Creative Optimism and Resiliency

 6 Best Ways to Live Long and Well

Resiliency is positively correlated with longer life, creative confidence, retaining high mental functioning into older years, increased immunity, and excellent mental health!  No kidding.  Martin Seligman’s extensive research on Positive Psychology and Authentic Happiness revealed these findings over and over again..  Get on the path that everyone is talking about…  jump in!

The 6 Best Ways to Build Resiliency

Why do some people bounce back from adversity and misfortune? Why do others fall apart?  Inevitably we will all suffer loss, sadness, shaky self-esteem, and broken relationships as life unfolds. Those who are highly resilient share certain personal qualities and ways of thinking that help them to heal. 

Highly resilient people are flexible and willingly learn how to adapt to new circumstances.

Highly resilient people have developed the ability to see the good within the difficult, and feel confident that they will come back strong.  

Highly resilient people DO what they can do, do not worry about making mistakes along the way, and believe that their action will make a difference for the better.

optimism-cloudsHighly resilient people have mentors, they seek out others in similar circumstances in order to learn and exchange support.

Highly resilient people view difficult life events as randomly caused,  situational, and temporary. 

Highly resilient people do not believe that they are victimized or blame themselves for BEing a failure.  Actually, highly resilient people fail more often than others because they step up and try again.  They learn how to “fail better” and use what they learn

Here’s how to develop and strengthen your own resiliency:

(1) Practice Positivity

*Notice and appreciate positive experiences as they occur

Practicing optimism  changes the actual chemistry of your brain, increasing the production of serotonin, thereby producing:

Greater creativity, flexibility, capacity to learn, hope, resiliency, and efficiency

Decreased vulnerability to depression, anxiety, anger, and interpersonal conflict

Feed the positive, what you focus on, grows!

*On REALLY challenging days, notice and appreciate what has NOT toothache-150x150gone wrong! 

As Buddhist master, Thich Nhat Hanh has been known to say, “Be grateful for your non-toothache.”  Seriously!


*Intentionally practice gratitude  

Practicing gratitude for the things that ARE going well right now helps to put adversity and irritation in a more balanced perspective of your life as a  whole.  Express gratitude today for those people and things you usually take for granted.

Those with the greatest resiliency have approximately a 3:1 ration of positive to negative thoughts and perceptions when they look at the world around them.

*Keep a gratitude journal

  • …. write down 10 things each day in a journal specifically for this purpose, OR start gratitude blog with a few of your friends, post three things each day that you are grateful for.  Share the blessings and your perception of them will grow.

For inspiration, read the amazing book, 10,000 Gifts by Anne Voscamp

Noticing the positive more fully does not mean denying the pain.  It means that you become so much more able to hold onto hope and resiliency while working the hard stuff through

 2) Extend Simple Kindness

Resilient people share the personal quality of kindness, rooted in compassion toward self and others.

flowers daisiesExpress appreciation to anyone who serves you today…  anyone who affects your life positively…  grocery baggers, children, waitstaff, friends, partners, colleagues, and even strangers  —  hold the door, give that smile or compliment.  Give away your place in line, take a sandwich to the woman begging with her cup, replace something when you use the last of it…

Do the small stuff that says to others, “you matter”.

Acts of kindness boost the brain’s serotonin levels, and have a cumulative effect. Now, in times of difficulty you’ve got a well of resiliency to draw upon!

Check out

 (3) Live to Learn

Resilient people approach problems with the determination to be part of the solution, not the drama.

mentorResilient people love to learn.. they look at a problem and immediately say, ‘What’s a solution to that?  What is this trying to teach me? What can I do about this right nowWho can I ask?”

Let adversity build your confidence in problem-solving.  Act on what is possible to do, seek out others who can teach you, allow frustration and yet move through it as a challenge, look for the resources that are out there..

The spiritual and emotional growth that builds resiliency depend upon the ability to see the possibilities even more clearly than the obstacles.

( 4) Take Care of Yourself, regularly

Good health, body, mind and spirit — and a regular routine of healthy habits — are foundational to both mental and emotional resilience. 

When you’re caught up on sleep, spiritually connected, eating well and taking breaks from stress, you will respond to serious setbacks or tragedy with resilience. Regular mental breaks strengthen your brain’s ability to process experience and make decisions.. it  is sort of like a resiliency savings account!

parent-child-positiveGo ahead  celebrate it, jump into it, throw it in the air, love it, meditate on it, pray into it, get absorbed in it, sleep through it…   and give your brain a break.

In exchange, your brain will return to you a fresh ability to process experience and make absorbing that you lose track of time

And if you are interested in the research behind this, what happens is this:  PET and MRI mages of the brain “at rest” show activity in which new synaptic networks develop that improve the ability to respond to problems and process emotionally significant events.

Give it space, and the brain will do the rest on its own to expand your resiliency.

( 5) Thrive, with Humor

Some years ago during a very stressful leadership change at my place of work, we would regularly ask ourselves the question, “what’s funny about this?” when a particularly challenging situation would arise.  We made it through, in spite of circumstances beyond our control…  and did well!

girl laughingComedy is a surprisingly powerful strategy for resilience.  Make a commitment to regular laughter!

Watch those old Lucy re-runs, rent a DVD of a comedian who makes you laugh out loud, whatever makes you laugh out loud, watch it, play in it, read it, but do it!

Ask yourself at any moment, “what’s funny about this?” Your face will thank you for the smile!

Go to and look around… especially the video of their 2011 conference Survive and Thrive.

Laughing reduces tension, psychologically creates a sense of empowerment, and knocks the stuffing out of negativity!

(6) Lead with your Strengths

Resilient and optimistic people know their character strengths, and when challenged,  lead with their strengths.

 But how do I know what my strengths are? 

Well, who are you when you are at your very best?  What are you doing when you feel like I was ‘made to do this?”  What do others say that they consistently appreciate about me?

The VIA Survey of Character Strengths Test and a number of other related tests are available to you by  registering for free at    Check it out!

Lead with your strengths, rather than dreading your weaknesses and hanging back.  Be willing, and you will find the real ways that you are capable, motivated and appreciated….  and thereby you will grow even stronger in confidence and resilience.

The upshot...

If you want what someone has, then learn to do what they do” is a wise slogan for life that originates in the 12 Step recovery programs.  It is excellent and true advice. 

If you will practice these 6 things, with persistence and regularity, your mind, brain, self-worth, confidence, optimism, resiliency and perspective will change significantly over time.

Whatever your struggles, losses, fears, adversity or troubles are today, you can learn to incorporate positivity and become more resilient in the face of  these things in your efforts to heal.

Resilience refers to your capacity to deal with discomfort and adversity and come through it even better and stronger than were before.  The qualities of resiliency are remarkably simple, though perhaps not easy, to develop.

And if you need help, as most of us do when we are truly stuck, ask for it. 

Dr. Trish GaffneyIf you want to work with a therapist who can help you build on your strengths and resolve what pulls you down..   please do call me:  Dr Trish Gaffney, LCSW-C.  


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