Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
4 Oct

How to Cultivate Resilience, or What It Takes to Keep on Keeping on

It’s the utter resolve I’ve seen in a training client who lost his legs in an accident and now runs marathons with the use of prosthetics. It’s the friend who lives with a medical condition that imposes debilitating pain and continues to run a successful business, raises a tight-knit family, and volunteers in his community. It’s any of us who pick ourselves up after a profound loss or life transition, who decide exceptionally challenging circumstances aren’t going to keep us from leading fulfilling, grateful lives. I’m also mindful of those who may have struggled through the recent 21-Day Challenge, but don’t want to give up just days after it has ended. If that’s you, listen up.

Resilience can encompass the emotional and physical stamina to get through a patch of rough weeks or bounce back from illness or injury. Even more dramatically, however, resilience can mean the fortitude to deal – and even grow – with life-changing setbacks.

There’s no romanticization here. Resilience isn’t a superhero trait. We talk of “conquering” limitations, beating back disease, overcoming loss. The reality is much more complex. Those friends and clients who have been amazing models of resilience have also been fully, richly human. Not every day is a good day. Not every step leads you forward. Not every battle is won. We all pick ourselves up at some point, and some days we let ourselves stay “down” a little longer than others. We feel what we need to feel. The pivotal point is recovering yourself and reengaging your life on renewed terms.

Psychologists have examined the phenomenon of resilience as a varying characteristic among people. Some people, when faced with hardship seem buoyed by a sense of perspective and energy. They are more likely to get back on the horse while others struggle more intensely. Resilience appears to be a trait influenced by our individual brains themselves – our molecular mechanisms that process stress to be more precise.

More so, however, it’s a mindset that can be cultivated, a flexibility in engaging the rough and tumble of life as well as a willingness to live with ambiguity. It’s perhaps also an art we can undertake, a richness we can weave into the support and substance of our lives. The more resilient we are, research shows, the more satisfaction we tend to garner from life.

The Primal question is how can we cultivate resilience in ourselves? How can we design a life that encourages optimum thriving – and supports us most when life challenges us head on.

Exercise

Good solid health with all the basics in line will do you right every time. Sleep, diet, and movement all matter as much if not more when it comes to building resiliency. Some interesting research highlights the role of exercise, however. A whole host of research highlights the stress, depression, and anxiety busting (and buffering) effects of exercise. When compared with rest, for example, a 30-minute block of moderate exercise was better at decreasing anxiety as measured by subjects’ responses to photographs, including stress provoking images.

Research does seem to suggest, however, that this buffering becomes more than an immediate dose response, so to speak, but a persisting pattern over time. Regular exercise produces a continuing psychobiological impact that overhauls our stress response itself. Over time, exercise contributes to our overall mental resilience.

Mindfulness

In the midst of major life challenges, we can at turns benefit from the richness of nostalgia and envisioning future prospects. Also important, however, is the capacity to be purely in the moment, to release expectations, questions, and plans. Mindfulness, in addition to eliciting the body’s relaxation response, can play a key role in acceptance, a crucial process for living with challenging circumstances.

We often expend a lot of energy and anguish pushing back against difficult changes when we’d be better served shifting gears and realigning our paths in light of new realities. Likewise, it can take an immense patience to “sit with” a feeling – physical and/or emotional. To be sure, there are things that people unnecessarily, even irresponsibly, accept when they have the opportunity to change them. There’s a difference, I think, between conscious acceptance and expedient resignation. If you talk to survivors of significant trauma or serious health crises, I think they’d tell you acceptance isn’t by any stretch a passive endeavor. It’s a dynamic, growing, and ongoing process. True mindfulness attends to this process.

For different people, mindfulness can take different forms. Some may practice yoga, Tai Chi, or other programs. Others might pray or immerse themselves in other meaningful ritual. Still others might seek peace simply by spending time in the wild, letting their involuntary attention take over and letting go of everything but their awareness of the world in front of them. All, I think, would say they’re taking comfort in releasing themselves to something larger than themselves and their struggles.

Social Connection

Research has long affirmed the importance of social connectedness to well-being. A close (not necessarily large) social network is, in fact, one of the major contributors to life satisfaction and a protective factor that contributes to resilience.

We all know how good it can feel to lean on those who we know when times get tough. A solid support system can be there to provide emotional and logistical help when times get tough, but close friends and family can also make a difference in how we handle the challenge of normal life transitions. The well known longitudinal Grant study revealed that close friendships were among the most key influences on how subjects adapted to life in their later years. Overall, our close social connections can dampen the stress of our experiences by giving us a critical outlet for the myriad of emotions life evokes and providing perspective when we see them go through struggles of their own.

Play

Children use play to experiment with the wide variety of feelings, experiences, and ideas they encounter in their development. Experts use play therapy to help children process trauma, transition, and other difficult events. Across lifespan and experience, play builds connections and cultivates behavioral, intellectual, and emotional flexibility. Our species maintains the capacity for play throughout our many years and for good reason. As a result of play – the experimentation, exploration, and creativity it fosters – we can continually adapt to different circumstances. When we expand ourselves beyond the daily practice of efficiency and specialization, we can see life – and ourselves – with new eyes. Play, in short, makes us intellectually and emotionally hardier.

In adults, play can mean everything from competitive sport to creative endeavor. Following the death of her husband, a friend of mine took up all manner of handiwork. She did woodworking, carving, and chair weaving. In her words, the crafts took her mind away from her grief and gave her a sense that there were new journeys to be taken. Another family friend took up painting again when she was going through a painful divorce. Another wrote to work through the emotional difficulties he experienced when his child was seriously ill. Play, however we conceive of it, can be an experimental space and emotional sanctuary.

None of us know what the full story of our lives will look like in the end. Amidst (hopefully) a lot of joy, there will undoubtedly be travails. Some problems fall in our laps. Others we create for ourselves. Regardless of their source, we’ll struggle at times – against illness, against failure, against change, against loss. I’d venture to say that many of us have already navigated some kind of critical transition or hardship in our lives.

In our ancestors’ day, calamity was likely more imminent. Grok and his clan, by necessity, weren’t as consumed by the smaller stressors of life, but death and danger loomed in a way we aren’t used to in modern times. What supported our physical survival and resiliency then – social connectedness, intellectual creativity, mental flexibility, and emotional balance – serves our psychological resiliency today.

Resiliency isn’t a fixed capacity. Nor is it an indefinitely standing reserve. We continually create and recreate our resilience by investing in our engagement with life and others. Our daily practices and connections over time deepen our resilience. What helps us thrive in the now grants us fortitude for the long – and difficult – hauls ahead.

I hope you’ll share your own thoughts on resilience. What does it mean for you and your experience? What have you learned about in the course of life and wellness? What stress and adversity have you been able to cope with and bounce back from? Share your thoughts, so that others may follow suit. Thanks for reading today, everyone.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I have a friend who has overcome both family problems and a debilitating illness to a large degree and I can’t figure out what gives him the strength. Maybe not having a choice? His son? I don’t think I have what he’s got.

    Groktimus Primal wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • When I hear stories of people overcoming great obstacles I’ve often wondered the same thing as you. I think it’s just a type of toughness that you don’t find you have until your in those situations. Good to hear your friend has it.

      luke depron wrote on October 4th, 2012
      • If find that it’s completely dependent upon attitude. As a parent, the most important life-lesson I attempt to pass on to my kids, is to never, EVER see yourself as a victim. As long as you’re still here, then you’re a survivor, and for that, you should be grateful rather than depressed at what current tragedy is affecting your life.

        Without adopting a healthy perspective, people have little capacity other than to continue to suffer their circumstances, having externalized the problems as being beyond their control.

        NotApplicable wrote on October 4th, 2012
        • Thank you for instilling that attitude in your children. I find many teens and young adults “these days” that have not been raised in this manner. They think life just happens to you and you have no control or influence. I really fear for the future of our country with so many young people having little resilience to life’s frustrations.

          Katydid wrote on October 4th, 2012
        • I disagree. Genetics certainly play a major role here and this can be different for children within the same family depending on which genes are dominant. It’s no different than body type and the varying degrees of effort it takes for some to maintain or change than others. Additionally, though brain chemistry is still poorly understood, we do know enough about the nature of neurotransmitters to understand that the brains of some people are working very hard against them.

          I point this out because people who have a harder time of adjusting don’t need the finger-pointing that only serves to pile onto their difficulties.

          Joe Carbup wrote on October 5th, 2012
        • @Joe, I don’t think that teaching people to be resilient means that you’re “finger pointing”. While brain chemistry might make it more difficult for some than others, that isn’t to say it is impossible. I think that when we stop pushing ourselves toward excellence because we’re afraid we will hurt people’s feelings, we sell ourselves short. It will always be harder for some people than others to lose weight, be positive, work out, etc. That does NOT mean those people should be judged. But feeling judged is a decision too. I know a lot of people whose schedules I would love to have, for example- and I would love to not to have a chronic illness that affected many years of my life. But at the end of the day, I can be positive that I’m not worse off, or see myself fundamentally as a victim. Which way do you think leads to more happiness? I hope to instill a positive attitude in my kids, and think I can do that while still teaching them to be compassionate and know that it is more difficult for some people than others.

          Christina208 wrote on October 6th, 2012
    • If you have children, they keep you going and if you don’t, then the hope that things will improve will do it. Without either of those you’re hosed. Until you’ve had a similar life experience yourself, you don’t know what it’s like or how you will cope. That’s not a criticism, it’s just a fact of life.

      Alison Golden wrote on October 4th, 2012
  2. Our school district is focusing on the concept and characteristic of “grit” in our children. I’m going to share this article with my child’s principal.

    Molly wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • Maybe also share the concepts in the book “Bounce” by Matthew Syed, great book that could certainly help children achieve a lot (partially through “grit”)

      Patrice wrote on October 5th, 2012
  3. Very timely article. I just found out that I might have a torn ACL from playing football. MRI needs to be done to prove the doctor WRONG (I hope).

    But, if it is torn, I’ll have to go in for surgery followed by 6-9 months of rehab if things go well. I suppose this is not a very big issue in the grand scheme of things, but right now, I’m wondering how I’m going to keep my 3.5 year old Border Collie entertained if I go on crutches. Wish me luck folks.

    PotAsh wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • Good luck!

      Violet wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • A friend of mine got on his bike 2 weeks after his surgery. Your Border will run along with you on the bike. Or throw the frisbie, ball, kong, etc for him to chase. My border will play fetch for hours.

      Patty wrote on October 4th, 2012
      • I tore my ACL in a motorbike accident and yes, getting on a bicycle is one of the best things you can do. The cycling strenghens the muscles around your knees, putting less pressure on your ligaments to keep the joint together.

        Kitty =^..^= wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • Hey Potash, may I please respectfully suggest you do a quick search for ‘Scenar’? Might be good before, after or instead of surgery. Just a suggestion. Best to you.

      Mad Am Flintstone wrote on October 5th, 2012
    • I tore both ACLs last February. I had the first one repaired in March and was back at the gym in a week! I had the second one last Thursday. Just got home from the gym and I’m catching up on MDA, eating breakfast, and saw your post here. It’s the ultimate test of your resilience. I’ve never been stronger or more fit. I never once went off my eating plan– not even in the hospital when the only things they had after surgery were graham crackers or saltines!! I just said “no thanks”. My dr and my pt think my eating has contributed hugely to my quick recovery since this way of eating is low inflammation. btw, my dogs are totally happy if I just throw their toy and they can bring it back to me to throw again and again and again. Oh, I’m 54 and female and it was a sport injury. So good luck! Trust your surgeon and don’t get discouraged!

      joey wrote on October 5th, 2012
      • Wow. Thanks everybody. I’ll look into getting a bicycle. I’ll also look into Scenar.

        And Joey, that’s very, very impressive.

        I get an MRI taken on Tuesday. And I’m hoping that the MRI proves the doctor wrong. I’m hoping my primal eating, and intelligent exercising has/ will help. We shall see.

        Thanks again.

        PotAsh wrote on October 5th, 2012
  4. This is what tragedy has taught me, over, and over, and over again…
    The human spirit is designed to be resilient. Tragedy does not destine us to give up on life, never to recover, never to crawl out of bed again. Modern society could not exist, could not have evolved, if humans were not resilient and could never rally to overcome tragedy.

    It is more important than ever in times of tragedy to keep your commitment to your health. You need to be healthy to rebuild and embark on a new future.

    Seemingly endless periods of the deepest, darkest depths of misery, do indeed, eventually, end. Fortunately, they are usually followed by many unexpected, amazing, life affirming, opportunistic big breaks, and positive outcomes. We just need to hang in there, and be resilient, until the sun shines again…

    Paula wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • Food for thought: people started cutting down trees with rocks.

      Animanarchy wrote on October 7th, 2012
  5. I think that to a large extent you “make your own reality,” your glass can be half empty, but it also can be half full. I know for myself I decided that I will be different: I have gone primal, lost 30lbs (so far, there’s still 60lbs to go), am finally moving and feel better than I ever have. I continue to tell myself that I AM different now, and I am reshaping the reality that I have lived with all my life. I really don’t know where I would have been in 5 years had I not found PB, probably 250lbs and diabetic because that was where I was headed. Thank you Mark for helping me do this.

    Lisa in JP wrote on October 4th, 2012
  6. When I realized that truly, life on this earth is hard, even brutal sometimes, and that there is no “cosmic justice” or karma, I was freed.

    Rather, I believe that stuff happens, the universe is indifferent to my happiness or misery, and the joy in my life comes from two things: 1) simply enjoying unexpected good luck and good fortune as it happens, just enjoying it. But not viewing it as part of a cosmic accounting system. And 2) That being a very localized agent of goodness for others, and HANDLING things with ever-improving character is what is left for me to enjoy when life is being cruddy.

    I accept crud, I rejoice in good fortune, I try to fix what I can and feel good when I rise to challenges to be a better human. And I accept shame when I blow it, and will try again and do better next time. This is happiness.

    I’ve think about people who lose a child. I cannot fathom the pain. I have agreed with myself that I would remain alive for those who love me, and I would try to do good and be present anyway. My heart nearly stops to think of this, but I’ve tried to think about how people go on.

    Joy Beer wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • Well said and I agree!

      Mark Cruden wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • I agree as well. What you have is the attitude and choices you make, and that determines resilience, joy, sadness, etc. Well said.

      Julie wrote on October 4th, 2012
  7. Wow, sometimes the universe just screams at you. This article is one of those times. I recently went through some changes in my life, all for the best but still difficult to process. I’m still working on all of the pieces- movement, sleep, play, mindfullness. This was a great reminder.

    Amy wrote on October 4th, 2012
  8. Reading this article made me realize that accepting things that you cannot change is crucial to happiness. So here it is. I have an autoimmune disorder/disease, alopecia totalis. I have no hair. This may seem trivial to most but as a woman it is extremely socially stigmatizing. We live in a society that tries to be accepting of those of us who are physically different but we really arent. This isn’t realized by an individual unless you’re in those shoes. Those who know about my situation say I shouldnt tell anyone because with my wig you’d never know. This is crap! Why? Because it’s just saying “Cover up your ugliness so no one will make fun of you” I’ve lived in “hiding” for the last 9 years bearing this pain and I’m done. And here it is the first PUBLIC place I am announcing that I have NO HAIR, can’t help it, didn’t choose it, so accept me for who I am or go away. To all of you with bigger life situations, I commend you… and admire you. Not that I too have not suffered the death of a close loved one or some other life altering event. Thank you to Mark and his insights to have brought me to this full mindfullness.

    Tobie Johnson wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • Tobie, dealing with total hair loss is very difficult and painful, especially for a woman. Good job on going “public”. I for one accept you as you are. You are a valuable person worthy of love and respect. Wear a wig or don’t wear a wig. What counts is what kind of person you are on the inside (to quote my precious mom). And don’t forget about Sinead O’Connor! I think she does the bald thing on purpose.

      Vanessa wrote on October 4th, 2012
      • Thx sooo much for your kind words. Much appreciated : )

        Tobie Johnson wrote on October 5th, 2012
    • +1

      Bald is beautiful.

      BillP wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • You are an inspiration. Beautifully stated, and best of luck to you!!

      Christina208 wrote on October 6th, 2012
  9. The Amazing Transformation of a Guy Who Didn’t Give Up!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2laIPeiMtE

    Scott wrote on October 4th, 2012
  10. I think this concept is something that is disappearing in our values today. Many people my age act like they are entitled to be happy all the time and complain when the slightest little thing doesnt go their way. A flaw in American role models and parenting I suppose. I really get sick of people who try to elicit constant pity from those around them.

    Bad things happen, we all have to deal with it, that is part of the beauty of the human spirit, we can take tragedy and turn it into something wonderful.

    Lastly, I cant wait to watch you on Rock Center tonight!

    Team Oberg wrote on October 4th, 2012
  11. One of my favorite quotes since I was a kid way back in the 60’s is “I may be down, but I sure the hell ain’t out!” Quoted from the movie The Unsinkable Molly Brown. It has kept me com sinking many a time!

    sher wrote on October 4th, 2012
  12. This quote comes to mind:
    “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”

    Doug wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • Exactly! People always said I was strong when I was dealing with ulcerative colitis, and then a complete colectomy. I never quite understood it, because I was only doing what I had no choice but to do!

      Alyssa wrote on October 4th, 2012
  13. One of my favorite songs, Stan Rogers’ “Mary Ellen Carter” ends with these words:

    “And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
    With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
    Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
    And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.

    Rise again, rise again – though your heart it be broken
    And life about to end
    No matter what you’ve lost, be it a home, a love, a friend.
    Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.”

    When something bad happens, I recall these words, pick myself up, and move on. I plan on making it to 120yrs old ;).

    Damien Gray wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • LOVE that song too!!

      Juiettegold wrote on October 4th, 2012
  14. The Finns call this trait ‘Sisu’. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisu

    Kristina wrote on October 4th, 2012
  15. Great posts.

    I haven’t failed. I’ve identified 10,000 ways this doesn’t work. -Thomas Edison.

    Linda A. Lavid wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • so true – i have learned a heck of alot more from peeling my face off the pavement than from the occasional, modest successes i have had in life –

      “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that experience comes from bad judgment.”

      ravi wrote on October 4th, 2012
  16. so true – learned a heck of alot more from peeling my face off the pavement than from the ego-dancing successes–

    ravi wells wrote on October 4th, 2012
  17. Wow, great article! I was recently diagnosed with a stress fracture in my left foot. I thought it was the end of the world, especially since I had lots of races coming up. I now have to listen to my body, take it easy, and give up running for a little while. Not a huge deal when you look at the big picture.

    Morgan wrote on October 4th, 2012
  18. On the morning of my mother’s funeral, I hit a CrossFit WOD, felt like a million bucks, and after showering up and putting on a suit, I did her proud with my eulogy. This was after traveling across the country, looking up the local box, and paying the guest fee. I knew I had to keep my equilibrium.

    Some years before, a different family crisis really took a toll on me, manifesting as horrendous gastro-intestinal symptoms that took quite a while to shake. The anxiety and helplessness and slow passage of time created an experience I did not want to repeat.

    As my mother’s final decline approached, I faced two cross country trips in short order, one for the final visit while she was still coherent, and the other when it was all over. The first trip was as horrible as one might imagine, but I was careful to eat lots and eat well – no kidding, as in Tupperwaring a hunk of salmon to the hospital each day – and I kept working out.

    As a result, the trip was much less devastating than it could have been, and I was able to anchor some family decisions and meet with lawyers to get things moving, while my siblings seemed paralyzed.

    Use this knowledge we have. Protect yourself in times of trouble.

    Tom wrote on October 4th, 2012
  19. Most people think of resilience as being a trait to help you deal with really bad situations. But before I changed my diet, I was able to handle really bad situation okay, but it was the little things in life I wasn’t so resilient toward. Something about eating animal fat and eliminating the sugar, flour and vegetable oils from my diet gave me an inner peace, a sunny disposition and an ability to handle the little annoyances in life without having a meltdown. I’m not really worried I’m going to get fired for my bad personality anymore because it seems to have gone away. I don’t get all frustrated and mad at little things going wrong in my day anymore.

    Diane wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • As I was reading Mark’s post, I was thinking “You know what boosts resilience? Getting your needs met!”

      Many people in the USA believe no-one has any needs, and that “Everything is a choice!”.

      Jeffrey of Troy wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • Reminds me of Weston A Price!

      Jonathan wrote on October 4th, 2012
  20. What a post!

    Although i feel you missed the main thing that contributes to someones resilience – hard times. The more you have the more they toughen your resilience muscle.

    God knows, I’ve had my fair share and I do not know why. But thats just how things go.

    Oliver wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • …What does not kill us, makes us stronger…:)

      Jeannie_5 wrote on October 4th, 2012
  21. The Tares thrive on the barren ground, but the fruits of their labors are bitter. The Good Seed needs a good environment, but if they get it, the fruits of their labors light up the world.

    The culture of leaving people to fend for themselves is evil. We should not necessarily admire the Tares, or wish we were like them.

    Jeffrey of Troy wrote on October 4th, 2012
  22. And I have learned, as tough and as resilience as i am, the only other thing that helped was actually family support, even if just one memeber thats enough to keep you from pulling the plug.

    Oliver wrote on October 4th, 2012
  23. I recently just moved to FL from NY and started a new job. I drove down and within 4 days had to start the job not really knowing anyone or what to expect. Needless to say my anxiety has lead to awful sleep and a 44 hour run with no sleep. That deprivation almost broke me down but with the support of my family I think I am finally pulling through. Still not able to exercise yet since I am so backlogged on sleep I dont want to stress my body any more than it is. I know this is nothing compared to someone losing a leg or whatever but I thought I would share!

    Ray wrote on October 4th, 2012
  24. I love posts like this, Mark. It reminds us there is so much more than diet and lifting to helps us through life.

    Sketching and journaling are my mainstays for dealing with life’s ups and downs, coupled with staying as healthy as I can manage. That last is with big thanks to you!

    Cathy Johnson (Kate) wrote on October 4th, 2012
  25. Wonderful blog post, deeply insightful. Nursing my husband though terminal cancer when he was 44 was the most painful – and sometimes oddly beautiful – experience of my life. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re tested. Our love was never deeper than those extra months he wasn’t supposed to have and I came out of it a kinder, better person. It taught me to live in the moment.

    Wren wrote on October 4th, 2012
  26. mindfulness….I wish more people were..

    rik wrote on October 4th, 2012
  27. This TED talk really inspired me with regard to resilience. I love its simple (zero-cost!) life hack for harnessing your very hormones to the cause of your own resiliency. Plus it made me cry. ;-)

    You guys are so right. There’s something magical about those moments of transition and self-awareness when you lift yourself up and choose to be present, over and over – even when your confidence is low. One day you wake up and realize, sure enough, over time you’ve become the person you needed to be. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said.

    I feel like holding tight to fixed ideas gives a burst of energy that de-rails or sputters out. Real, lasting determination (resiliency)has gotta come from continually accepting afresh what’s happening right now, in order to make the best of it. Relentless realism and acceptance are needed if only to bring appropriate resources to bear on the moment.

    I love the idea that exercise, play, concerted presence and friendship are (not trivial, human pass-times) but the primal sharpening stone we hone our characters on daily.

    Sorry to waffle on, but I was moved by this article and subsequent comments. Thanks everyone for helping me understand stuff that helps my life.

    gruntle wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
      Eleanor Roosevelt
      US diplomat & reformer (1884 – 1962)

      gruntle wrote on October 4th, 2012
  28. What the research shows is that we humans love MOTION …

    Another way to say this is that we love how it feels to be in the “flow channel” – in whatever we’re doing.

    The “flow channel is the the place that runs through boredom and anxiety. Picture it on a graph. Boredom is the vertical axis. Anxiety is the horizontal axis. The flow channel runs right through the middle, on a diagonal.

    When our challenge (whatever it is) meets our ability level and requires a stretch from us to get there – that’s the flow channel.

    When the challenge is too great for our ability level (so we can’t get there), it makes us anxious. So we stop.

    When the challenge is too easy for us (so we can get there with little effort), it makes us bored, so we stop.

    The trick is to stay in the flow channel – where the challenge is just right (i.e. attainable based on our existing skill level IF we stretch ourselves to get there).

    This is the work of Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, who Mark has posted about before. As I see it (as do many other scholars), it’s the key research on this issue.

    To briefly restate it, for purposes of this post – If you want to be resilient, then take the steps necessary to keep skill and challenge balanced, so you stay in the the flow channel.

    Further reading:
    Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, Beyond Boredom and Anxiety.

    :-)

    Susan Alexander wrote on October 4th, 2012
  29. Love the topic. Agree with much of the article but no mention of faith in God? I’ve enjoyed reading many POW and Survival first hand accounts over the years and have found faith in God to be a reoccurring theme.

    John wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • Nice for those who believe, but not all do, many don’t, and that is not the thesis of this article. The lack of mention does not make it any less valid.

      Julianna wrote on October 4th, 2012
    • Amen brother!

      Patrice wrote on October 3rd, 2013
  30. Thank you! I needed this.

    KikoLaguillo wrote on October 4th, 2012
  31. Thank you for this post! I needed this today.

    Joy Dvorak wrote on October 4th, 2012
  32. I think resilience is the ability to forgive yourself for not knowing the perfect way to deal with tragedies/illness in life, and that being graceful takes heaps of practice.

    Julianna wrote on October 4th, 2012
  33. I am in the process of bouncing back from a near burnout. As you write in the article acceptence is a major factor in moving forward. And not just acceptence of the situation that I am in, but also acceptence that failure as much as success is a part of life and that some things are important and others are not. Learn from it and move on. The learning part is fairly easy, the moving on part can be hard, at least for me. But the near burnout itself actually made it easier for me to make the changes that I have made and profoundly changed me as a person and my look on life. I feel much stronger, calmer and I have a positive attitude to life. This experience has given me perspective and I believe it will in the end also make into a better person :-) The event was awful, but the experience is nothing but positive!

    David wrote on October 4th, 2012
  34. Hello all — another fine post Mark, with thanks. Should anyone feel the need for a little terpsichorean help along the path of resilience, allow me to suggest listening to “The Mary Ellen Carter” by the very sadly late Mr. Stan Rogers. He was one of Canada’s great singer/songwriters, died tragically and heroically, and this song is one of the all-time testaments to the human spirit. Enjoy! And as Stan sings, Rise Again!

    James Barringer wrote on October 4th, 2012
  35. Thank you so much for this post, Mark! This is a very powerful message, and it came a great time for me. I needed a confirmation of the power of resilience, and it’s good to be reminded that I can strengthen my resilience by making healthy choices. I’m on Day 8 of the Whole30 Challenge, which I undertook to conquer my sugar addiction and control my binge eating. This is my second real attempt at it, and I plan to see it all the way through this time. Honestly, it’s my 20th attempt if you count all the mornings I woke up with the intention to begin and put it off for “just one more day” when temptation struck. I began each of these days already doubting my ability to follow through; I couldn’t see myself getting to Day 30, so I wasn’t motivated enough to successfully push through the trials of Day 1. This is the opposite of resilience; this is defeatism.

    At a certain point I had to face the fact that I wasn’t going to be happy until I made a change, and I couldn’t make a change without conquering some obstacles. I had to accept that it wasn’t going to be easy; in fact, I needed to relish the challenge. I had to find the desire to prove my negative self wrong. To believe in myself and imagine the results of my eventual success.

    Eight days in, I’m feeling very resilient. Sometimes it’s tempting to let it go, to slide a little. or even to stop caring all together. When I go out with friends and get weird looks when I say, “I’m fine with water, thanks.” When the pastries at work are fresh out of the oven and their aroma creeps up my nostrils uninvited. When I get stressed out and want to go straight to the old comfort of eating mindlessly. But I feel more amazing every day I stick to this, and I want to continue to feel amazing. Every day it gets easier to make the right choices, because I see where they’re taking me. It just takes a start. The moment I fully committed mind and body to the Whole30, I found that resilience to overcome the trauma I created for myself. It’s so empowering to remember that we create our own success, as well.

    It’s worth noting that I discovered the Whole30 program through your website. I believe someone had made mention of the challenge in the forum, and my curiosity took me to the Whole9 website. So thank you for that, and for blessing me in more ways than you can imagine!

    Manda wrote on October 5th, 2012
  36. What a great post. Thanks Mark.

    Saret wrote on October 5th, 2012
  37. I believe resiliency requires faith, hope, action, acceptance and patience.

    Being more resilient means having the capacity to love and care for others more.

    P M Evans wrote on October 5th, 2012
  38. Mark, I know this is off topic but it’s REALLY important. I missed your interview on “Rock Center” last night and am BUMMED. I had intended to record it but my DVR crapped out and wasn’t listing the channels so I couldn’t tell what channel it was on. Can you post a linky to where I can see your ENTIRE interview? The only thing I can find is the 1 minute teaser…not even youtube has it.

    Thanks a bunch!!!

    Jason

    Jason wrote on October 5th, 2012
  39. I read this article after a friend pointing it out to me, she said it remind her of me. I lost my mother and husband just 18 months apart and then 6 months after losing my husband I found out I had cancer. I do have resilience. It is as simple as this, life is a choice, you can choose to let things make life miserable or can see what good there is in everyday….okay not everyday is great, but to still be grateful you can go onto the next day and enjoy life that day. My choice today is to honor my mother and husband as well as myself.

    Beth wrote on October 5th, 2012
  40. Another inspiring post. Exercise and hobbies have gotten me thru rough patches in my adult life

    Gayle wrote on October 5th, 2012

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