfort zone, the better.
Mental resilience can be learned and improved. Be brave, see life as an experiment and never take your thoughts too seriously. There are many ways to look at life, so learn to choose ‘stories’ that serve you well and motivate you rather than frighten you.