Do you want to grow your inner strength, flexibility for life’s constant changes, and your reserve capacities for greater resilience? Learning from books can really help you along this path. Below is a list of my recommended reading.
The scientific research on resiliency broadly identifies three areas of personal or “internal” individual factors associated with greater resilience. These three areas naturally overlap in everyday life, of course, just as the contents of all of these books do. But I place these books in these respective categories based on what I interpret as the author’s emphasis or main focus.
I. Emotional Regulation
Emotional regulation includes coping strategies such as deep diaphragmatic breathing, physical exercise and movement, and other healthy activities you can do to manage your acute and chronic stress states. It also includes mindfulness tools and techniques you can readily learn, which literally rewire your brain to expand and strengthen its capacity for emotional regulation and general habits of self care.
* The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems by Ronald D. Siegel, PsyD. Clear and accessibly written. Dr. Siegel teaches at Harvard Medical School, and he is steeped with scientific understanding. But this book is mostly full of straightforward meditation and simple mindfulness techniques that you can apply to myriad everyday problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, substance problems, intimate relationships, grief, and more.
* Bouncing Back by Linda Graham, MFT. Based largely on the concept of self-directed neuroplasticity, Graham shows how modern science is revealing that not just our minds but also our brains themselves can change and grow, that is, be rewired for greater resilience through the practice of meditation, guided imagery, breathing, and other old and newly developed mindfulness training techniques. Graham goes into the brain science and research of it all, but mostly her book is full of meditations and mindfulness exercises you can practice to improve your emotional well-being in order to cope better with everyday living.
II. Thinking Style
First and foremost, thinking style means developing the ability to observe or analyze your thinking processes. This includes your ability to recognize and challenge unhealthy beliefs that might be influencing your behavior, and it includes your ability to analyze your self-talk and to foster what psychologists call an “internal locus of control" or what I call in my work a correct sense of your personal responsibility.
* The Optimistic Child by Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D. Seligman describes an educational program for children, but one that can be adapted and applied to adults. It aims to reveal how we currently think about ourselves, others, and the world and how we can replace any unhealthy thinking with a more flexible and reality-based optimism. The book is full of practical tips and strategies on how to examine one's own thinking styles and how to change them to become more resilient.
* The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivitch, Ph.D. and Andrew Shatte, Ph.D. Like all of the books in this bibliography, this book spans all three areas of resilience as it identifies seven core keys to becoming more resilient: emotional regulation, impulse control, empathy, optimism, causal analysis, self-efficacy, and reaching out. But her main emphasis, like Seligman’s with whom she began her career, is on our thinking styles, specifically how we “self-talk” and how we think and respond to our life’s inevitable adversities, great and small.
III. Meaning in Life
“Meaning in Life” is looking at your purpose in life. What is important to you? The famous Austrian psychiatrist and German World War II concentration camp survivor, Viktor Frankl, was able to identify and explain why some people survived longer than others in such extreme and hostile conditions based on their ability to tap into deeply held personal reasons for their existence, which made them stronger. Developing a sense of purpose is critically important to leading a resilient life.
* The Path to Purpose: Helping Our Children Find Their Calling in Life by William Damon, Ph.D. Damon makes the compelling argument that pursuing a life of purpose is directly linked to a life full of personal satisfaction and well-being. He offers strategies and suggestions to parents, teachers, counselors, therapists, and others with influence over young people on how to engage young people in conversations about finding purpose and meaning in their lives.
* Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom For Living A Better Life by Eric Greitens. Greitens is a retired Navy Seal and this book is written in the format of “letters to a friend,” a friend who is also a former Seal and a little lost in finding his way in life right now. It is a compassionate book, very readable, and full of wisdom, suggestions, and nuts and bolts practical things you can try doing yourself right now to improve your everyday resilience in the face of life’s inevitable challenges.
meQuilibrium: 14 Days to Cooler, Calmer, Happier by Jan Bruce, Andrew Shatte, Ph.D., and Adam Perlman, MD/MPH
The Resilience Breakthrough: 27 Tools for Turning Adversity Into Action by Christian Moore, LCSW
The Social Ecology of Resilience: A Handbook for Theory and Practice by Michael Unger
Learn more about Evidence-Based Resiliency Training from the research reports, articles, books, and presentations you'll find below. Some of the materials can be downloaded here, while others are available through links.
How People Learn to Be Resilient by Maria Konnikova, The New Yorker, February 11, 2016
Stress: The Roots of Resilience by Virginia Hughes | Nature, October 10, 2012
The Science of Resilience by Bari Walsh, Harvard Graduate School of Education, March 23, 2015
Evidence-Based Program Resources
Developing Resilience: An Evidence-Based Guide for Practitioners, project funded by the Affinity Health at Work research consortium, including the CIPD, Business in the Community (BITC), and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), UK. (Download pdf)
Resilience and Vulnerability: Adaptation in the Context of Childhood Adversities, edited by Suniyar Luther (Download pdf)
National Resilience Resource Center | associated with the University of Minnesota
TED Talk: Cultivating Resilience: Greg Eells, Ph.D., Director, Counseling and Psychological Services, Cornell University, published on YouTube January 16, 2015
TED Talk: The Power of Resilience: Sam Goldstein, Ph.D., published on YouTube May 7, 2012