Happiness is a wonderful state to be in, but none of us feel that way all the time. A lot of the time we experience anxiety and depression too. I think it’s really useful to decide to see personal resilience as the key to getting thru these harder times. To see the opposite of “happiness” as resilience, not depression, is personally empowering. Resilience: your ability to cope and grow with life’s challenges. Emotional resilience needs to be practiced, it is not necessarily your foundational belief. But invest in it and you will see how it begins to build a protective layer of confidence and self-belief around you, one that allows you to believe in you; and also assists in safeguarding you from depressive or potentially overwhelming experiences.

Boosting your ability to be resilient are these key practices:

1. Sleep

Sleep is crucial for people and I really think we tend to underestimate its importance, thinking that we can all get by with minimal downtime these days. But listen, sleep disturbances bring your mood down and impact severely on your ability to cope with everyday stressors.

2. Diet

Everything that we put in our mouth affects our mood.

Here are the offenders: nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, white flour, and processed food — you know, what you live on. The best things you can put in your body are fresh fruit and vegetables. Fresh natural product in its original state… organic fruit and vegetables; complex starches (whole grains, beans, potatoes);  vitamins (vitamin B-complex, vitamins C, D, and E, and a multivitamin); minerals (magnesium, calcium, and zinc); and omega-3 fatty acids. Cut out the artificial additives and you will find yourself feeling unimaginably more energized and positive.

3. Exercise

I am a big believer in the message of self-care that routinely exercising delivers. You are participating in looking after yourself, and taking time out to ‘stop’ and focus on you. This affirms your ability to love and care for yourself. I also believe the routine of daily or regular exercise reassures the mind that an outlet for stress and release is routinely available and that this trains our minds to seek release for negative or difficult emotions thru positive activity.

Even as little as 20 minutes a week of physical activity can boost mental health**…. so come on, there’s no excuse for not doing that, though honestly doing it 4 times a week would be better!! Exercise helps your state of mind by stimulating brain chemicals that foster the growth of nerve cells. It increases the activity of serotonin and/or norepinephrine and raises your heart rate releasing positive endorphins and hormones which reduce pain, induce euphoria, and help control the brain’s response to stress and anxiety.

** British Journal of Sports Medicine

4. Relationships and Community

Humans, like all mammals, are social beings. We tend to be happiest when feeling connected and part of a network of meaningful relationships. Happiness research shows that in order to thrive loving relationships are crucial to our well-being. All our relationships matter, and personally I look to start with the relationship with myself and the universe, or creator or ‘god’; however, you see it and working out from there. Belonging to a group gives people a sense of identity and belonging, in a similar way interpersonal relationships do. You belong somewhere, you are not alone, and others are like-minded and understand you; therefore you are not alone.

5. Purpose

The belief I hold is that a sense of purpose is critical to a fulfilling life. Knowing who you are and that your life has meaning above and beyond your immediate self is I think our life’s greatest work. Whether it be the raising of our children, the commitment to a cause, the pursuit of knowledge, or skill for purposes not just self-serving are strong antidotes to depression.

Personally, I love Gandhi and refer to him a lot, and in his words “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Helping others helps yourself.

6. Gratitude

Seriously, the whole gratitude train of thought sounds so simple that it almost can feel redundant. But look again, nothing is more powerful than appreciating what you have at this moment and how lucky you are. If you doubt this, try it for yourself; record once a day all the things you have to be grateful for — your health, your friends, your environment, your loved ones, your pets, and so on as is applicable to you. Gratitude exercises can increase your energy, relieve fatigue, and put your life in perspective.

And remember that saying ‘ I used to complain I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet…’