Five Things Resilient People Do

Posted on January 22nd, 2014 by in Healthy Living

resilientWhy do some people bounce back after a major tragedy or illness, while others seem derailed by life’s daily challenges? The answer, in a word, is resilience.

At its core, resilience is the capacity to handle difficult moments. That could be a major trauma such as post-traumatic stress after a military deployment; a chronic source of tension, such as parenting a sick child; or a sudden loss—of a loved one, a job, a marriage, or a home, to fire or flood.

“That old image of resilience as gritting your teeth and struggling through is not what we’re talking about,” says Kripalu faculty member Maria Sirois. In fact, instead of being stoic and handing things on their own, she says healthy people seek out connections during tough times rather than trying to go it alone.

Life hands us difficult situations, no matter how much yoga or meditation we do. For those who study resilience, the question is: How can our lives be rich, even joyful, during both the ups and downs?

According to Maria, what differentiates resilient people from the rest of us is that they have a handful of strategies they consistently utilize.

They lead from their strengths. Maria says her strength is perseverance. In times of great difficulty, she reminds herself, “You don’t give up.” When we start from our strengths, we remind ourselves of who we are and what we have control over.

They are authentic. You can’t thrive unless you’re being true to yourself. Trying to live someone else’s life creates more stress and confusion, leaving you exhausted. “Drink from your own well and follow where your own path leads you,” Maria advises. “Remember, what works for me is different from what works for you.”

They reach out. Resilient people make wise choices about social connections. They invest time in building meaningful relationships and sometimes end those that are no longer healthy. There are certain times when it’s crucial to be connected to others. A diagnosis of an illness is one example; ironically, this is when people tend to be most isolated.

There are three specific types of connections that can make a real difference in a crisis. There are connections with experts in the field, such as therapists, healers, counselors, and coaches. There are connections with people who have experienced the same situation and can give us insight and guidance (for example, others who are recently divorced or have survived breast cancer). And there’s what Maria refers to as “the choir”—our support system, those people we trust most.

They are mindful. Mindfulness is the moment-to-moment awareness of how we live our lives. Being in the present allows us to see things clearly, so we are better able to handle problems as they arise.

They are positive. Positivity is an overall sense of optimism and well-being. People who are most resilient are able to cultivate a positive mindset and outlook even during the bad times, which enhances their capability to come up with more creative solutions. For example, a resilient person who has lost her job will find a creative way to move forward. She might ask: What are the unexpected benefits? Should I pursue something new? What lessons can I learn from this? This can help transform a painful period into an important lesson in survival.

Maria cites a real-world example, a young woman who was unable to do yoga or meditate on a cushion after enduring multiple back surgeries. Her creative and resilient solution was substituting a 10-minute meditative walk in nature.

The lesson, Maria says, is “You can say ‘Woe is me,’ or you can have those feelings and choose to do something constructive anyway.”

What is your lesson in resilience?


  • World Gratitude Map

    Thx-these are wonderful tips. “The Stories We Tell Create the People We Become” –JT Lewis So even-especially-when things are difficult we need to keep our eyes on all that’s Good & Beautiful & Possible in the World. Narratives of grace and resilience and overcoming odds make us stronger and more resilient. Some of our favorite posts on the World Gratitude Map are by folk who stop to #seethegood under the direst conditions.

  • Rochelle Spencer

    I love this article! I’m trying to learn how to be more resilient, and this article provides some helpful tips. Thank you!

  • Mia Howard

    Thank you for this article. Resilience also comes from yoga, from looking deep within and letting go of pain.

    • KripaluEditor

      Thanks for reading and sharing, Mia!

  • Guest

    @disqus_W8TBoY4MCr:disqus Glad it’s helpful and best of luck as you work toward resilience. I’ll working on a second article on it now. So stayed tuned! –Jennifer Mattson, Writer

  • Guest

    Thanks @world_gratitude_map:disqus for

  • Jennifer

    Thanks @world_gratitude_map:disqus for introducing us to this. Gratitude is such a key element of resilience. Will check it out! -Jennifer Mattson, Writer

  • Lisa Gottlieb

    A sweet reminder, thank you. I also believe that the more I practice resiliant behavior, the easier it is next time to utilize those skills. Each challenge is an opportunity for more practice.

    • Jennifer

      Thanks for reading, Lisa. -Jennifer Mattson, Writer

  • rosayaz1

    Wow! I read this and my heart soars. EVERYBODY has that capacity. Resilience is not a God-like characteristic given to that selective few among us. It is embedded in our D-N-A. Is part of everybody’s genetic make-up. What some do than others don’t is to access it. To manifest it. To FIND it inside of themselves and run with it. Limits are an illusion. There’s always a way to get out of things. Someone, somewhere survived what you are going through and worst (trust me!) and made it to the other side. The question they ask (the resilience warriors) is: WHY NOT ME!???

    • Jennifer

      So glad it resonated with you. Great points! -Jennifer Mattson, Writer

  • Tweetie

    I am dealing with the “woe is me” with someone very close to me now has been an extreme emotional roller coaster. It is difficult to bear. The person believes that everything except what they choose to deal with can be ignored or skipped over. They believe they have missed out on establishing their own identity and while they are in a moment of self-discovery they can bring up the past and be neglectful to big problems that have existed for years. This resilience is what drives me, but cohabitating with someone who lacks in this area and prefers misery and chaos and grief is difficult. How far does love extend? Am I purposely being phased out?

  • Kathy

    I am looking forward to taking Maria’s Course in Resilience starting next month at Kripalu.

  • Terry

    Bouncing back from chemotherapy with an appreciation for strength to succeed.

    • KripaluEditor

      May you bounce back with much strength.
      Sending you the best!
      Kim, Kripalu Editor