Do you feel like your emotions control you more than you control them? Maybe you feel like your mood is as temperamental as the weather, or you struggle to follow through on goals you've set.
If this sounds like you, we bet you wish you could be a little more resolute: stick it out when the going gets tough, tick through your to-do list when motivation is lacking, and remain calm and kind even as difficulties arise.
Well, the good news is that it's entirely possible to better regulate your emotions and live a happier life. The secret to doing it? Strengthening your emotional resilience muscles by harnessing the power of mind-hacking.
What is emotional resilience?
At its simplest, emotional resilience is your ability to cope with life's ups and downs. A person with high levels of emotional resilience will quickly bounce back from perceived difficulties and manage stressful situations gracefully.
People who have developed this quality are also more likely to push themselves outside their comfort zones, say yes to new opportunities, and view life through an optimistic lens.
In conjunction, someone with low levels of emotional resilience will find it more challenging to deal with adversity. They may carry a deep feeling that they're not reaching their full potential, turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms when stressed and suffer from feelings of low self-esteem, doubt and anxiety.
If you're wondering where you fall on the emotional resilience scale, we recommend taking the Big Five personality test. While emotional resilience is not a facet of the Big Five in itself, it strongly correlates to high degrees of Openness and Agreeableness and low Neuroticism scores, so bear that in mind when you review your results!
What is mind-hacking?
Built on the principles of mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy, mind-hacking centers around the idea that you can reprogram the way you think and feel to improve emotional wellbeing.
In the same way that you can hack into a computer and alter the code, you can gently reprogram the neural pathways in your brain, creating an inner experience that is more stable, fulfilling and peaceful.
Now, what many emotionally resilient people might not realize is that they have developed the skill of mind-hacking in leaps and bounds.
As research from the University of Oxford shows, mind-hacking and emotional resilience go hand in hand, with emotional resilience strongly linked to "high degrees of cognitive control, cognitive flexibility, and the ability to self-regulate emotional reactivity."
The great thing about mind-hacking is that anyone can learn how to do it and, in turn, strengthen their emotional resilience. Below, we'll explore how.
As a side note, before we dive in, we want to stress that mind-hacking is not a replacement for conventional mental health therapies and treatments, but it is a complementary tool for self-exploration and self-development.
So, if you are suffering from persistent low moods or anxious feelings, consider the below tips as things to add to your self-help toolbox on top of seeking expert help.
1. Foster a growth mindset
Popularized by psychologist Carol Dweck, a growth mindset is the belief that you can learn new skills and abilities over your lifetime. While people with a fixed mindset think that their intelligence, talents and abilities are innate, people with a growth mindset understand that they can develop a range of skills through handwork, proper teaching and persistence.
With that in mind, the first step towards improving your emotional resilience is adopting a growth mindset, understanding that you can learn to better manage setbacks.
Of course, knowing what a growth mindset is and actually applying the principle to ourselves are two very different things. So, here are a few tips to help you:
- Reframe challenges and mistakes as opportunities to learn more about the world and yourself.
- Understand that failure is not a reflection of your self-worth. While uncomfortable, remember it is a necessary stepping stone towards success.
- Commit to lifelong learning: read, listen to podcasts, learn a new language or instrument, attend talks – keep learning and fueling your personal growth daily.
"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." - Nelson Mandela
2. Develop metacognition
If you take anything away from this article, we hope it is a curiosity and awareness about the skill of metacognition.
Metacognition is the process of being introspective about your thoughts. We know, it sounds a little tricky to get your head around at first, but it really is an enlightening ability that is a surefire way to boost emotional resilience.
Rather than being a slave to our thoughts, emotions and moods, metacognition advises us to stop and assess whether our temporary feelings align with our long-term goals and desires. It's the understanding that we, as individuals, are responsible for our emotions and can proactively manage them.
When you practice metacognition, you become aware of the thoughts, feelings and moods you experience. Instead of acting on autopilot and reacting immediately, metacognition advises that you observe your own mind, pause before acting, and then choose to respond intentionally in a way that aligns with your values, goals and moral principles.
Metacognition is very nicely summed up in this quote from renowned psychologist Victor Frankl, who said: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
For people looking to boost emotional resilience, you can easily see how metacognition is a great asset, helping you to regulate emotions during tricky times and reach your full potential. In fact, research shows that this form of mindfulness training directly results in improved resilience and quality of life.
There are lots of great books and apps out there that can help you to learn more about metacognition. The Waking Up meditation app and Jon Acuff's book, Soundtracks, are two great places to start for inspiration.
"Resilience is more available to people curious about their own line of thinking and behaving," - Brene Brown
3. Start value-based goal setting
Are you clear on where you'd like your life to go and what makes you happy, fulfilled and purposeful? If you're not, it's time to find out!
After all, if you have clear values, goals and ambitions, it's much easier to foster emotional resilience. When you truly believe in what you're doing, you're more likely to find the inner strength to push forward – even in the face of adversity or knock-backs.
This is the essence of grit, a term popularized in the book by psychologist Angela Duckworth. Duckworth notes that grit is "passion and sustained persistence towards achievement, combining resilience, ambition, and self-control in the pursuit of goals."
If you're still determining your values, passions, and goals, that's ok. Now is a chance to discover more about yourself. Tools like our TypeFinder personality test are a great stepping stone to learning more about who you are, your strengths and your inner motivations. And our EQ Emotional Intelligence test can tell you a lot about how you regulate and manage your emotions and stay on track with goals no matter how you’re feeling. We call this aspect of EQ Emotional Control.
Going back to Duckworth, her research found that 'helping others' showed up repeatedly among those who felt they were living purposeful lives. So, as you brainstorm value-based goals, we advise incorporating causes close to your heart in some shape or form.
Stay curious, put yourself out there and start learning more about what's important to you as a person. As you become more aware of your values and what's important to you, we're sure your emotional resilience will start to flourish in tandem.
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” - Friedrich Nietzsche
4. Practice kinder self-talk
As we know, two people can go through the exact same stressful experience but have very different emotional responses. Someone with solid levels of emotional resilience can dust themselves off quickly and regulate any negative emotions.
On the other hand, the individual with weak emotional resilience muscles may find that their inner monologue becomes highly self-critical and unkind. They may catastrophize about the future, berate themselves for not being good enough and, ultimately, prolong feelings of sadness, frustration and shame.
Linking to meta-thinking, it's crucial for all of us to work on our internal monologues and proactively speak to ourselves more compassionately.
If you're used to being self-critical, practicing kinder self-talk can feel pretty alien and uncomfortable. A helpful tip is speaking to yourself like your best friend or a younger sibling.
The idea is to change your inner soundtrack from one of criticism, judgment and severity to thoughts that are compassionate, nurturing and encouraging. For example, instead of worrying "what could go wrong?" you can start to ask yourself: "what could go right?"
Commit to doing this daily, and you'll soon start to build emotional resilience. Rather than beating yourself up for mistakes, you'll see learning opportunities. Instead of leaning into unhealthy coping mechanisms when stressed, you'll learn to regulate your emotions and overcome challenges.
Self-compassion also has plenty of knock-on benefits for your external relationships. The more compassionate you are with yourself, the easier you will find it to extend empathy and understanding to others.
"It's your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life's story will develop." ― Dieter F. Uchtdorf
5. Choose courage over comfort
Last but certainly not least, a critical aspect of fostering emotional resilience is maintaining courage: the belief that you can withstand uncomfortable emotions and do the right thing, even when it feels difficult or scary.
By nature, being courageous isn't easy. It involves pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones and coming face to face with our fears – often centered around distressing emotions like rejection, inadequacy and failure.
But as Brene Brown notes in her book Rising Strong, "we need to cultivate the courage to be uncomfortable and to accept discomfort as a part of growth."
Without courage, we cannot adequately strengthen our emotional resilience muscles. We must work through our fears, take ownership of our circumstances and dare to pursue the things that matter to us. The more we do, the braver we will become.
"No one escapes pain, fear, and suffering. Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, from suffering can come strength – if we have the virtue of resilience." ― Eric Greitens, Resilience
Ultimately, we hope this article gives you a sense of inspiration and hope for the future. While committing to any change is scary, there is so much to be gained from developing a healthier relationship with ourselves, taking ownership of our thoughts and challenging ourselves to live in accordance with our values.
If we can build a solid foundation within, we can better weather the storms of life as they arise and find a deeper sense of joy and meaning.