How do we perceive stress in our lives: as major setbacks or moments of growth? Perception plays a major role in resilience.
When something challenging happens, how well do you recover?
Resilience is the ability to get back up after adversity. Due to the unpredictability of life, there will always be joys and sorrows. Resilient people are able to greet change and difficulty as an opportunity for self-reflection, learning, and growing.
Well-being and resilience are skills one can learn and cultivate. It is such a valuable skill set that world leaders are beginning to recognize its significance.
More than 150 world leaders attended the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, where they spoke about adopting a new sustainable development agenda, among this agenda was well-being for the world. Our world is awakening to the realization that sustainable world development doesn’t just pertain to economic flourishing, but also human flourishing.
supports the concepts of happiness and well-being as an important pathway toward greater sustainable development.
The World Happiness Report (2015) presented neuroscience of happiness. This phenomenon describes how well-being is a skill that can be cultivated and trained. It might be defined as well-being in terms of four qualities or characteristics:
1) Sustained positive emotion
3) Empathy, altruism, and pro-social behaviour (also known as generosity)
4) Mindful attention
These four characteristics of well-being have been described as ways of being that can be trained and cultivated. Hence, they also can describe resilience.
How do we increase our resilience?
Resiliency is mostly cultivated from within by how we perceive and then react to stressors.
A recent study highlighting the link between mindfulness and resilience found that:
“Mindful people … can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down (emotionally).” Pausing and observing the mind may (help us) resist getting stuck in our story and as a result empower us to move forward.
Most of life’s stressors are subjective and with mindfulness (seeing things as they are in this present moment), we have the ability to respond with wisdom vs. react in a harmful way. When we see our thoughts and feelings clearly and can offer compassion for the hardship we are experiencing, we increase our resilience.
A study highlighting the link between mindfulness and resilience in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences. The researchers found that
“Mindful people … can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down (emotionally).”
Pausing and observing the mind may (help us) resist getting stuck in our story and as a result empower us to move forward.
Difficult emotions such as fear or anger are not the enemy. It is our reactivity toward these difficult emotions that are most harmful. Often when anger or fear is here, our lower brain is in charge. This is where the fight-or-flight response originates, and it is responsible for maintaining our survival. The more we go over the scary or angry story, the more anger and/or fear we continue to feel and thus get caught up in reactivity. The lower brain does not control over our actions and when mindfulness is present, we support the higher brain to see the bigger picture with calmness and clarity.
A Mindful Practice
Come into a comfortable and supported seated posture. Begin to bring your awareness inside and slow down the rhythm of your breathing. Acknowledge any event that happened today or this week that was difficult. Select a moderately difficult experience. It is important that we practice with something moderately challenging vs. the most challenging. Bring your awareness to what happened, thoughts, feelings, and let your heart begin to open as you breathe in and out. Turn towards the moderate difficulty with compassion and acceptance.
Repeat these phrases in whatever order or frequency that feels comfortable to you.
May I be kind to myself.
May I find peace and healing.
I am doing the best that I can in this moment.
May I accept and find ease with things just as they are.
Often, when life is difficult, we can be overly critical and hard on ourselves, but compassion, not criticism, facilitates greater resiliency at home and at work.