11 Reasons To Develop Greater Emotional Resilience

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant
Updated February 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

According to Merriam-Webster, resilience is “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” It can help us endure and bounce back from hardship and adversity. When it comes to resilience, it’s not an all-or-nothing trait. If you sense that you may lack resilience, know that you can cultivate more of this valuable emotional skill. Below, we’ll explore different types of resilience and 11 reasons to strive to develop more of it.

Two women are sitting at a desk and looking at a notebook; one is holding a credit card and the other is writing in a notebook; they both have happy expressions.
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A healthy mental state often requires emotional resilience

Emotional resilience

Emotional resilience allows us to endure tragedy, trauma, and adversity and then recover to a state of overall positive well-being.

Overall, there are three types of psychological resilience:

  1. Inherent resilience comes from genetic/biological makeup but also one’s experiences and home life during the first seven years of life. When those conditions are healthy, this kind of resilience can provide a foundation to build on throughout life.
  2. Adapted resilience can help us to carry on during a harmful situation or just after such a situation. You use adaptive resilience on your own by retrieving your inner and outer resources when you need them. As with inherent resilience, you can build on your existing capacity for adapted resilience throughout life.
  3. Learned resilience comes from using the knowledge you’ve gained from adapted resilience to live through and recover from difficult experiences. You can also learn resilience from other people, such as role models, resilience training instructors, and therapists.

Why we all need emotional resilience

When we don’t build sufficient resilience, we may feel vulnerable, fatigued, or weighted down when difficulties arise. Anyone, whether they possess high inherent resilience or not, can benefit from developing greater emotional resilience.

Below are 11 reasons to cultivate greater emotional resilience:

1. Reduced risk of stress-related physical illness

Individuals who are psychologically resilient may be less likely to become physically ill. Lack of resilience can bring chronic stress, possibly resulting in high blood pressure, gastrointestinal discomfort, heart disease, and a weakened immune system.

Our inability to cope with negative events doesn’t always cause physical problems, but the associated stress can make existing disorders and illnesses worse.

2. Reduced anxiety

When resilience is high, people are often more likely to take positive action to improve a difficult situation or overcome past trauma or tragedy. They may be more likely to set worry aside and focus on the ways they can affect the situation in the present. 

Although we don’t have outward control over traumatic situations, resilience can encourage us to seek control inwardly by changing our thinking and approach. When we have better control over these factors, we’ll likely have better control over feelings of anxiety.

3. Reduced depression

People with high resilience tend not to dwell on the negative aspects of adversity. Instead, they may find ways to overcome a difficult situation or even make it benefit them. They often look for ways to learn from a situation if there's no way out of it and to be more assertive in making changes when possible. Taking steps like these can decrease the tendency to ruminate over negativity, which can cultivate depression.

Getty/Alistair Berg

4. Greater longevity

People with more resilience tend to live longer than those with less resilience. One study involving senior citizens states, “Resilience significantly contributes to longevity at all ages, and it becomes even more profound at very advanced ages.” The study also found that seniors with exceptional resiliency tended to express feelings regularly and have a sense of purpose that forms “connections between their past, present, and future lives.”

5. Less high-risk behavior

People with lower resilience may be more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors like engaging in excessive alcohol or substance use, overeating, gambling, and engaging in physically dangerous situations. These behaviors are often used as coping mechanisms in stressful times (and beyond) when individuals lack resilience.

6. Fewer absences from work

Physical and mental health challenges and risky behaviors due to stress can often keep people away from work. This can make matters worse if the job itself is a source of stress. Higher resiliency not only decreases stress but may also provide the courage and mental strength to find another job and adapt to a stressful work environment.

7. Greater success at work

Being present and on time more often is just one aspect of work success. We may be required to show sound judgment, stay focused on required tasks, and take the initiative to go above and beyond. With high resilience, we’re more positive and action-oriented.

8. Improved learning ability

Natural resilience allows babies and young children to keep trying in the face of failure, contributing to their ability to learn at an exceptionally fast pace to achieve major milestones like walking, talking, learning the alphabet, counting, and more. Adults can learn from children in this way. Greater resilience can minimize our fear of failure, which may make us more comfortable trying new things and exploring our environment.

9. Stronger social ties

For people with less resilience, isolation may seem like the safest choice. This means potentially spending less time with friends, family, and community who can support them through difficult times. They may also miss opportunities to help others when they need it. Isolation may also lead them to miss social events and gatherings, which often means missing out on fun, happiness, and laughter.

10. Better long-term relationships

It can be challenging to have a healthy relationship when one or both people involved lack resilience. If only one partner has high resilience, they may feel the need to constantly support the other. The relationship may experience strain under the weight of that expenditure in times of considerable stress. High-resilience partners may also feel as if their partner is taking advantage at times, which may lead to feelings of resentment.

The partner with lower resilience may find it difficult to be an equal contributor to the relationship. They may become dependent and unable to function individually. This can create feelings of inadequacy, potentially leading to more mental health concerns.

11. Better preparation for life’s unpredictability

When life is good right now and we’ve had a relatively easy life so far, we may feel we don't need resilience. Everything's always been fine, and things aren’t expected to change much. While that may be true at this very moment, we can never predict exactly what will happen in the future. Change is inevitable and often surprising. Resiliency is often required to cope with major changes, tragedies, or trauma. Without resiliency, we may have a much harder time surviving change and thriving in the future.

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A healthy mental state often requires emotional resilience

Build more resilience with a licensed therapist

Learning how to build resilience in the face of difficulty is challenging for some, but it isn’t an “either you have it or you don’t” situation. With therapy and support, resilience can be cultivated throughout life.  

Therapists can help people discover their capacity for resilience in several ways. They can work with you to identify situations in the past where you made healthy choices that led to better resiliency, in addition to exploring other situations where you didn’t. A therapist may offer insight into your specific challenges by examining past events that may contribute to feelings of low self-esteem. Also, they may help you learn coping methods beyond therapy to build your resiliency and confidence.

If you choose to seek help in building resilience, BetterHelp can match you with a licensed therapist who has experience helping people cultivate more resilience. BetterHelp is effective and convenient—you just need an internet connection to get started. From there, you can participate in sessions from anywhere (including the comfort of your own home) via audio or video chat. Also, if you are experiencing challenges with resilience in between sessions, you can contact your therapist 24/7 via in-app messaging, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of online therapy. Further, the Berkeley Well-Being Institute conducted a study of individuals who participated in both in-person therapy and online therapy through BetterHelp. According to the research, participants found online therapy to be more convenient and more affordable than in-person therapy. 

Therapist reviews

“Melissa has good boundaries and great reflective listening skills. She is helping me to build resilience in ways that respect my process and help me feel at ease.”

“Yvette has really helped me grow. After around 3-4 months, I've already seen an improvement in my ability to handle tough situations and develop a stronger inner self. I've had therapy from countless professionals, but this is the first time that I had therapy and I am actually resilient emotionally. Wow, I didn't know I could do that, and really thank Yvette for being a great therapist to help get me to this point.”

Takeaway

If you think you may be experiencing low resilience and would like to build more, you don’t have to do it alone. With BetterHelp, you can talk to a licensed therapist with experience helping people become stronger and more resilient. You may find that talking to a therapist helps you build more resilience faster than you might on your own. Take the first step to cultivating greater resilience and reach out to BetterHelp.

Cultivate emotional resilience with a professional

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