As I watch the snow fall outside my window, I can’t help but be impressed. This perfect snow clumps on the tree branches, building a forest of white.
But branches can only take so much weight. What happens when the snow becomes too much?
This is where nature’s amazing architecture comes into play. Nature has a simple solution to the weight of the world — and it’s one we can all learn from.
The branches fill up with snow. When it becomes too much, the branch gently bends, relieving itself of the snow and its weight. The branch, we could say, is practicing resilience.
Nature has considered all the possibilities of life, and built in mechanisms to ensure that things survive. It brings snow to the trees, and the trees bend to the weight of snow, allowing no real harm to come to them.
Nature has built these same mechanisms into us, too. We just don’t always recognize or use them.
One of these is something psychologists call resilience. This is the capacity to, like a tree branch, spring back to shape and recover from the difficulties that life throws us. Past generations may have simply called this a person’s “toughness.”
Some of us are more resilient than others, but we all have reserves of resilience deep inside of us. Here’s how to better tap it.
Tips for Building Your Resiliency
1. Become More Self-Aware
The more you know yourself, the better you understand where you’re strengths lie — and your weaknesses. If you don’t understand yourself, you’re less able to handle stress or problems in life. If you face a problem in life and are confident in your own abilities, you know that the obstacle you face in life can be overcome.
2. Learn to Accept Life for What it Is
Too many times we spend time wishing things were different. Some people spend a lot of time and energy railing against the unfairness of life. But often things are simply the way they are in life and we may not be able to change it. Accepting that — and that most feelings related to unhappiness or obstacles in life are temporary — can go a long way to improving your resilience.
Instead of being overwhelmed by adversity, it helps to accept it as well. As I said back in 2011:
Research shows that people who have gone through [adverse] events experience less impairment and distress than someone who’s gone through no adverse events, or someone who’s been through very traumatic events. Don’t hide from adversity — embrace it, in moderation. It will help you hone your coping skills further and better prepare you for the next event.
Adversity not only helps us build our coping skills, it also helps us put things into perspective. A person who hasn’t experienced any adversity in their life is going to have an especially hard time when the first event hits them, especially if it’s not until later in adulthood.
3. Be Grateful… and Patient
Learn to be more grateful for what you’ve got in life. Resilient people remember that things could always be worse. Things we often take for granted — food, clean water, shelter, Internet access at our fingertips — are things much of the world doesn’t have.
Some people get stressed out every time they have to wait in line, or wait a few moments in order to get one of their needs met. Stress caused by impatience chips away at your overall happiness little by little, so much so that it can go unnoticed. But being impatient also reduces your ability to focus on what’s really important in life. Waiting a few moments for something is not important.
4. Be Open to All Things
Resilient people never close themselves off to new ideas or new ways of being. If you’re the kind of person who says “No” to everything, then everything will pass you by. Become the person who says “Yes” instead, and try out new things — even those things that you’ve decided you didn’t like in the past. Our tastes change, and learning to adapt and be flexible in life is a key component of resiliency.
5. Keep Your Friends Close
As I said back in 2011, our social relationships bolster us. They appear to provide us a buffer against stress, especially our close friends. It helps to be able to share our trials and tribulations with those trusted souls who understand us best.
Resilient people reach out when they are in trouble. They don’t reach out to strangers, but to those most trusted and who understand our history, perspective, and resources. Resilient people don’t shun help — they accept it with open arms understanding that no one can overcome every problem on their own.
6. Most Problems Have Solutions
One of things that drive resilient people is the knowledge that virtually every problem in life has a solution, even if it’s not obvious at first. This doesn’t mean you have to search endlessly (and stress yourself out) looking for that solution. It means instead that a resilient person knows that if they tap their resources and social networks, they’ll eventually find a way to overcome the obstacle in life.
If you want to be happier, turn to nature. Be more like nature, and learn to bend when confronted with life’s obstacles. Such as snow.
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