5 Ways to Cultivate Resilience, a Trait Linked to Healthy Living

5 Ways to Cultivate Resilience, a Trait Linked to Healthy Living

We recently wrote about all the reasons to exercise beyond weight loss, including mental health.

More on that point: Grief, loss, stress, poverty, unexpected changes in plan — all of these things can be stumbling blocks on the way to a happy, healthy life. But some people are able to bounce back, through one very special characteristic: resilience, a trait that may be yet another reason to exercise. (More on the connection below.)

People who are resilient can adapt to difficult or shifting circumstances. These individuals can be healthier in many areas of life, including with mental and physical health, at work and in relationships. Studies have shown that a person’s resilience largely has to do with their overall temperament, their family environments and upbringing. But there are also things you can do to flex your mental muscles — and come out stronger.

Cultivate Resilience with These Tips

These science-backed tips can apply to all kinds of situations, and may help you live a healthier life through cultivating resilience.

Face your Fears.

face fears jump out of plane cultivate resilience

In the book Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, the authors say that when you face your fears, they become less frightening. Special Forces soldiers in terrifying situations have a tendency to think: “I’m scared, but I can learn from this.” Or, “This is a test that will make me stronger,” notes bakadesuyo.com.

You don’t have to go to war to face your fears. Regular exercisers who take on physical challenges, such as training for a marathon, can experience this empowering mood-boost. The running and training adage of “get comfortable being uncomfortable” applies far beyond a track workout — it can make non-running experiences feel easier, not so intimidating or problematic, Bradley Stulberg recently wrote for New York magazine.

Find Support.

Resilient people have systems in place to back them up, whether family-based, community-oriented or centered in religion or spirituality.


As stated above, fitness can help you face fears and become comfortable outside your comfort zone. Beyond these benefits, the authors of Resilience specifically linked exercise to a stress-adapted, mentally tough brain.

Don’t Forget to Learn.

“Resilient people are lifelong learners,” writes bakadesuyo.com.

ThePathMag.com suggests “don’t look at … setbacks as failures or defeats. Everything that isn’t outright positive can still be turned into a positive, provided you learn and grow from the experience. Always fail forward.”

Be Realistic, or Even Pessimistic.

Here’s an interesting one: The glass-half-full mindset might live a less healthy life than someone who tends to be more pragmatic, or even pessimistic, according to a 2013 study.

“Pessimism about the future may encourage people to live more carefully, taking health and safety precautions,” says lead author Frieder R. Lang, PhD, of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.

If someone is endlessly positive or optimistic, when stumbling blocks appear, they might not be equipped to climb over them, one theory behind the findings suggest. Adopting a pragmatic mindset, then, could help reinforce your sense of resilience.

TELL US: How has physical activity shifted your mindset? Does fitness make you more resilient, or able to overcome challenges?

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