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This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Flourish" by Martin E. P. Seligman. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the relationship between resilience and well-being? How can you strengthen your resilience?

Resilience is one of the few positive psychology principles that you should strengthen in order to increase personal well-being. According to Flourish by Martin E. P. Seligman, you can do so by developing several vital aspects of your life.

Continue reading to learn how resilience will improve your lifestyle.

Strengthen Your Resilience

Positive psychology helps you build the good qualities and emotions of life. But you’ll still face challenging situations from time to time that will trigger negative emotions. Rather than minimize those negative emotions, Seligman argues that you should instead increase your resilience and well-being will be improved. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from hardship. When you’re more resilient to setbacks, you can cope more easily with the negative emotions that inevitably arise. Many methods for building resilience are the same as those for building well-being, such as developing strengths, cultivating positive relationships, and practicing gratitude.

(Shortform note: People often assume that becoming more resilient means brushing off their negative emotions. But in The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown says that resilience comes from letting yourself feel your negative emotions—allow yourself to cry when you’re sad and try to understand the source of your sadness. She explains that when you try to numb your pain, you also numb your joy. Letting yourself feel negative emotions allows you to fully appreciate the positive ones, and having positive memories can help you cope with future challenges.)

Resilience can improve everyone’s well-being, but it’s especially important for people who face more severe stressors than others, like members of the armed forces, to learn ways to become more resilient. When tasked with improving the psychological fitness of Army soldiers, Seligman uncovered one important avenue for strengthening resilience: post-traumatic growth. Post-traumatic growth occurs when someone becomes stronger, wiser, and more capable of overcoming difficulties after experiencing a difficult event.

(Shortform note: Resilience isn’t the only benefit of post-traumatic growth (PTG). According to studies on military personnel, soldiers who experience PTG also see improvements in other aspects of their lives, such as their mental health, self-esteem, life satisfaction, and relationships. Research suggests that certain personal factors can increase a soldier’s likelihood of experiencing PTG, such as being hardy (physically and psychologically tough) and responsible. Soldiers who have stronger social support systems—which include good team relations and healthier relationships with their partner or family members—tend to also experience more PTG.)

Seligman argues that raising awareness of the potential for post-traumatic growth can boost resilience among soldiers. When soldiers know about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but not post-traumatic growth, they may be more prone to developing PTSD. Further, teaching soldiers ways to achieve post-traumatic growth can help them become more resilient to the hardships of their profession.

(Shortform note: You might be skeptical about Seligman’s claim that simply knowing about post-traumatic growth increases a person’s likelihood of experiencing it. But studies support this, showing that the more you think about the traumatic event, the more likely you are to grow from it. This is because growth happens when you’re able to make sense of the trauma and create a new worldview. However, some experts caution against encouraging people to see their trauma as a platform for growth. This can cause people to feel pressured to claim that they’ve grown from their trauma and hide their suffering when they’re still struggling with it. This can lead to a worse decline in mental health.)

How Resilience and Well-Being Benefit Each Other

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Martin E. P. Seligman's "Flourish" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Flourish summary:

  • Why happiness is not the key to enjoying life to the fullest
  • Why we should be focusing on well-being over happiness
  • Actionable advice for enhancing global and personal well-being

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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