The elusive creature that every mental health provider tells their patient that they should strive to achieve. But what is it? Feels a little bit like a unicorn. Something of a myth that people imagine and hope could improve their lives but don’t ever seem to lay their hands upon. But here’s the thing, this is a unicorn that each of us already have within us. Because the truth is that it’s not a unicorn at all. It’s a tree. And like a tree, if you water it, give it light and take good care of it: it will grow. But how? Well, let’s consider this little sapling.
First, know that growing resilience isn’t something that happens over night. You’re not going to go to bed with the goal of becoming resilient and wake up the next day with a shiny shield to hold up against the world. This is a tree. It takes time to grow and it takes work. It is a daily task that you must be committed to and mindful of. Without this commitment, your tree will die. It’s needs will not be met. Without mindfulness you will not become aware of its needs.
The past is not your enemy. It is your teacher. Use the past as a guide and a resource for the future. Repeat the things that have worked for you. Those things that did not work? Take the time to look at them closely. Stare at that pain and consider what it can teach you. Why did your endeavor fail? The past can show us what can be done differently in the future. If we want different outcomes, we must make different choices. But in order to do this, we must first take careful stock of the choices we’ve made. Then we must give them honest consideration. Every choice leads to consequences and outcomes. Where have your choices led you? Honesty here is crucial.
Let go. This is the most difficult part of the process. Holding onto the past, whether good or bad, will prevent you from moving into the future. Resolve the feelings you harbor from past events. Work out the struggles you’re holding onto. Don’t allow the past you control the decisions that you are making in the present. Your past does not need to define who you are today or who you will become tomorrow. Everyone can change. Everyone has the potential to make different choices and create different outcomes in their lives.
Take responsibility. Your life is the result of your choices. Own your success and your failure. You will have both through out your life. Failing is part of being human and is inevitable. Own this as part of who you are, but don’t let it define you. Don’t wait for luck to help you along or for others to solve your problems. Empower yourself by taking life on and struggling to find your own way. We cannot always change our life circumstances, but we always control the way that we respond and approach those circumstances. How we respond defines who we are. Recall the serenity prayer. Focus on the things that you can change and put your energy into those things.
Happiness comes in an unlimited supply. Celebrate the happiness of others. Their happiness will not diminish yours in anyway. In fact, celebrating the happiness of others is likely to increase your own happiness. Most of the positive forces in the universe are like this. Shoring up the people around you does not mean that you are pushing yourself down. When you support others, they are more likely to support you in return. Additionally, the sense of community that comes from helping others is a source for resilience unto itself. Staying connected to other people is essential.
Stay positive. Hold in your mind the things within yourself and in your life that are positive. Expressing your gratitude is an excellent way to keep your mind focused on the positive. When we are experiencing tough times this can be hard. But gratitude can be expressed for the smallest things and still bring us the positive energy we are looking for. I am thankful for the air I am breathing. I am thankful for those who are reading this post. I am thankful for my work since it gives me purpose and the ability to support my family. When we allow ourselves to get bogged down by negative thoughts, we forget that there is still goodness in this world. Goodness that is worth working for. Goodness that is worth holding on for.
Smile. Even if you aren’t feeling happy. Our mouths are connected to our brains which associate smiles with happiness. Smiling stimulates the part of our brains that stores up all those good emotions; the place where our precious little tree lives. Smiling makes a difference. Sure it’s silly, but wants wrong with a little silliness in our lives? That’s good for us too.