Why Are Some People More Resilient Than Others?

TQ - resilientResilience is a person’s ability to “bounce back” from adversities and setbacks — you could call it an individual’s mental, or psychological, fortitude. We all experience stress, trauma, depression, loss, failure, etc… at some point or another. These are considered setbacks because they typically get in the way of our goals to some degree, but why is it some people always seem to bounce back quickly, while others let the tiniest setbacks completely derail their mood, outlook, and ambitions? It turns out a large number of factors contribute to a person’s psychological resilience.

Neurological Explanation 

People who are slow to recover from setbacks typically have weak, or few, connections between their prefrontal cortex — responsible for higher functioning — and their amygdala — a part of the limbic system responsible for regulating visceral emotions, such as fear and aggression. This is usually because of low activity in the prefrontal cortex, but the good news is it can be strengthened and reversed by doing mental exercises, such as mindfulness meditation.

Environmental Factors 

The type of environment a person is raised in can have a significant effect on their psychological resilience. For example, someone born into poverty that is brought up without the same resources and opportunities as more affluent children is less likely to possess a high degree of resiliency. However, in some cases people are raised in less than desirable environments come out more resilient than their privileged counterparts, so although their is a connection between environment and resilience, there is no guarantee that a poor environment will definitely diminish resilience.

Psychological and Emotional Factors 

This might be overstating the obvious, but a person’s outlook and general disposition can largely affect their resilience. For example, a person with a cynical outlook who believes they have no chance of success in life, is not likely to be a very resilient person. Similarly, someone who is chronically depressed would also be more likely to lack resilience.

Other Factors 

In addition to all of the aforementioned factors that weigh in on a person’s resilience, there are a host of other variables that could contribute. For example, someone who experiences consistent loss and failure is more likely to lose resiliency over time. Some other factors that may contribute are an unwillingness to ask for help, and/or a lack of problem solving skills and coping mechanisms.



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