Resiliency: Learning to Thrive

Rainbow after stormLife is full of ups and downs, sunny days and stormy days, as well as strength and struggle. After a traumatic event or extended chronic crisis, we can experience burnout as our mental, emotional, and physical resources are worn down. Some people have a knack for bouncing back after facing adversity, while others fall apart.

What makes the difference?

Resilience. Siebert reports that, “highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change. Most important, they expect to bounce back and feel confident that they will. They have a knack for creating good luck out of circumstances that many others see as bad luck.” (Siebert, 2005)

Resilience is commonly defined as the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens. The good news is that anyone can add daily practices that will foster an ability to be resilient. We can add habits to our life that allow us to function and even eventually thrive after storms and struggle come our way.

One can explore all kinds of practices in an effort to build resilience. If these concept are new, try not to feel overwhelmed. Feel free to start small and build new habits over time. Below we have included four practices known to boost resilience: belief, acts of kindness, social support, and healthy habits.


One of the common traits of resilient people is that they believe they are resilient. When the human body reacts to stress (racing heart, sweat on brow, clammy hands, etc), it is actually doing a great job gearing up to meet an oncoming challenge. In other words, the body is designed to handle struggle. When we embrace our stress response as healthy, we boost our resilience. Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk addresses the power of our beliefs about stress, and our ability to recover and thrive after stressful events. Kelly McGonigal: How To Make Stress Your Friend

Acts of Kindness

When we look for ways to treat others with kindness, we boost our resilience. Acts of kindness promote feelings of happiness and peace. The production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and boosts feelings of well-being, is increased in the brain.

Our feelings of happiness and well-being also increase when we witness or receive kindness from others. Acts of kindness also create meaningful bonds with others, and reinforce positive emotions. When we receive kindness from others, we practice gratitude, another resilience boosting trait. Check out Oprah’s great list of ideas.

Social Support

Friends sipping coffeeMeaningful relationships with family and friends increase resilience. In Love Sense, Sue Johnson describes research as to how a close attachment bond with one’s spouse actually decreases one’s experience of pain. When we feel close emotionally with our partner, we are better able to handle painful experiences.

According to a recent article about the benefit of friendships in adulthood, “Our pain thresholds rise when we’re laughing with friends. Friendship helps ward off cognitive decline and having friends even strengthens the immune system.” Lissa Rankin adds that people with close social ties increase their lifespan by 2 ½ years, and experience lower rates of cancer. Close relationships with others help us know that we are not alone and give us the added boost we need to sustain us through difficult times.

Healthy Habits

Moderate exercise, balanced nutrition, and regular sleep habits also boost resilience. When we take care of our bodies, we build strength and stamina to weather potential storms. We are less fragile and less likely to slip into unhealthy coping patterns that can prove destructive to ourselves as well as those we care about. Exercises like yoga and walking also boost our mood, and are linked to reduced levels of depression and anxiety. Moreover, yoga is a common treatment for survivors of trauma.

Fuller Life’s Resilience Top Nine List

Over the past two years, Fuller Life has written extensively about resilient practices. Check out the links to these topics for more video footage and resources on gratitude, positive emotions, humor and play, healthy habits, and spiritual practices.

  1. GuitarBelief
  2. Acts of Kindness
  3. Gratitude
  4. Social Support
  5. Positive Emotions
  6. Laughter and Play
  7. Healthy Habits
  8. Spiritual Practices
  9. Spend Time in Nature

Committed to Share Resilience

At Fuller Life we desire to journey alongside others in an effort to build resiliency and courageously move through struggles together. We share healing practices and continue sharing research that informs cultivating resilience.

Contributed by:

Jennifer Christian, M.A., LPC

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