Mindfulness is a “non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which individuals observe their thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them” (Brown, Ryan, & Cresswell, 2007, p. 212 ). Mindfulness is present moment awareness without judgment. In their online course on compassion (Courageworks.com), Brené Brown and Kristin Neff refer to it as courageous presence.
Fostering resilience allows us to pursue risk and challenge necessary for growth, development, and learning.
Adaptive Coping Strategies after Failure
A compassion-oriented approach allows us to enlist emotion-focused rather than avoidance-oriented coping strategies to help us recover from setbacks and adversity.
Self-kindness is the ability to treat ourselves as we would a close friend or loved one when facing failure, setback, or hardship. Researcher Kristen Neff defines self-kindness as being “gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental” (2011, p. 41).
Carol Dweck’s research tells us that a person with a growth mindset sees their ability to learn and achieve mastery in any domain as possible (Dweck, 2006). As a result, grades are seen as feedback rather than confirmation of one’s ability. Individuals with a growth mindset work harder, stay engaged, and enjoy stronger learning outcomes.
Positive emotions are one of the three keys to being able to experience resilience. One can foster positive emotions through acts such as practicing gratitude. Research by Barbara L. Frederickson supports “positive emotions are worth cultivating, not just as end states in themselves but also as a means to achieving psychological growth and improved well-being over time” (p. 218).
The word compassion comes from the Latin to suffer together and is the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s or one’s own suffering and feel motivated to alleviate that suffering. In Neff’s words(2011): “compassion….involves the recognition and clear seeing of suffering. It also involves feelings of kindness for people who are suffering so that the desire to help — to ameliorate suffering — emerges. Finally, compassion involves recognizing our shared human condition, flawed and fragile as it is” (p. 10).
Resilience can be broadly defined “as the potential or manifested capacity of a dynamic system to adapt successfully to disturbances that threaten the function, survival, or development of the system” (Matsen, 2011, p. 494).
Suffering and hardship is part of our shared experience. The suffering we face unites and connects us rather than isolates us. Viewed through the lens of common humanity, we appraise our own hardships as less severe because we then see our situation in the context of what’s happening to everyone around us. Recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.
Vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure (Brown, 2012). It allows sharing of our whole selves in an authentic and unfiltered way. The very definition of being “human” means that one is vulnerable and imperfect. Sharing our vulnerabilities helps us experience increased connection and hopefulness.
Cultivating a sense of purpose is one of the three keys to being able to experience resilience. In essence, having it is about being connected to and working toward something greater than yourself. Psychologists have found repeatedly that people with a strong sense of purpose in life tend to have greater resilience and to fare better on several different measures of mental health, well-being, and even cognitive functioning. Even in the initial stages of adulthood, it appears that purpose in life already matters. Hill’s, Edmond’s, Peterson’s, Luyckx’s, and Andrews’s research on adolescents and young adults found that those with higher levels of purpose in life had more positive self-images, engaged in less delinquency, and had higher overall well-being (2015).
The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to accurately perceive, access and generate emotions, assist thought processes, and reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth (Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2004). If we don’t control our emotions, our emotions control us. Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to recognize and understand our own emotional responses in any given situation—overriding the automatic reaction. Emotional intelligence allows individuals to increase the gap between sensing and perceiving and reaction. In a range of research studies, “Dulewicz and Higgs (1999; 1999b; 2000) have demonstrated that EI is strongly correlated with individual advancement and success in an organizational setting and with individual performance, and also it may be strongly related to leadership” (Magnano, Carparo, & Paolillo, 2016, p. 11).
Fostering healthy connections and relationships is one of the three keys to being able to experience resilience. Our connection to other people and the support of others gives us stability when we hit our highs and lows. We can all learn to exhibit more resilience through having a sense of purpose, cultivating positive emotions, and developing healthy connections.
Dulewicz and Higgs (2000) define self-awareness as “the awareness of your own feelings and the ability to recognise and manage these” (p. 10). Self-awareness helps us get in touch with our psychological and physiological needs — knowing what we need, what we don’t need, and when it’s time to reach out for some extra help.
Social emotional skills, including mindfulness, requires that we not be “over-identified” with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negative reactivity. Social emotional skills increase individuals’ ability to enlist emotion-focused rather than avoidance-oriented coping strategies.
College students can help to manage the effects of stress by building their stress resilience. Check out our “REFRESHER”—10 behavioral ways that can help you manage your stress and foster your own resilience—Relationships, Exercise, Fun (recreation & enjoyable activities), Relaxation & stress management, Eat well (Nutrition & diet), Sufficient sleep, Helping others, Earth (time in nature), and Reason (sense of purpose, religion & spirituality).