Bouncing Back: Resilience and the Power of Positive Thinking

Stress is a normal life experience, and chances are at some point during college, you and your peers will feel stress or experience adversity. Strengthening your ability to manage stress in the moment can increase your resiliency, or ability to bounce back from an adverse situation and perform well under stress.

Developing and maintaining a positive mindset is foundational to resiliency. Positive outlooks or mindsets can help you become more resilient and help protect your physical and emotional health, like lowering your risk for depression and protecting you against minor illnesses like colds.

The Power of Positivity

Have you ever heard the phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? This is a classic example of a positive mindset: taking something sour or challenging and making something sweet from it. A positive mindset simply means that you approach adverse situations constructively and find the good in a challenging situation. Happiness researcher Shawn Anchor found that happiness is predicted 90% by how an individual processes information and only 10% by their external environment or world. So, the way we manage a challenge in the moment is predictive of happiness.

But what if I’m naturally a glass half empty kind of person?

If you relate to this, just know that there are simple things you can do to develop your positive mindset: 

Make lemonade.

You can do this in one of two ways. First, try to find humor and laugh when things don’t go your way. Second, identify one good aspect or growth or learning opportunity from the experience. Try finishing this sentence: “Well at least_____________.”

As Dory would say, “Just keep swimming.”

When facing an adverse situation, find one thing you can control and identify one step you can take to manage  or improve things.

Reflect on good vibes.

Generate positive thoughts by reflecting back upon positive moments. Think about a day where you were performing at your best or you managed a stressful event really well. What was happening then and how can you replicate that?

Creat a folder of happiness.

Keep a positivity folder on your phone or device with photos, videos, or quotes that make you happy.

Find a mantra.

Identify a quote or song that inspires you or redirects you when you are feeling pressure. Keep it someplace you can regularly see or listen to it, like your phone’s or computer’s wallpaper or a sticker on your laptop. Alternatively, find a song or group of songs that boost your mood and create a playlist on a readily available streaming app.

Be thankful.

Practice gratitude and reflect on 2-3 good things that happened to you each day. Reframe a stressful event. One simple way to do so is instead of focusing on a “have to,” make it a “get to”. For example, change “I have to attend a meeting and study for my exam” into  “I get to attend the meeting and study for an exam.” One sounds like a burden, the other a privilege to be thankful for. 

Squash negative self-talk.

If a critical thought crosses your mind, counter it with a positive one. If you tend to be self-critical, create a list of all the things you love about yourself or your abilities, revisit it, and add to it.

Practice good self-care.

Have a plan to manage stress, get moving, eat healthy, and prioritize sleep.

There are several other strategies you can use to boost resiliency:

How to Be Resilient