Resilience is a capacity that can be grown

This article is based on theories by the worlds leading experts in resilience, from psychology, neurobiology, business, philosophy, and change management. 

Sources used: Southwick and Charney, Brene Brown, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Stephen Covey and Ronald Epstein. Also based on the feedback and findings gathered from people who have participated in the online Adaptable Mindset training.

Through the right type of mindset and training you can gain control over your behavior and well-being, how you react to stressful situations. 

Resilience is not being a tough guy or girl. It’s quite the opposite, its being flexible, light, using humor, not-identifying, and being aware of methods you can use to learn and grow during crises.

The world’s leading experts in neurobiology and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders say that the traits to be resilient can be learned. 

.. over time participants in a year-long mindful practice program scored higher on two of the big five personality factors that relate to focused attention and mental stability — and the changes endured 

George Vaillant, the director of the Study of Adult Development at Harvard Medical School in Boston, observes that within various groups studied during a 60-year period, some people became markedly more resilient over their lifetimes.

It’s not bouncing back, because we cannot go back in time to the people we used to be. There is often only moving through. 

Resilience is learning and growing from crises
. However, some challenges are perceived as extremely tragic, how to move forward from these also depends on the severity of its impact.   

Let me talk you through what we as a society have consensus on, what works. 

It’s a good idea to take off the initial stress. To uncloud your brain.

Start to uncloud your brain, to think more clear


Crises often come with a lot of stress, in stressful situations your body creates cortisol, this stress-response hormone clouds clear thinking. The stress also activates your amygdala which controls your emotions. It’s no longer possible to think rational.

Clean the mind and body of stress that clouds your judgement: Run, Walk, Train and clean the mind.

The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing)

With a (forest) walk you lower the amount of cortisol in your body, the substance that affects your brain.

Yoga, in turn, can even reverse the molecular reactions caused by stress.

Even four days of mind training produced significant improvement in vigilance, creativity and cognitive flexibility. All skills very useful if you want to be more resilient.

Sometimes you can get an instant relief from running, walking, yoga or mind training. Sometimes it takes a bit longer. Just go with your own flow. With practice you can become better in unclouding your brain. 

Now that we know how to get rid of the initial clouds. We are able to take a more clear look at what is unfolding.

Be curious about your fears

Brene Brown says you need to wade into the discomfort of your reactions. You have to get curious about it, Brown says, and ask: what is going on? what am I feeling? what’s driving it? how am I responding to it? 

"Resilience is more available to people curious about their own line of thinking and behaving"

Dr. Brené Brown PhD, LMSW is a professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host. … Her TED talk is one of the top five most viewed TED Talks in the world. She made her own transformation from rigid and controlling to vulnerable and free.

What helps if you don’t self identify with your feelings and thoughts. You can label them, but don’t identify yourself with them. Don’t become the feeling. Just observe.

Don’t identify yourself with your fears

Practitioners of mind training don’t identify themself with their feelings. It’s the difference between I am angry and I feel angry.

Experienced practitioners have the skill to “decenter” — they can feel their own emotions and at the same time observe them as if they were standing outside themselves. they develop a capacity for what psychologist call mentalization — they understand their own mental states rather than being oblivious of or mystified by why they feel the way they do. 

They have learned to see their mental states as something they can control rather than the other way around; they know that these states are transitory and not enduring, that they ebb and flow. They learn to set aside their immediate reactions so that they can respond more appropriate.

It’s not that you don’t have strong and sometimes distressing feelings; while feeling their immediacy, you learn how not to be consumed or paralyzed by them.

Good ways to start with this practice are by apps from headspace, calm or through Youtube channels.

Acute Effects of Online Mind-Body Skills Training on Resilience, Mindfulness, and Empathy.
Online mind-body skills training reaches diverse, stressed health professionals and is associated with acute improvements in stress, mindfulness, empathy, and resilience. Additional research is warranted to compare the long-term cost-effectiveness of different doses of online and in-person mind-body skills training for health professionals.

How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action From a Conceptual and Neural Perspective. Cultivation of mindfulness, the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment, produces beneficial effects on well-being and ameliorates psychiatric and stress-related symptoms.

What factors promote resilience and protect against burnout in first-year pediatric and medicine-pediatric residents? Self-compassion and mindfulness were positively associated with resilience and inversely associated with burnout. Thus many residents in this sample endorsed burnout; mindfulness and self-compassion were associated with resilience and may promote resilience and protect against burnout in these trainees.

Focus on what you have influence on

We can focus on the things that we can actually do something about, or we can add to the stress in our lives by worrying and fretting over the things we have no control over. Stephen Covey came up with a methodology to help you guide your focus towards what you do have control over. The circle of concern and influence. The circle of concern is the area we have no control over, and most of us spend a lot of time in. The circle of influence is the area that we do have control over.

A best selling management book author, holistic thinker, educator, businessman, and keynote speaker.

If you spend more time worrying over things outside of your control, you will have less time to spend to work on what you do have control over. Easy enough, right?

You can use the following model to map out what you want to focus on.


Reactive people focus their efforts towards the circle of concern. They focus on what other people think, the global economic crisis, environmental problems. This often results in blaming and accusations and an increased feeling of victimization. You feel powerless. A lot of negative energy is spend in thinking and talking about subjects out of your control. 

Proactive people, on the other hand, focus their energy on the Circle of Influence.  Things they can actually do something about.

It’s not saying don’t be aware of an economic crisis or a pandemic, it’s saying focus on what you do have power over within those circumstances.

What can I do to make my life and that of others better today.

This way of thinking is not necessarily new. Its first sightings were a few years before year 0. In this time period the stoic thinking philosophy emerged. A famous saying by Epictetus give us some extra possibility to properly frame this thinking.


Another influential stoic is Marcus Aurelius, who said the following:

You have power over your mind, not outside events. — Realize this and you will find strength.


Just take some time to reflect on the previous saying by Marcus Aurelius. Try to re-frame your thoughts and not accept them as they come in. This can be very difficult, but it starts with awareness of its possibility.

Being grateful helps in finding positivity


Even if shit hits the fan, there are still moments to be thankful for. The sun shining on your face, the ability to walk, breathe, the smile of your partner. Some beautiful proza.

Most of the scientific studies published on this topic support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being. 

An existing body of research supports an association between gratitude and an overall sense of well being

Harvard Medical school says that in positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

Of course, scientific studies cannot prove cause and effect. But most of the studies published on this topic support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being.

What you can do every evening: write down 3 things that you are grateful for. In this way you can go to bed with a slightly more positive outlook on life. — If available, this is also nice to practice with a partner or close friend.

Humor acts as a coping mechanism. —Your memes actually serve a purpose


Memes are a way for us to speak about difficult subjects, act out emotions, and bond over similar experiences. It also brings some lightness and possibly laughter in seemingly dire situations. 


The importance of connection: family, friends, and loved ones can make resilience easier

salman toor reunion
Salman Toor, Reunion

Find or give support through understanding.

Social support appears to be associated with resilience to psychopathology via a number of psychological and behavioral mechanisms, including motivation to adopt healthy and reduce risky behaviors; feelings of being understood; appraisal of potentially stressful events as being less threatening; enhanced sense of control or mastery; increased self‐esteem; use of active coping strategies; and impact of social influence and social comparison.

There is also emerging evidence that one’s social environment may moderate genetic vulnerability to stress by triggering epigenetic modification of genes implicated in the stress response system

Always be learning, to become more resilient

Based on the decades of research Southwick and Charney did, they found out that resilient people are very often lifelong learners. They keep growing their mind, learning to learn, and adapting to new information about the world.

Which is of course quite logical, if you have simply seen more, have experienced more and have more registers to pull insights and inspiration out of. You’ll have more possibilities and a larger frame of mind.

Parts 1 and 2 in the Adaptable Mindset program are very fitting to support you in helping you grown your mind.

Steven Southwick is a doctor, he is the Glenn Greenberg Professor of Psychiatry PTSD and Resilience at the Yale School of Medicine, and the Yale Child Study Center. He also works in the clinical neurosciences division of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs National Center of PTSD. Along with Dennis Charney, he has written a book called “Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges.”

Dennis S. Charney is an American biological psychiatrist and researcher, one of the world’s leading experts in the neurobiology and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders.

Generate positive emotions through music and art

koketik resilience

Find new energy and inspiration through art and music. Part 1 of the online adaptable mindset program supplies you with beautiful art, movies and design. To find some positivity and inspiration. Which really seems to work for the participants.

Out of 500 online students, the ones who have written a testimonial, 90% reported being able to see more possibilities, being inspired or having found new paths.


Learn to grow from crises

Resilience is a capacity that can be grown. When you feel you can’t think clear due to stress. Start by unclouding the brain, through running, walking, or doing yoga.

Be curious about your fears, the most resilient people are. However don’t self-identify with your fears. Focus on what you do have control over. Like, what you read, what you think, what skills you learn, what people you work with, what you strive for! Make use of proven systems which are beneficial for your well-being, like gratitude setting.

Use humor — even internet memes, as a way of coping and discussing difficult subjects. Family, friends, and loved ones can be your rock in uncertain times. 

You can find new energy and inspiration through art and music. Or actually, whatever you think can help you. 

Decades of research has shown that having an open mind and being open to learn is a trait that many resilient people have. Something which you can start to cultivate by following the online,  Adaptable Mindset program. Making resilience and adaptability attainable for everyone. 

If you are already flowing through life, maybe find someone who you can help. 

You can share this article, the program, or step in and help someone yourself.

We are on this globe together.

All the best,


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