No, resilience cannot be found to be genetic. There have been multiple studies that have shown that resilient people have different brain chemistry than other people. People that are not resilient, on the other hand, have been found to have been exposed to a more bad or negative situation in their life. While no one can say for sure about why this is, it has been suggested that resilience is learned rather than genetically inherited.
Let’s explore the causes of resilience in humans in order to answer this question.
University of Southern California Study by researchers Stephanie Carlson and Michael Platt
Many people have speculated that the genes people carry play a role in their ability to cope with adversity. If this were true, wouldn’t understanding which genes make someone resilient help doctors better predict who will suffer from mental illness?
A recent study may provide some answers. The research, done by the University of Southern California researchers Stephanie Carlson and Michael Platt, involved analyzing the DNA of people with high levels of “resilience” – the ability to thrive despite a series of bad events.
A person who believes he or she is invincible may try to avoid or suppress signs that a personal setback has occurred. This individual might say something that reveals a devastating news story, even though it was not intended to do so (e.g. “Hey, I just had a great interview for a new job!”). Conversely, a person who has set realistic goals may be better prepared to confront the reality of a crisis. For instance, a person who is less optimistic about landing a new job might spend time job-searching instead of distracting him or herself with pleasant activities.
Resilience is key to healthy development and essential for healthy relationships. But it is also associated with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues known as “psychopathologies.” So what is the relationship between resilience and psychopathologies? Are they separate risk factors, or are they related to each other?
In Carlson’s new study, people with high levels of resilience were characterized by their ability to maintain positive emotions in spite of difficult situations. These individuals experienced distress but were able to quickly get over it and move forward. Unfortunately, it is hard for scientists to measure resilience: It’s too intangible and there are too many potential ways to define it.
Carlson and Platt’s research team did the best they could with available tools. They relied on a method known as “positive emotionality” (also known as “positive affect”), which can be measured through brain imaging techniques. From this, researchers concluded that people with high positive emotions were more likely to have other resilience characteristics such as optimism, commitment, trustworthiness, and social sensitivity.
The study also measured resilience through activity in a specific brain region: the amygdala. This makes sense since the amygdala is involved in emotion regulation and stress. As a result, it is related to resilience and is important for dealing with stressors.
The researchers then looked at the strength of genetic links between positive emotionality and resilience-associated traits. They found that people who had high levels of positive emotionality also had higher levels of other resilience characteristics. This suggested that resilience was associated with other psychological processes that happen in the brain.
How does one develop resilience
There is no “one size fits all” answer for developing resilience. Different people respond to stress differently, and that means different strategies will work for them in coping with challenges. But some things are universal: people who are resilient tend to have good social skills and a positive outlook on life. And they make an effort to help others as much as possible.
Many people launch into the “7 steps to resilience” approach, but in reality, it’s more of a “1,000 steps to resilience.” The work of building resilience is ongoing. If you make changes one at a time over time, and if you get feedback from your environment to see how you are doing — then you are more likely to succeed.
What are the 7 steps to resilience?
1. Build a sense of competence.
If you jump into an important situation with low confidence, it usually backfires. Before you go about your day, ask yourself: “What skills do I need to meet the demands on me?” If you know what they are, then you won’t feel like you are starting from scratch each day and will make more efficient use of your time.
2. Build a sense of control over your life.
This will help you deal with stress and feel less helpless. You have a say in all the decisions that impact you, so you can maintain a sense of control. This can decrease anxiety, make it easier to sleep and provide some relief from chronic pain.
3. Learn something new every day
You never know what opportunities are going to present themselves or what surprise could happen tomorrow that will change your life! Learning something new is an excellent way to engage your mind, build self-confidence and increase employability.
4. Be grateful
People who are grateful have higher self-esteem, are more motivated to achieve goals and show more empathy toward others. They are also less likely to feel overwhelmed by daily hassles. Gratitude can help you cope when life is overwhelming or things are not going as you would like. Think of 3 things that you are grateful for right now and really appreciate them!
5. Set aside time for fun & relaxation every day.
If you are constantly on the go and never take time to relax and play, it can be hard to be resilient. Have fun every day! It doesn’t have to be a big outing, just something that will make you smile — a trip to your favorite coffee shop or reading a good book in the park.
6. Practice self-care regularly.
Taking care of your body is very important for reducing stress and enhancing health and well-being. Eat a balanced diet, get enough rest and exercise regularly. There is a lot of research that says exercising 3 times a week does wonders for your mental health. A regular practice of breathing meditation and yoga is also recommend as self-care to keep your stress levels under control.
7. Give to others.
Helping others, especially in a time of crisis, provides a sense of validation and belonging that is uplifting. Volunteering for a non-profit organization or even just helping your neighbour with yard work can give you a sense of purpose and strengthen your resilience when life is challenging.
Using the growth mindset to build resilience
Our attitude towards the world and our place in it is what determines how we respond to stress. Our reaction to stress is shaped by our thought patterns, which can be changed with practice. A “growth mindset” view on life means that we actively work towards success through our own actions rather than blaming others for our problems. By changing your attitude toward failure and adversity, you can become more resilient by learning from setbacks and developing resilience.
Here are three ways to build a growth mindset:
1. Keep a daily journal of your successes and failures.
Many people believe that the only way to develop positive traits such as resilience is through training or special programs. In fact, this is not necessarily true. What we make of our experiences can affect our resilience in a big way, even if we are not aware of it! How you react to failure or adversity in life (or how you perceive it) can affect your ability to bounce back. The more you journal about your successes and failures, the more aware you become of how you respond to negative experiences.
2. Do something kind for someone in need.
Studies have shown that people who volunteer regularly are more likely to bounce back from adversity in the future. Our sense of belonging and support can be enhanced when we help others and make a difference in their lives. When you do something kind for someone, it will remind you that good things happen in life even if it is difficult sometimes.
3. Train your mindset using the present moment.
Our thoughts are an active part of our experience of reality, so how we think about things can have a big impact on how we feel. It is possible to change your thinking patterns with practice. Whenever you experience negative thoughts, try to shift them into a more positive or accepting frame of mind. Learn to pause before you respond and examine whether your thoughts are realistic and helpful or simply unrealistic and harmful.
How to help kids build resilience?
Resilient kids in the future will be resilient kids, and this means they are more likely to thrive. The surest way to help build a resilient child is by helping them learn resilience now. If you can help your child build strong coping skills early on, it will make all the difference when they face difficult situations later in life.
Here are three steps that you can take to help your child build resilience:
1. Teach them tools for dealing with worry and stress.
Being able to manage stress effectively can make a big difference in a child’s life. Teach them relaxation techniques such as breathing mediation or yoga. Exercise and physical activity is also very important for all children, and studies have shown that many kids who participate in regular exercise have higher levels of resilience.
2. Develop positive emotions in the child.
Children who are happy at home may not be as resilient when they encounter difficulties outside of the home, but being happy at home is extremely important for their development. It has been shown that children who develop positive emotions in the home are more resilient when they encounter challenges later in life.
3. Encourage your child to engage in meaningful work.
People who feel like they belong to a purposeful community are more likely to have strong long-term relationships and enjoy meaningful work that fulfills their needs and values. Even if this isn’t realistic, it is still important for your child’s life satisfaction!
As we have learned that resilience is not genetic and is something that people have developed through life experiences, it is necessary to teach yourself and learn how to be resilient. Building resilience is not something that happens overnight. Start small — a more confident stride in the morning or a trip out of the house to make breakfast. Make small steps to build more confidence in yourself even if this feels really big!
Over time, you will start developing what it takes to become resilient — a strong mind, good habits and positive relationships. What you have learned today will help you to become resilient in the future, and may even improve your day-to-day life!