Fragile items break when exposed to stress. One would assume that the opposite of fragile would be an item that does not break (it stays the same) under stress. However, philosopher and author Nassim Nicholas Taleb says that the opposite of fragile is when you get stronger from stress; something he calls antifragile. The human body is capable of developing this quality as it adapts to the stresses it is given.
Our physical and mental being can become antifragile. Bones and muscles get stronger when we use them. Medications to prevent osteoporosis do not work unless we do weight bearing or resistance exercises to induce Wolf’s Law (bones get stronger when challenged with force). Muscles get stronger when we do resistance exercises and mitigate some of the atrophy of aging. Science shows that our brain and neuromotor system are also capable of re-wiring if we put our attention and work towards a goal of overcoming such things as injuries and strokes. We can always get better at anything we practice.
Ways to become antifragile - for your body and your brain:
1 - Intentionally inject stress in your life. While long-term stress can have deleterious effects, short bouts of it can make you stronger and better, e.g. fasting, cold showers, a challenging obstacle race, lifting heavy weights, running instead of walking or cycling.
2 - Get rid of negative things: e.g. reduce debt, quit smoking, stop hanging around toxic friends, and eliminate unhealthy foods.
3 - Keep your options open e.g. have reserve funds (for economic downturns or for the flexibility to take advantage of a class or vacation), develop new skills.
We are strong and can always get stronger. The body and brain both adapt to intermittent intervals of stress. What would you like to do better? Develop antifragile qualities to celebrate Mental Health Week (May 7 -13).
Taleb, Nassim N. Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder. New York: Random House, 2012. Print