By Corporate English Solutions

25 September 2023 - 15:32

The neuroscience of resilience - Strengthening mental fitness for wellbeing in the workplace

In today's fast-paced business landscape, employee mental fitness is crucial for productivity and well-being. But how do you cultivate it effectively? 

We delve into the world of neuroscience to explore the foundations of resilience. Discover actionable insights and strategies to empower your employees for a more resilient and thriving workplace.


Reading time: 5 minutes

How mentally fit and resilient are your employees? 

An urgent question today in the rapidly changing and fast work environment. 

Workplace wellbeing is not simply a hot topic. It’s become a strategic necessity. And understanding of wellbeing has developed beyond the narrow concept of absence of illness – it also includes proactively developing healthy minds by developing mental fitness and resilience.

But what is mental fitness? 

Like physical fitness, mental fitness is about having your mind in shape. It’s about being strong and adaptable. When we’re mentally fit, we think clearly, manage our emotions, are able to adapt and make good decisions. The impact? We can navigate challenges, overcome stressors and handle cognitive demands. 

And resilience? 

Think of resilience as the muscle that builds mental fitness and underpins our wellbeing. Defined as the ability to bounce back in the face of difficulties, it has become, unsurprisingly, a critical skill for success in recent times. When we are resilient, we maintain emotional balance during inevitable adversity and reduce the likelihood of debilitating stress. 

Yet, there is often a misconception about resilience: That it’s all about the bounce back. It’s not. It’s about first taking time to recover and making time to learn from the difficulty so you get back up, stronger. Neuroscience shows us how

Neuroscience is the study of the brain and how it works. It sheds light on how our brain processes and responds to stress and adapts to challenges. All vital know-how for supporting wellbeing.

But why’s this relevant to organisations now? 

Because understanding the link between neuroscience, mental resilience and fitness helps you improve your employees’ wellbeing and provides insights into how organisations flourish. After all, teams who are resilient and mentally fit, are more engaged, more equipped to handle challenges, more productive and enjoy emotional balance. 

And here’s more good news about resilience: It is a set of skills, behaviours and actions that can be learned and developed. That is, we can activate it in ourselves and cultivate it in others. 

Best of all, the strength of our resilience can be developed in simple, everyday actions. 

Discover how to harness essential facts from neuroscience and develop your teams’ workplace resilience skills and mental fitness for wellbeing and organisational success.

1. Boost neuroplasticity to bolster resilience

The why

Boosting our brain’s neuroplasticity – our brain’s elasticity – is what strengthens our resilience muscle to respond effectively to adversity. 

The neuroscience

Fact #1: Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to rewire itself. 

Fact #2: The brain is made up of neural pathways, a network that transmits signals and information.

Fact #3:  New neural connections form when exposed to new experiences, resulting in the brain’s increased elasticity.

The actions

  • Encourage employees to engage in new experiences
  • Encourage employees to learn something new
  • Encourage employees to step beyond their comfort zones.

The results 

Regular boosts to your neuroplasticity leads to increased adaptability to challenges, an enhanced capacity to respond resiliently to adversity and a cultivated and strengthened growth mindset.

2. Manage cortisol to soothe stress and bolster resilience

The why

Understanding stress’s impact on our brain and how cortisol works helps fine-tune our stress responses and bolsters mental resilience. 

The neuroscience

Fact #1: Cortisol, the hormone released in response to stress, in the right amount can be helpful as a surge aids quick responses.

Fact #2: Chronic stress results in unhealthy amounts of cortisol which impairs our cognitive and emotional abilities and strength.

The actions

  • Physical activity
  • Creative activities
  • Aromatherapy
  • Laughter therapy
  • Social connections.

The results 

Increased awareness of your brain’s response to stress leads to better managed stress responses and cortisol regulation. And the impact of this has a ripple effect: You enhance your ability to manage future stressors, bolstering resilience.

3. Cultivate mindfulness to build resilience

The why

Understanding how mindfulness enhances the brain’s prefrontal cortex activation helps you become better equipped to handle adversity and increases resilience.

The neuroscience

Fact #1: The prefrontal cortex is the area in the brain which determines executive function such as self-control, planning, decision-making and problem solving. 

Fact #2: The prefrontal cortex is activated and strengthened through mindfulness, a state of mind of purposeful attention, openness and connection to our feelings. 

The actions

  • Deep breathing
  • Body scanning
  • Mindful observations
  • Mindful walking
  • Guided meditations.

The results

Practising mindfulness regularly leads to improved brain function, improved emotional regulation, better decision making under stress and boosted resilience.

4. Foster togetherness for team’s enhanced neural resilience 

The why

Fostering togetherness and teamwork triggers the release of oxytocin which bolsters personal and collective resilience to tackle challenges. 

The neuroscience

Fact #1: Oxytocin is the bonding hormone which fosters feelings of trust, empathy and a sense of togetherness.

Fact #2: Oxytocin facilitates adaptive fear which helps us respond adaptively to fear instead of with a stress response. It also reduces maladaptive anxiety

The actions 

  • Team huddles
  • Brainstorming
  • Collective decision-making
  • Team building 
  • Team reflections on challenges overcome when projects end.

The results

Getting your teams to engage in collaborative problem-solving and sharing experiences leads to enhanced neural resilience which motivates them to skilfully tackle challenges which benefits individuals and the team.

5. Train cognitive flexibility to construct foundation for resilience

The why 

Understanding cognitive flexibility can support the creation of training activities to challenge a team’s cognitive rigidity, bolstering mental resilience and flexibility. A carefully crafted micro action approach to cognitive flexibility in the workplace is required to suit varying levels of readiness for new experiences.

The neuroscience

Fact #1: Cognitive flexibility is the capacity to switch effortlessly and swiftly between different thoughts, tasks or strategies in times of changing situations or demands.

Fact #2: Neuroplasticity, the ability to rewire and adapt, plays a crucial role in cognitive flexibility helping the brain to become more nimble and adaptable.

The actions

  • Problem-solving scenarios to work through and imagine different outcomes for each scenario
  • Cross-training tasks by assigning team members roles outside their usual responsibilities
  • New experiences such as learning new skills
  • Lateral thinking exercises
  • Mind-mapping.

The results

Training in cognitive flexibility leads to enhanced capacity to navigate challenges, improved problem solving, increased confidence in ability to adapt and a strengthened foundation for resilience in the workplace.


Harness these insights and know-how from neuroscience to shape strategies to build resilience and mental fitness. Take simple everyday actions to bolster resiliency skills and boost your team’s engagement, productivity and wellbeing. When you help your employees thrive, you help your organisation flourish.

British Council partners with organisations worldwide to support them identify and develop the skills, tools and strategies needed to equip teams for success. Partner with us to upskill your workforce to develop resilience at work through Emotional Intelligence, Time and Stress Management and Conflict Handling.