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4 Ways to Bounce Back from Disappointment

Find the silver lining in rejection and use it to propel you to the next opportunity.

The Rolling Stones said it best: You can't always get what you want. But you can learn from your disappointments and use the experience to move on and conquer the next challenge. People who experience disappointment, then rely on a unique combination of courage, confidence and hope to pull themselves up out of the resulting slump are called emotionally resilient. They have the same setbacks as anyone, but have learned to deal with them in a positive, constructive manner.

We all have the potential to grow our emotional resiliency in order to get back up a little quicker after a fall; these four tips help you put emotional resiliency into practice after a big disappointment.

Watch your thoughts.
When something bad happens, do you blame yourself and imagine disaster? Try to catch these thoughts, so you can rework them into self-talk that buoys you up instead of weighing you down, says Karen Reivich, Ph.D., director of training programs for the Penn Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. For instance, if you're taking a course and receive a "D" on your first paper, you can call yourself stupid and decide you're going to flunk, or you can see the grade as a clear indicator that you need to study more and perhaps let your husband handle dinner the next time you have a paper due.

Give yourself credit.
People often find it easier to take responsibility for their failures than for their successes, says Reivich. When things go well, many people attribute it to luck or someone's kindness. Resilient people do the reverse. They attribute failure to factors beyond their control and give themselves credit when things go well.

Get happy.
The more positive experiences people have on a regular basis—laughter, hugs, time with loved ones—the better they fare when trouble strikes, according to studies co-authored by Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., distinguished professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To build your happiness reserves, think of five things you can do each day that give you pleasure and do them. Go for a walk at lunchtime. Romp with your dog. Take the scenic route home. Filling your days with small pleasures provides a big boost to your well-being.

See the silver lining.
When difficulties come your way, remind yourself that dealing with setbacks builds your resilience. "Rising to a challenge reveals your abilities," says Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D., author of The Happiness Hypothesis. "It can help you discover strengths you never knew you had. As a result, your sense of who you are shifts. You begin to have more confidence in your ability to overcome obstacles because you've done it once and you know that, if necessary, you can do it again."