Is resilience written in our DNA?

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1. Bend but don't break

It’s often said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But we all react to adversity in different ways. While some seem able to pull through hardship, for others it can be more of a struggle.

Scientists have different interpretations of why this happens. According to some, our DNA can determine our resilience, but others believe there is a lot more to it than pure biology.

2. In the blood

In the past 10 years, researchers have linked various genes to our ability to cope with life’s challenges. Does Simon have one of them?

Simon Weston visits the Genome Centre in London to meet psychologists Dr Michael Pluess and Dr Aneta Tunariu, and to see if he has the resilience gene.

While the scientific community is still divided on the genetic component of mental resilience, psychologists have highlighted the importance of training ourselves to be more resilient.

3. Learning to grow

Whether you have the gene or not, there are practical steps that everyone can take to be more resilient in their day-to-day lives. Author and resilience expert Liggy Webb shares her top five tips.

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Resilience is often described as the ability to bend instead of breaking when experiencing pressure. Liggy Webb believes the same qualities can also help you to be more open and willing to take on new opportunities.

4. Pushed to the limit

There are many incredible examples of resilience. Click on the image below to explore four inspirational stories of people who were pushed to the brink, but survived and came back stronger.

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Stories about overcoming incredible challenges have been part of our collective imagination since the beginning of time. They can be powerful examples for our own personal narrative.

5. You know the quote, but who said it?

Click on each image to reveal who came up with these famous quotes about resilience.

Who said

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

It was

Friedrich Nietzsche

This philosopher coined the phrase in his 1889 work Twilight of the Idols, in which he criticised European cultural figures.

Who said

Every cloud has a silver lining.

It was

John Milton

Inspired by lines in Comus, a play about chastity, when the leading lady is lost and Comus is about to try seducing her.

Who said

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

It was

William Hazlitt

In The Fight, Hazlitt depicted an illegal bare-knuckle boxing match and put this maxim into print for the first time in his opening line.

Who said

Fortune favours the brave.

It was


The earliest known written form of this proverb is in the Latin epic The Aeneid and is used to rally troops into a bloody battle.