Resilience: The Immune System for Mental Health

The best piece of advice I ever received was this: It’s not what happens to you in life that matters, it’s what you do about it.

That’s awfully easy to say, but how do you put it into practice? How do you live that way?

One essential ingredient is resilience. We all know people who can’t cope with misfortune or can’t handle pressure or can’t be counted on to get going when the going gets tough. Truth be told, we’re all guilty of this at one time or another.

Resilience isn’t about tackling the tough problems in life, it’s about how we respond when those tough problems tackle us. I like to think of it as the immune system for mental health.

Every day our bodies are bombarded with germs, but when our immune system is strong, we stay healthy. And if we do get sick, we get better. I’m not a psychiatrist, I don’t even play one on TV, but I’m convinced that something similar happens with our mental health. The world never ceases to bombard with us challenges, misfortunes, and unexpected reversals. But if we have a strong mental immune system — if we are resilient — then we tend to have positive responses even when life is dumping negatives on us. And when we do feel like we’re coming down with something, mentally speaking, we get better quickly.

Some people are naturally gifted in this way, just as some people are gifted with naturally healthy bodies. The rest of us have to work at it. The good news is that we can. Just as there is much we can do to boost our body’s immune system, such as eating right and getting enough exercise, there is much we can do to boost our mental immune system —our resilience —so that we are better able to respond to the emotional and psychological challenges of life. In fact the two immune systems are related. The healthier we are, the more resilient we tend to be. And the more resilient we are, the healthier we tend to be.

The important thing to remember is that resilience is a skill. If you don’t know it, you can learn it. If you already have it, you can get better at it.

Here’s a great place to start:

Building Resilience, with Tatiana Kolovou

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Keith Ellis is a best-selling author, elearning specialist, online training mentor, and management training consultant. He is the author of the bestselling thriller NO SECRETS, as well as THE MAGIC LAMP, the classic book about goal setting for people who hate setting goals, He serves as Head of Federal Training and eLearning for lynda.com.

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