• Anna

Training Mental Resilience

Updated: Feb 24


‘Resilience (Noun): the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.’

Most of us would agree that building and maintaining a certain amount of muscle is good right? We wouldn’t be able to do very much if we didn’t! Walking, communicating, even drinking tea would pose a challenge if we didn’t work our muscles! And if we keep working and training our muscles, we can get them to do incredible things for us!

In fact, the more we train our muscles in a safe and healthy way, the better! We are less likely to experience injury, daily functionality improves and things like strength, stamina and even recovery times are all much more efficient and faster. What if you treated your brain like that though? It’s known as ‘mental resilience’.

In this blog we will look at:

What is mental resilience?

Why is it important and who can benefit from it?

What does science say about it?

What skills can build mental resistance? Where can I go to learn more?

10 quick tips for building mental resilience to get you going

What is mental resilience?

In psychology terms, mental resilience, sometimes known as mental toughness, is an individual’s ability to cope with crisis, stress and challenging circumstances in a positive way. Most importantly, it is that person’s ability to return to their ‘normal’ state quickly without longer lasting damage and to use that adversity for growth. It differs slightly from emotional resilience which, as the name suggest, deals with emotions and EQ (emotional intelligence) but mental resilience goes one step further, encompassing EQ, thoughts and mental habits as well as proactively building ‘mental muscle’.

Why is it important and who can benefit from it?

Since science first started formally studying mental resilience in the 1970’s, it has been conclusively shown that those with increased mental resilience tend to do better in life in a multitude of ways.

  • Physical health is improved- gaining mental resilience means you are less likely to succumb to the negative effects of stress (and stress is far more damaging than most of us care to give it credit for). There is evidence to support individuals having a strengthened immune system, improved recovery time from illness or surgery and being more proactive in all aspects of self-care.

  • Mental health is improved- There is now a well established link between mental resilience and mental health. First off, it helps prevent the individual from suffering from mental health issues in the first place but if they do have them, then recovery times can be improved and intensity lessened.

  • Improved personal skills- training mental resilience has side effects! These are usually improved self-confidence, self-esteem, communication skills, productivity and perseverance.

  • Improved ability to manage strong impulses and feelings

  • Improves happiness- Training the skill sets needed for improved mental resilience has the happy coincidence of including many of the things an individual would train to improve their happiness levels. If we are mentally resilient, we are also cutting down on the time we experience suffering, or at least coping with it better and that leaves more space for happiness!

  • Better success rates- Those training mental resilience often feel and become more successful. This is because they have better rates of persistence, they get back up quickly after a set back and work hard on problem solving.

So who can benefit from mental resilience training? There is a lot of research around these main groups doing well from mental resilience training...

Athletes are well known to incorporate this into their training schedules. There are careers in sports psychology that focus heavily on teaching athletes to train their mental muscle just as much and their physical ones. In fact, research has shown that an athlete’s mental fitness and control is more important in many cases than their physical skills.

Something you’ll notice if you read up on successful business owners/workers and how they’ve come to achieve all that they have, is that they all have very similar mind sets. Some of the greatest success stories we know about in the business world (Richard Branson, Steve jobs, Jacqueline Gold) didn’t necessarily have lots of money to start with, or were blessed with the greatest intelligence or with friends in high places. But they did all have something scientists have coined as ‘grit’. They also employ many of the mental training techniques we’ll talk about a little later in this blog.

When I say this one, you’ll probably think ‘Oh yeah!’, that is if you haven’t already thought about it. Military personnel. They might call it ‘military mindset’. For obvious reasons, those in the military need to have exceptional emotional control, the ability to ‘bounce back’ from extreme situations, great self-confidence, communication skills, excellent cognitive discipline and the ability to follow through on an objective no matter what challenges are presented. They are really one of the ultimate great examples of what resilience training can do!

Parents, chronic and/or mental illness sufferers, anyone who has goals they’d like to achieve…..the list could go on and on but honestly EVERYONE can benefit immensely from mental resilience training!

What does science say about it?

Studies into resilience started in the early 1970’s, with the first research published in 1973, which looked at disease prevalence (epidemiology) and how resilience impacted factors relating to it. Early works focused heavily on children, and how their subjection to adversity ended up shaping their ability to cope and thrive in later life.

I did a search for scholarly articles on ‘mental resilience’ for just the last 10 years, which brought up 495,00 published articles so it is clear that this area continues to be of scientific interest.

Studies show that it is not something we are born with but rather, something that we can train. Neuroplasticity means that with practice in key areas, we can build resistance to stress, process emotions in a healthy way, retrain our thinking patterns and cultivate a natural pattern for positive thinking.

Unsurprisingly, going through crisis gives the best opportunity to train mental resilience.

Below I’ve shared links to articles that provide multiple studies in a board range of areas, if you are interested in learning more.

https://positivepsychology.com/resilience-theory/

https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/9872.pdf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_resilience#Studies_in_specific_populations_and_causal_situations

What skills can build mental resistance?

According to the resilience portfolio model, people need a range of different strengths to survive and prosper after adversity, known as poly-strengths. So it’s time to look at what skills we can all build on to help ourselves.

Mindfulness- This, along with CBT, is one of the most useful skills to learn and practice when it comes to mental resilience. Mindfulness teaches how to handle difficult emotions without shutting them out, it teaches acceptance and also how to approach life with curiosity, which helps create a distance and shift in perspective when experiencing things.

CBT- is another brilliant tool for building mental resilience. This is because it identifies current thoughts and feelings, deals with challenging negative core beliefs, and facilitates learning how to undo what is decided is no longer a helpful thought or behavior pattern.

Meditation- meditation supports mindfulness and also helps improve visualisation skills (another helpful skill for mental resilience). It also helps strengthen skills such as concentration, awareness, productivity and creative thinking. Not to mention, those who are adept at meditation can use it to dial down those stress levels!

Self-care- it’s a skill and it needs to be practiced. It might also be the hardest one on this list. Self-care goes beyond just feeding ourselves, taking relaxing baths and exercising. It means truly putting your physical, emotional and mental needs at the top of the priority ladder. (And sometimes that’s really hard because life is busy and other people need us!) Self-care includes setting up limits to protect yourself and adhering to doing what you need to do in order to be your best self.

Goal setting – This is an important part of mental resilience because it gives us purpose and something to strive for. Working towards something helps create a focus and a way of measuring how we are doing. It can also create structure and a way to break down what may otherwise seem an impossible task, into more manageable chunks. Setting goals also teaches us how to get more successful at achieving, at self-motivating and at building mental stamina. So start getting good at setting those goals!

Communication and socialisation- In almost every study conducted on mental resilience, one of the key factors is the absolute need for social support. This could come from family, friends, colleagues, therapists/coaches or the wider community but the bigger your support network, the greater chance you have of being more resilient, happier and more successful in life.

Where can I go to learn more? I’ve taken some time to list some resources for you to explore if you want to learn more. This is just the tip of the iceberg by the way! And I’ve only covered mental resilience. There is so much more on the specific skills that make up mental resilience. Youtube videos Amy Morin- The secret of becoming mentally strong https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFbv757kup4 Surenthiran Pillai- Mental resilience https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SPvfKqmZ3M

Angela Duckworth- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H14bBuluwB8 Dr Sean Richardson- Mental toughness: Think differently about your world https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCPgvTRftZg Books 13 things mentally strong people don’t do by Amy Morin The micro resilience book by Bonnie St. John and Allen P. Haines Big magic, Creative living beyond fear- Elizabeth Gilbert The navy seal mental toughness book- Chris Lambertsen Angela Lee Duckworth- Grit: The power of passion and perseverance Teaching and coaching Evolution Wellness offers training in meditation, mindfulness, positive psychology (which covers goal setting, growth mindset ect) as well as coaching and self-care. CBT coming soon! If you have any questions, then please get in contact! In the meantime, here are…

10 quick tips for building mental resilience to get you going

  1. Cultivate awareness, both of yourself, your surroundings and others Learn what and how things impact you, how you think, feel and behave in response. Awareness is a very useful tool for prevention and management in general.

  2. Change your self-talk where necessary. Eliminate negative self-talk where you find it and change language to work with your subconscious to bring about attributes and attitudes you want to cultivate.

  3. Learn from your past Avoid taking actions or doing behaviours that didn’t work for you in the past. Try a new way until you find success.

  4. Be prepared for challenges If you are prepared, then you can avoid a certain amount of difficulty. Have a plan; have a social network of support in place, a financial cushion, legal arrangements, ect. Think like the scouts, be prepared!

  5. Avoid seeing crisis as unbearable

  6. Set yourself goals

  7. Have good relationships with family and friends

  8. Surround yourself with people that are where you want to be in the future and learn from them

  9. Look for opportunities of self-discovery

  10. Practice acceptance

Although long, this blog is just a brief overview on the wonderful and intriguing subject of mental resilience. Who wouldn’t want to find ways to suffer less and cope better? More than that, to thrive! Some of the most elite individuals in the world are using these techniques to get them to where they are, so if it is good enough for them, why not for us?

Love and Light, Anna

#growthforlife

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