Resilience: Training your brain to the positive
I attended a webinar this morning on how to cultivate resilience during these crazy times and I wanted to share with you some of what I learned.
It used to be thought that people were either born with resilience or they weren't. Nowadays, we know that not to be true, and that we can all be more resilient following a series of very specific steps, the first of which is:
#1 Calm Your Threat Response
When you're stressed, your body responds in a very specific way to prepare you for a flight, fight or freeze response (which was kind of the way things were back in cavewoman days... we didn't need to live in heightened stress for weeks or months).
By calming your threat response, we're able to address the immediate feelings of stress, such as elevated heart rate, tension in the muscles, headaches, upset stomach and so forth.
How we do this is through things like meditation, yoga, exercise and general self care practices which we should be scheduling into every single day for the next few months.
#2 Cultivate Resilience
Once we're in a routine where we have tools to address our threat response, we can start to build resilience through these specific steps:
- Find meaning in what's happening: this doesn't have to be straight away, especially after a trauma like losing a job, or financial issues... but in general, cultivating resilience depends on an ability to find some kind of meaning in what's goiing on around us.
- Believe in a positive outcome: Shit is crazy right now... but it won't always be. To be resilient, we need to think positive thoughts about the future and try to picture our future selves in a positive, happy way to get through this.
- Be willing to learn and grow: While we might wish things could just go back to the way they were, they won't. The world is different, the economy is different, our outlook is different. We need to be willing for this experience to change us (positively) and we need to be willing to grow as a result of it.
- Laugh: Maintaining a sense of humour helps to cope in tough times, and that's what resilience is. Social media is great for engaging and funny content, but just make sure you're not overdoing it and ending up in a 24/7 news cycle! Alternatives are video chatting with a friend or family member that you know will make you laugh, playing silly games at home or watching a funny movie.
- Practice generosity and gratitude: These two emotions are so incredibly positive and good for our brains that they contribute to helping us cope in tough times. There are so many great stories of generosity all over the world - from supermarkets to pharmacies to hospitals. Read them. Let them uplift you... and don't forget to practice gratitude daily.
#3 Daily Intentions
As part of putting the above into practice, here are 5 questions to ask yourself every morning before starting your day.
- What am I grateful for today?
- Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?
- What expectations of normality am I letting go of today?
- How am I moving my body today?
- What beauty am I creating, cultivating or inviting today?
What else would you add?