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Is resilience a trait or a state?

Updated: May 3


Resilience is a term that is frequently used in the context of mental health and well-being. At its core, resilience refers to the ability to bounce back from adversity and overcome challenges. However, there is some debate among experts as to whether resilience is a trait or a state. In this blog, we will explore the differences between these two concepts and consider the evidence for and against each perspective.


A trait is a stable characteristic that defines an individual's personality, behaviour, and thinking patterns. It is thought to be relatively fixed and resistant to change over time.


A state, on the other hand, is a temporary condition that can be influenced by environmental factors and fluctuate in response to changing circumstances.


Some experts argue that resilience is a trait that is determined by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. They suggest that certain individuals are simply more resilient than others, regardless of the challenges they face. These individuals are said to possess a range of personality traits that contribute to their resilience, such as optimism, self-efficacy, and a sense of control over their lives.


Other experts suggest that resilience is more of a state that can be cultivated through intentional efforts and effective coping strategies. They argue that individuals who face adversity can develop resilience over time by learning to regulate their emotions, build social support networks, and engage in positive self-talk.


The truth is likely somewhere in between these two perspectives. While there may be some innate qualities that contribute to resilience, such as a genetic predisposition toward positive thinking, the evidence suggests that resilience is largely a product of experience and learning.

For example, studies have found that individuals who experience adversity early in life, such as childhood trauma, are more likely to develop resilience later on. This suggests that resilience may be a learned response to adversity rather than an innate characteristic.


Additionally, research has shown that resilience can be improved through interventions such as therapy, mindfulness practices, and cognitive-behavioural techniques. This further supports the idea that resilience is a state that can be developed through intentional efforts.


Ultimately, the debate over whether resilience is a trait or a state may be less important than the recognition that resilience is an essential component of mental health and well-being. Regardless of whether we are born with a predisposition toward resilience or find ways to develop it over time, cultivating resilience is critical for managing stress, coping with adversity, and maintaining a positive outlook on life.


To summarise, while there is some debate among experts as to whether resilience is a trait or a state, the evidence suggests that it is likely a combination of both. While certain innate qualities may contribute to resilience, such as a genetic predisposition toward positive thinking, resilience is largely a product of experience and learning.


We think recognising the importance of resilience in mental health and well-being is more critical than the debate over its origins. By cultivating resilience through intentional efforts and effective coping strategies, we can all better manage stress, cope with adversity, and maintain a positive outlook on life.

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