Does it ever seem like positive experiences register as a brief spike in your emotional life, but negative ones are more resilient than you, just lingering and dragging you down? Low resilience is a very common experience, and it is a trend that can start to feel irreversible once it gains some inertia.
Good news: you can have a profound effect on your mindset, and by doing so, dramatically increase your resilience. Long viewed as a purely innate quality, resilience is really a learnable skill, like a muscle that gets stronger with practice.
And just like any other kind of muscular exercise, you’re most likely to succeed if you implement your training plan with small and attainable goals. You risk burnout and disappointment if you try to go straight from couch potato to Marathon runner. To that end, these three resilience hacks are easy ways to start training that resilient outlook with just a few minutes each day.
1. Write Down Things You’re Grateful For
Just writing for a few minutes each day about things that you are grateful for can dramatically increase your happiness, your well being, and even your health, according to studies done at UC Davis. Writing slows down your thoughts and turns them into something observable and controllable right in front of your eyes.
Think of writing is a powerful form of meditation. By choosing to stop and write down a few things that you’re grateful for, you are practicing a thought pattern of gratitude.
Try doing it with a friend, each taking a moment to write down three things that you are grateful for, and then sharing them with each other. You might feel vulnerable suggesting this to somebody, but feel assured, the craving for positive attitudes is universal. People almost always take to this activity once somebody has given them permission to do so. You can be that leader.
2. Visualize the Self Talk
Mostly, our thoughts spin through our heads without our being directly aware of how they’re affecting us. If that commentary is generous, your experience of the world will be generous too. If that commentary is insecure, guarded, or jealous, you will be too.
A simple mental trick to take control of the self talk is to visualize it. For example, you could think of all that commentary as a hyper-animated sports announcer, telling you all about your day in emphatic detail.
One team represents all of the positive things that have happened to you that day, and the other team is all of the negative things that have happened. How is the sports announcer describing the game? Does she have a bias for one team or the other? Does she scream into the microphone when one team scores, but describe the other team’s baskets with detached indifference? What kind of announcer do you want to have inside of your head, describing all of your life events to you?
As much as you can, solidify the nebulous force of self talk into a real personality like this. Spend a few minutes each morning trying to visualize the commentator behind that voice, and ask yourself: who do I want to be the narrator for the story of my life, as I live it?
3. Build Tiny Routines
We all know that routines can give life form, focus, and discipline. But if you find yourself in the constant task of developing routines, trying to implement them, and watching them slip away, then don’t focus on the master routine to end all routines. Build yourself a tiny routine—a routine that you know you can successfully complete—and reap the satisfaction of seeing that you are in control, even if your domain of influence doesn’t go beyond your own skin.
For example, you might be tired of spilling hot coffee on your lap as you drive to work, always rushing to be on time. You have gone through dozens of plans for the perfect routine to never be late again, but they all fall apart or succumb to the appeal of the snooze button. So you decide that you are going to focus on one tiny thing, just having five minutes to sit down, drink your coffee, and think about nothing beyond the smell, taste, and sensation.
This toehold of order and control, not to mention the calmness that you get from it, is the solid foundation that everything else is built off of. Suddenly, being on time is not so hard after all. Look at all of the superstitions that athletes have, like hockey star Wayne Gretzky always tucking in the right side of his jersey. Really, these are tiny routines. A tiny ritual of stability can give you the resilience to face the most trying of circumstances.