The Path to Well-Being . . . Yes you can get there from here!

“The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being.”
– Emma Goldman
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What do you want? No honestly, what do you really truly want in your one wild and precious life? to mis-quote Mary Oliver. Most studies show that happiness and well-being are at the top of this list. But that is often immediately followed by but I don’t know what to do to get there. The good news is that there is a path to well-being, and you can start travelling this path today.

 

Well-being is actually a skill that can be learned and practiced and improved. Well-being can be achieved by focusing on four main keys. One of my heroes that I’ve written about is Dr. Richard Davidson. Dr. Davidson is the founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and he has studied and discovered the four science-based keys to well-being.

Davidson explains that well-being is a skill and it boils down to four main attributes:

Resilience, Outlook, Attention and Generosity.

From his research, he and his colleagues have learned that:

Each of these four is rooted in neural circuits, and each of these neural circuits exhibits plasticity—so we know that if we exercise these circuits, they will strengthen. Practicing these four skills can provide the substrate for enduring change, which can help to promote higher levels of well-being in our lives.

1. Resilience

Yes it’s true ‘Shit Happens.’ It happens to all of us and we can’t always stop it or avoid it, but we can change the way we react to it. Davidson explains that:

Resilience is the rapidity with which we recover from adversity; some people recover slowly and other people recover more quickly. We know that individuals who show a more rapid recovery in certain key neural circuits have higher levels of well-being. They are protected in many ways from the adverse consequences of life’s slings and arrows.

Recent research that Davidson conducted at UW Madison asked whether resilience could be improved and if so, how. The good news is that answer is yes; resilience can be improved by regular practice of mindfulness meditation. … The bad news is that it takes thousands of hours of practice before you see real change. But hey, it can be done.

2. Outlook

The second key to well-being is one’s outlook on life. Davidson explains:

Outlook refers to the ability to see the positive in others, the ability to savor positive experiences, the ability to see another human being as a human being who has innate basic goodness.

The good news regarding outlook is that unlike resilience, research indicates that simple practices of lovingkindness and / or compassion meditation may alter this circuitry quite quickly.
There was a study done in 2013 where individuals who had never meditated before were randomly assigned to one of two groups.

One group received a secular form of compassion training and the other received cognitive reappraisal training, an emotion-regulation strategy that comes from cognitive therapy. We scanned people’s brains before and after two weeks of training, and we found that in the compassion group, brain circuits that are important for this positive outlook were strengthened. After just seven hours—30 minutes of practice a day for two weeks—we not only saw changes in the brain, but these changes also predicted kind and helpful behavior.

3. Attention

The third key to well-being is paying attention. Research has shown that most people do not pay close attention to what they’re doing about forty-seven percent of the time. The quality of attention that you pay to what you are doing is vital.

William James in The Principals of Psychology explains that:

The ability to voluntarily bring back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character, and will. An education that sharpens attention would be education par excellence.

Davidson explains that educating attention can be done through a contemplative practice.

4. Generosity

It is well known now that when individuals engage in generous and altruistic behavior, they actually activate circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being. Davidson believes that:

Human beings come into the world with innate, basic goodness. When we engage in practices that are designed to cultivate kindness and compassion, we’re not actually creating something de novo—we’re not actually creating something that didn’t already exist. What we’re doing is recognizing, strengthening, and nurturing a quality that was there from the outset.

In addition to the four keys that Davidson outlines, science has also shown that gratitude hugely increases our feelings of well-being. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It magnifies positive emotions. With gratitude, we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators. You can become more responsible for creating more well-being in your life by the simple act of being grateful for what you are experiencing in this present moment.

By practicing gratitude and focusing on these four keys, Davidson assures us that:

Our brains are constantly being shaped wittingly or unwittingly—most of the time unwittingly. Through the intentional shaping of our minds, we can shape our brains in ways that would enable these four fundamental constituents of well-being to be strengthened. In that way, we can take responsibility for our own minds.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, no one explains it better than Dr. Richie Davidson himself!

I’d love to know if you have found that a meditation practice impacts your well-being.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.

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Are We All Addicts?

“She goes from one addiction to another. All are ways for her to not feel her feelings.
– Ellen Burstyn 

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Are we all addicts?  Well perhaps not all of us, but I’d put forth that there are lots and lots of us!

Life has become so stressful for most of us, that it is almost impossible not to become addicted to something. In the most of the world, much of society not only encourages addiction, but almost demands it. Some addictions, such as workaholism, are actually applauded in our culture – while others, such as nicotine, TV, internet porn, gambling, and sex addiction, are simply tolerated. And I believe that women are pressured hugely to drink wine in most social gatherings.  Wine has become a staple in the “Girls’ Night Out.”  As this article in The Huffington Post points out – Women Have a Complicated Love Affair With Wine.

Anne Wilson Schaef, author of When Society Becomes An Addict,  explains:

“Often unknowingly the vast majority of us collude in a system that encourages addiction and co-dependence – and sees these states as normal. Many of us are addicted to chemicals, not only to alcohol or drugs but nicotine, caffeine, chocolate and overeating in general. Even more of us are involved in addictive processes: workaholism, gambling, compulsive shopping, sex, and so on. The realization of the extent of our addictions, both individually and as a society, is shocking.”

And this book was written before the internet took over as our number one addiction.  If we are using anything to not feel our feelings, and we do it consistently, it is argued, that we are in an addiction process.

In another article in The Huffington Post:

Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, author of Start Where You Are, agrees with Anne Wilson Schaef – we all are addicted to something. But she doesn’t blame it on American culture; she says it’s simply part and parcel of our human nature. Chodron explains that we are restless, irritable, and discontent – we find it impossible to just sit still and BE. So we distract ourselves with activity and entertainment: cell phones, texting, video games, iPods, TV, movies, magazines, non-stop busyness to keep us looking everywhere but inside ourselves. We mood-alter with substances (sugar, alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine, etc.) and activities (shopping, gambling, sex, work, viewing porn, etc.) Chodron says that we are unable to simply be awake and present to life – so we medicate our existential anxiety.

The article points out some sobering numbers regarding addiction in the US. But I’m sure many people will object to the use of the word addiction, but here is one way to decide for yourself (if you can get past the denial!)

 

Russell Brand describes the 12 steps of recovery from addiction in his book Recovery in a very in your face manner that may help some people see their own addiction.  Most people either love Brand or hate him, but I find this confronting, in your face description of addiction and the way out refreshing.

Here are Brand’s 12 Steps:

“Here is how I look at these steps now, and it’s how I invite you to look at them too. It certainly de-mystifies it. I’ve probably overcompensated with the ‘f ’ word, but my point is that this is a practical system that anyone can use.

1 Are you a bit fucked?

2 Could you not be fucked?

3 Are you, on your own, going to ‘unfuck’ yourself?

4 Write down all the things that are fucking you up or have ever fucked you up and don’t lie, or leave anything out.

5 Honestly tell someone trustworthy about how fucked you are.

6 Well that’s revealed a lot of fucked up patterns. Do you want to stop it? Seriously?

7 Are you willing to live in a new way that’s not all about you and your previous, fucked up stuff? You have to.

8 Prepare to apologize to everyone for everything affected by your being so fucked up.

9 Now apologize. Unless that would make things worse.

10 Watch out for fucked up thinking and behaviour and be honest when it happens.

11 Stay connected to your new perspective.

12 Look at life less selfishly, be nice to everyone, help people if you can.

 

For Step One, Are You A Bit Fucked?  Brand describes addiction simply and succinctly:

This is an invitation to change. This is complicated only in that most of us are quite divided, usually part of us wants to change a negative and punishing behaviour, whereas another part wants to hold on to it. For me Recovery is a journey from a lack of awareness to awareness.

A 5-point guide to the cycle of addiction:

1 Pain

2 Using an addictive agent, like alcohol, food, sex, work, dependent relationships to soothe and distract

3 Temporary anaesthesia or distraction

4 Consequences

5 Shame and guilt, leading to pain or low self-esteem . . . And off we go again.

 

I love the simplicity of that 5 point process.

If you can go through that 5 point process and honestly say nope not me, then consider yourself one of the lucky ones.  If not, there is hope in the steps mentioned above.

 

I’ll close this post appropriately with Brand’s own video of the 12 steps.  Enjoy!

I’d love to hear about your own recovery process, whatever that looks like.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Is Love All You Need?

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”
― Anaïs Nin

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I was sitting in the seat of the car, looking out the window, pouting. The day was not going as I had planned it in my head. He should have known! He must have known how I wanted it to be, after all we were married and he should know . . . he should be able to read my mind . . .

Lennon and McCartney tell us that Love is All You Need. But in the case of romantic love, is that true?

Alain de Botton describes why we created and still live by the inaccurate, and often disastrous image of romantic love in his NYT article: “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.”

In the past, people married for practical reasons, but in the 1800s, we replaced practicality with the romantic version of love:

“For most of recorded history, people married for logical sorts of reasons: because her parcel of land adjoined yours, his family had a flourishing business, her father was the magistrate in town, there was a castle to keep up, or both sets of parents subscribed to the same interpretation of a holy text. And from such reasonable marriages, there flowed loneliness, infidelity, abuse, hardness of heart and screams heard through the nursery doors. The marriage of reason was not, in hindsight, reasonable at all; it was often expedient, narrow-minded, snobbish and exploitative. That is why what has replaced it — the marriage of feeling — has largely been spared the need to account for itself.”

Romantic Love tells us that we all have a soul mate out there and it is our task to find our one true soul mate, and we will know when we find him or her because we will have that very special feeling. Botton describes this search for romantic love in his very entertaining talk “On Love” from ‘The School of Life.’

We are led to believe that when we find our soul mate, we will never be lonely again, that person will understand us completely and practically be able to read our mind. (flashback to me in the car pouting) We will feel completely understood and loved. This love shall be one long romantic holiday . . .

 

The reality is though that what we are looking for when we fall in love is familiarity. We are not necessarily drawn to people who will make us happy, we are drawn to people who will feel familiar.

“What we really seek is familiarity — which may well complicate any plans we might have had for happiness. We are looking to recreate, within our adult relationships, the feelings we knew so well in childhood. The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes. How logical, then, that we should as grown-ups find ourselves rejecting certain candidates for marriage not because they are wrong but because they are too right — too balanced, mature, understanding and reliable — given that in our hearts, such rightness feels foreign. We marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.”

Botton adds:

“The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”

For a relationship to last, we need more than that out-dated version of romantic love. So what do we need to make a lasting relationship? Well for one thing, we definitely need good communication. The day out with my husband would have turned out a lot differently if I had communicated my vision for the day instead of assuming that my husband should just know.

But aside from good communication, science is showing us that lasting relationships come down to two things: kindness and generosity.

In Atlantic Magazine’s article ‘Masters of Love’, psychologists John and Julie Gottman describe their work. Together they have studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. From the data they gathered, they were able to separate the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages.

The masters felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. Whereas the disasters were in a state of ‘fight or flight’ even when they were not fighting. It’s not that the masters had a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

“Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird. The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that. People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper.”

Gottman explains that masters have a habit of mind in which they scan the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes. And it’s not just scanning the environment, it’s also scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or wrong; criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.

The Gottmans have found that contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them will eventually kill the love in the relationship. On the other hand, kindness glues couples together. Kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated. Kindness makes us feel loved.

So if we are looking to live happily ever after together, we need to ditch the antiquated version of romantic love and move forward in the spirit of kindness and generosity.

I’d like to close this post with the video by Alaine de Botton that I mentioned above.  It is well worth the watch, both amusing and insightful.

 

Let me know your thoughts on romantic love and what makes a relationship withstand the test of time.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Practice Some Mindful Self-Compassion this Holiday Season!

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

― Jack Kornfield

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The holidays are upon us. Tis the season to be jolly and all that. But for many people, this is the season of stress and depression. People tend to push themselves beyond their limits. Overspending is rampant; people overindulge in food and drink; there is increased stress due to travel and obligatory family get togethers. And often, our sleep suffers and we have less time to recharge our batteries. And then to top it all off, most of us beat ourselves up because we haven’t done enough or haven’t done it right. “Are the presents just right?” “Did I make enough pies?” “Did I make a fool of myself at that party?”

This holiday season, I am committing to a whole new approach. In order to be fully present for my loved ones, I need to take care of me. My plan centers around Mindful Self-Compassion; with an added focus of paying attention to what my body needs.  I describe this plan in my latest article in Thrive Global.

 

 

Thrive Global, by the way, turned One Year Old this month!  Congratulations to the founder Arianna Huffington!  I have been a contributor since the inaugural edition.  If you missed my first article in Thrive Global in December 2016 on Forgiveness, you can read it here.

But back to practicing Mindful Self-Compassion.  If you want to learn about this wonderful topic, look no further than Dr. Kristin Neff. Kristin Neff Phd is one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion. She explains that with self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. This quote by Neff sums it up pretty well:

“You don’t want to beat yourself up for beating yourself up in the vain hope that it will somehow make you stop beating yourself up. Just as hate can’t conquer hate — but only strengthens and reinforces it — self-judgment can’t stop self-judgment.”

This holiday season, by treating myself like I’d treat a loved one, I’m hoping to increase my emotional well-being and resilience. Here’s my plan:

  1. Take time for myself

During the holidays, we are so quick to give our time and energy that we can end up feeling completely depleted. This holiday season, I plan to take the time each day to check in with myself: “How am I feeling?” “Have I done something good for me today?” This will require setting boundaries with others as well as myself. I don’t have to do everything for everyone these holidays. I commit to taking time to just be; to go on walks and to read. I don’t have to bake the cookies and host the community carolling party. I can choose to stay home and read with a cup of tea instead of joining one more holiday party. Self-care and self-compassion bring me peace and joy, which in turn will allow me to bring peace and joy to those around me.

2. Slow down and meditate

Part of my plan to take care of myself will include making sure I have plenty of time for me, and just plenty of time period. The holiday season tends to be a time of rushing around, hurrying from one event to the next. This year I plan to focus on many mini moments of mindfulness as Andy Puddicombe refers to it in his program, Headspace. And I’ll make sure I make time in my busy schedule to meditate. I know that those 15–20 minutes in the morning make all the difference to the other 23 + hours in the day.

3. Gratitude

I know from experience that when I’m in a place of gratitude everything in my life just works and feels better. Neuroscience has proven that actively practicing gratitude protects your brain from stress and depression. Recent research shows that even just thinking about what I am grateful for increases dopamine and serotonin. But, I’m not just going to think about what I’m grateful for, I commit to writing down three positive things that I’m thankful for every morning in my journal. I have learned that this simple activity trains my brain to be more positive by looking for the good in life rather than the bad. And I plan to share my appreciation too, to articulate my gratitude to others. These simple statements of gratitude to others for who they are and what they are doing are like small gifts, often appreciated more than that box of chocolates.

4. Eat well and not overindulge

We all know it’s common to put on weight during the holiday season, and then to beat oneself up mercilessly for the next few months. I know when I eat healthier, I feel better. I don’t plan to deprive myself of holiday treats, but I will eat in moderation. And when I do put on those extra holiday pounds, I will be kind to myself in the new year, just like I would a good friend. Instead of berating myself and calling myself fat, I will suggest that perhaps a long walk would be a great idea.

5. Stay Active

And speaking of long walks, I know that exercise is essential to my well being. I will make time this holiday season to go on long walks and do plenty of yoga. I know that physical activity reduces stress, improves my mood and prevents depression. I know this from experience, but the research shows it as well; exercise triggers the same hormones (dopamine and serotonin) in my brain that are targeted by anti-depressant medication. So I know that exercise won’t just help me with those few extra pounds this holiday season, but it will greatly help my mood as well. But you know what, if I miss a couple of days of exercise, I won’t beat myself up about it either!

6. Sleep

Finally, this holiday season I commit to protecting my sleep. There are few things that mess up my health and well-being like poor sleep. I know that not sleeping well leads to stress, irritability and just feeling like crap. A lot of us lose sleep around the holidays, whether it’s from staying out late, overindulging in food, drink and sugar, or over-caffeinating. But I know that the best way for me to be cheerful this holiday season is to get enough sleep.

So this holiday season, I invite you to follow my plan and make a commitment to yourself. Take care of yourself over the holidays and practice some self-compassion. Let’s all remember Soren Kierkegaard’s wise words:

“Don’t forget to love yourself.”

If you want to learn more about how to practice Mindful Self-Compassion, you can find many videos by Kristin Neff on YouTube.

I’ll close this post with one of my favorite videos by her:  Overcoming Objections to Self-Compassion

 

I’d love to hear about how you plan to take care of yourself this holiday season.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Life can be hard – but shift happens

Some people think that it’s holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it’s letting go.

―Hermann Hesse

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We are experiencing a lot of pain out there at the moment.  A lot of women that I hear from in workshops and via email are going through hard times right now.  Children leaving home, friends and children suffering from addiction, dealing with divorce and all sorts of physical and emotional pain.

An article I wrote, Bouncing Back after Divorce was just published in Thrive Global, Arianna Huffington’s wonderful online resources.  Although the topic is bouncing back after divorce, the content, I believe, can be useful in coping with a lot of life’s painful events.

The messages are about taking care of YOU, loving yourself through the pain.  It’s not always easy to do, especially as women, we seem to have a hard time doing this.  But we can move through the pain, shift does happen!

The coping strategies I talk about in the article are ones that I talk about a lot on this blog:

  1. Get Creative
  2. Re-wiring your brain and paying attention to what you think
  3. Happiness and well-being
  4. Love yourself first
  5. Gratitude
  6. Paying attention to Distractions
  7. Paying attention to Inspiration

These coping strategies really do help, read about what you can do, starting right now.

We don’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how to act and learn from these events. Shift really does happen.

I’d like to close with a TED talk about surviving divorce.  But like everything else, the coping mechanisms described by Dr. David Sbarra, are applicable to most ‘What Now’ moments. One of his biggest suggestions is getting enough sleep – always really great suggestion!

 

I’d love to hear how shift is happening for you.  I love learning from all of you.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Start now, start where you are . . . and don’t stop.

“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are and with what you have. Just…start.”

― Ljeoma Umebinyuo

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I’ve had several emails from people who are just starting to write their book and asking advice, any advice, on how to go about getting their book written and out there.  And to me, there is no better advice than that of Umebinyuo:

“Start where you are and don’t stop. Just start”

I love that quote: Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start.

And it doesn’t just apply to creativity either, although it is certainly apt.  I am thinking about this quote in terms of recovery. That quote fits so well for so many of us who made the decision to stop an addictive practice – whatever that practice is. Start stopping! Stop drinking or using or gambling or shopping or whatever that practice is . . . Start stopping now!

“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are and with what you have. Just…start.”

Just Start Stopping . . .  and Don’t Stop Stopping!   When I started writing my book, my main audience was not necessarily women in recovery, but it certainly fits! I was honored this week when Sally M., an addictions counselor who read my book recently and wrote this review:

“This Way Up is the perfect accompaniment for any recovery work being done.  It will add depth and enrich your recovery.”
(Psst – by the way, This Way Up  e-book is on sale this week for only .99 cents!)
And a woman I know who has been sober for over 20 years, said something similar.
 She told me that she has found my course on Daily Om, 8 Weeks to Your Best Self, to be helpful in her recovery, and she has been recommending it for women that she sponsors. She said it’s perfect because a lot of women she sponsors don’t have a lot of money, and with this course, you choose what you pay.

 

So although I never started either of these projects with that outcome in mind, it is a gift beyond measure – to be of service in someone’s recovery!

This quote also fits well with the following wonderful TED Talk. In this talk, Julie Burstein describes 4 Lessons in Creativity.  She talks about 4 aspects to embrace  in order for our own creativity to flourish.

The First Aspect:  Embrace Experience!  Pay Attention to the world around us. Be open to that thing that might change you.

The Second Aspect:  Embrace the Challenges!  Our most powerful work comes out of life that is most difficult.

The Third Aspect:  Embrace the Limitations!

And finally: Embrace Loss!  Burstein describes this as the oldest and most constant of human experiences.  “In order to create, we have to stand in that space between what we see in the world and what we hope for. Looking squarely at rejections and heartbreak, at war, at death.”

She closes with this important statement:
“We all wrestle with experience and challenge, limits and loss. Creativity is essential to all of us, whether we’re scientists or teachers, parents or entrepreneurs.”
And I would add that once you’ve made the decision to embrace these aspects, then just start! Start right now. Start right where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling, but start. Just Start and don’t stop!

I’d love to hear about your experience just starting . . .  whether it’s with creativity or recovery. How you start and how you don’t stop. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.
 

 

 

Resilience!

The goal of resilience is to thrive.”

– Jamais Cascio

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The goal of resilience is to thrive, and we all want to thrive, right?  Resilience has been defined as that quality that allows some people face adversity and come back even stronger than before. Unfortunately though, as writer Maria Konnikova points out, the word ‘resilience’ is often overused. It is too often used in ways that drain it of meaning. But resilience doesn’t have to be an empty or vague concept. In fact, decades of research have revealed a lot about how it works. This research shows that resilience is, ultimately, a set of skills that can be taught.

Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient: a positive attitude and optimism certainly help. Resilience is considered such an important trait that in February this year, The New Yorker Magazine did a piece about the secret formula for resilience – ‘How People Learn to Become Resilient.’

The good news is that resilience can be taught. In research at Columbia, the neuroscientist Kevin Ochsner has shown that teaching people to think of stimuli in different ways—to reframe them in positive terms when the initial response is negative, or in a less emotional way when the initial response is emotionally “hot”—changes how they experience and react to the stimulus.

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. Resilience is an important character strength in Positive Psychology. A resilient person works through challenges by using personal resources, strengths and other positive capacities of psychological capital such as hope, optimism and self-efficacy. Being resilient is absolutely linked with personal happiness.

But it’s easy to lose touch with that sense of resilience after facing a difficult time, and instead we can struggle with feeling purposeless and directionless. It is very easy to fall into a sense of listlessness and ‘stuck-ness.’ This belief that nothing will change can become embedded in your brain, creating a negative neural pathway. A neural pathway is the way that information travels through the neurons, or nerve cells of the brain. We create new neural pathways every time we hear or experience something new. The more we experience something, the more embedded this pathway becomes.

Once those neural pathways are deeply embedded, changing them is not an easy task. I’ve talked a lot about the process, Creative Positive Reframing (CPR) on this blog.  But as we enter the holiday season, I thought it would be a good time to look at the 3 key actions involved in this process:  Identify, Reframe, Embed:

    1. Identify Negative Messages

    Action: We all have them – limiting beliefs that have become embedded in our head. Negative thoughts such as, “I can’t do it!” Or “It’s too hard!” are self-sabotaging.

    Practice: Interrupt it! Once you’ve identified those negative messages, shift your focus. Take a deep breath and interrupt your own train of thought . . . and get rid of it!

    1. Reframe the negative with positive statements

    Action: Negative self-talk can be replaced by positivity with the help of a series of deliberate affirmations or questions. This creates new neural pathways and frees you from the negative spiral.

    Practice: Affirm it! Create positive statements and questions. Affirmations often work, but sometimes questions work better. If your affirmation is, “I can do it. This is easy!” and your brain argues back “No you can’t It’s too hard!” then use a question instead. Something like: “What can I do today to move forward?” Or mix the two in this way: “I am moving forward easily and effortlessly. What can I do today to move forward?”

    1. Embed it! Use Creative Visualization to picture the ideal and embed it in your brain

    Action: This next step takes the previous step and solidifies it; it is a powerful process. Creative Visualization is a technique which uses your own power of ‘seeing’ to attain that which you most want or want to change. You already use this technique every day. Unfortunately, we often use it in the negative by imaging all the things we DON’T want.

     Practice: Visualize it!  The key to visualization is to first see what you want, and then create a mindset that you already have it and you believe you deserve it. Relax and be sure you won’t be interrupted. Close your eyes and let the movie of you having your heart’s desire run in your mind. Enjoy the process. The more you do this, the more deeply embedded this vision becomes.

    I’ll close by linking in the visualization from my book in which you can create your own sacred space to work from.

 

 

I hope you’ll take some time today to do this visualization. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this visualization, and how you manage to stay resilient.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.