The first thing I must say is that you can’t completely cult proof your life. Cults are predatory and they recruit members through trickery and deception. However there are steps you can take to reduce your odds of being recruited. Here they are, in no particular order.
Be Housed and Employed.
Cults seek two kinds of members, those with money and resources to extract, and those who depend on the cult for basic provision. Outreach ministries are the charitable arm of many cults, and they prey on people who aren’t succeeding in the outside world.
Lots of cults favor sobriety, temperance, and abstinence from alcohol and drugs. A smaller set of cults use hallucinogens or other substances as part of their spiritual practice. Either way, it will be easier for them to prey on someone with an addiction problem. Cults are actually fairly good at getting new addicted members off drugs, though their detox methods are often potentially deadly. Keeping recovering addicts away from the old friends they used with and keeping them busy with religious or volunteer duties can help someone stop using in the short term.
This one is tricky, even harder to obtain than some of the others. Lots of us who are disabled or have chronic illness can’t truly accomplish full health. This means that faith healing cults will be particularly drawn to us. However, we can still adopt healthy habits like trying to eat well (however that’s defined for our condition), trying to move our bodies each day (however we can), and honoring our mental health with kindness and self-care. You don’t have to love your body, but a working truce is better than war.
If you are generally content with your life and the world around you, you’ll be less interested in a group promising to be radically different. If you think, for the most part, that you’re a pretty okay human, you won’t be nearly so attracted to a charismatic leader saying they can change you. Happiness is a fleeting emotion that you can feel in or out of a cult, but contentment can be a fortress of protection.
Be In Therapy.
This doesn’t apply if you have no need for therapy. It’s not that extraneous therapy is helpful so much as needed therapy can close the wounds attractive to cults, and can give you the tools to work on yourself safely, without joining a cult. If you’re getting what you need in therapy, you won’t need cults. Cults want members who need them.
This is the hardest because it requires other people. And of course, this is the step cults try to circumvent. Cults use various evangelism tactics, and friendship evangelism is common. That’s when the cult sends out their friendliest members to meet outsiders and recruit them through an offer of friendship. One of my earliest defense tactics was to have friends from different social groups, who didn’t know each other. That way my love wasn’t coming all from the same source, and I could better afford to leave if things turned abusive.
None of this guarantees your protection. None of this condemns cult members who were sucked in. Most of these are largely products of luck and privilege, not superior intellect or strength of character. Health and sobriety are largely genetic. Housing and employment are linked to your parents finances at the time of your birth. Being loved may be dependent on finding acceptance for your neurology or gender or orientation, things harder for some than others through no fault of their own. People don’t join cults, cults recruit them.