Resilience in Positive Psychology: Bouncing Back & Staying Strong
Resilience in positive psychology refers to the ability to cope with whatever life throws at you. Some people are knocked down by challenges, but they return as a stronger person more steadfast than before.
We call these people resilient.
A resilient person works through challenges by using personal resources, strengths, and other positive capacities of psychological capital like hope, optimism, and self-efficacy.
Overcoming a crisis via resiliency is often described as “bouncing back” to a normal state of functioning. Being resilient is also positively associated with happiness.
Let’s Start at the Beginning: Resilience
Relationships play a vital role in building the resilience of an individual. This starts at a young age when we are heavily influenced by our guardians and parents. More resilient children tend to be raised with an authoritative parenting style, rather than authoritarian or passive parenting styles.
The authoritative parenting style displays the qualities of warmth and affection that also provide structure and support to the child. Baumrinds’ (1971, 2013) theory of parenting styles highlights why authoritative parenting is the ideal approach to raising a well rounded, independent, self-reliant, and self-controlled individual.
Opposing this is the authoritarian parenting style, which can result in rebellious or dependent children who experience frequent distrust and thus, tend to be withdrawn from others.
Lopez and Snyder (2009) explain several protective factors for psychological resilience, concluding that parenting style is just one of many factors affecting resilience.
Lopez and Synder also consider parental educational level, socio-economic status and home environment (organized vs. disorganized) as strong influences in the development of a child’s psychological resilience.
Many researchers similar conclusions about Baumrinds’ categorization of parenting styles. The type of relationship, as well as the type of person in the relationship, play big roles in the development of resilience. When positive relationships occur, well-adjusted and rule-abiding behaviors are valued; these influence strong positive effects on resilience levels.
Characteristics of resilience include cognitive skills, personality differences, problem-solving ability, self-regulation, and adaptability to stress. In early relationships and supportive
environments, children can develop tools that subconsciously develop their psychological resilience and these aforementioned skills.
Lopez and Snyder mention these key protective individual factors as:
Faith/understanding the meaning and one’s purpose;
Skills and talents that are valued by self and community;
General acceptance by others.
Environments for Growth
Our surroundings shape who we are, so it seems crucial to design places and institutions—like schools—that promote individual and communal growth. After all, structure and safety effect psychological resilience.
Factors such as public safety, availability to health care, access to green space, etc., all impact the development of an individual and a community’s resilience. The greater the social care and holistic environments, the more likely people will be exposed to the support structures that can help them when life “gets hard.”
Education is one major factor to consider. Schools could be epicentres of developing resilience, as well as safe spaces to practice and develop these skills. Prosocial organizations such as sports teams or clubs can also be hotspots of resilience-training. These environments enable individuals to develop a positive self-image, believe in their strength, and find the purpose amidst change.
A core part of the positive education movement is creating prosocial organizations and effective schools.
For a great example of how to implement resilience in your own environment, check out the Penn Resiliency Program that links well-being and resilience together. Penn designs the program to fit the individual needs, goals, and culture of organizations.
Researcher Dr. Karen Reivich offers a pool of resources in this program. Essentially, every program, workspace, school, etc., can benefit from creating a culture of resilience.