Life throws challenges our way all the time. Whether it’s problems at work or relationship issues, life requires us to be resilient and bounce back.
One psychologist believes she has the formula that will help you develop your resilience to any kind of grief. From the menial everyday grievances to much more momentous events.
Sam Owen, who penned “Resilient Me: How to Worry Less and Achieve More,” explains: “Resilience is mental toughness that is at the same time mental flexibility to the changing winds of life.
‘Like bamboo bending in the wind rather than snapping, resilience allows us to bend and ultimately stay upright and intact, rather than break and collapse. Resilience allows you to keep powering forward in life despite all the challenges along the way, big and small.
‘Resilience is also essential for surviving and thriving in the modern world; whether it be making enough money for our basic survival needs and more; looking after our bodies to stave off life-threatening illness; or creating a family or social network to keep us feeling valued and enable a longer life.”
Sam reveals how to develop and maintain resilience so you bounce over obstacles with ease every time life challenges you.
THINK YOURSELF HAPPY
For hundreds of years, philosophers and psychologists have told us that it is the way we think about what happens, not what happens, that determines our emotions and our behavior. When you think that life’s challenges have stopped you from your goals, happiness and life purpose, then that is exactly what will happen.
Try for a moment to imagine the career promotion you’ve been working towards for the last ten months has been given to someone else. You might be self-sabotaging, feel sadness and anger, be rude to your boss and consume alcohol to numb the emotions. You then damage your relationship with your boss and make it less likely to get a promotion in the future.
Now, try and imagine the same scenario, but this time, your outlook is that life’s challenges are lessons that guide us towards our goals. You may be surprised, and learn new skills to help you achieve the promotion next time. You may even reassess if this is the right career path.
You get the promotion a few months later, you might be more skilled and confident, and or have a successful new fulfilling career. “Everything happens for the best in the end, even when I can’t understand it straight away; I always end up with a happier, more fulfilling life.”
When you think positively it doesn’t stop the experience of pain; it accepts the pain. It uses the experience to learn from it, and reset our goals and focus on the benefits of our situation.
These benefits are sometimes immediately obvious, and sometimes not. Thinking positively allows us to start searching, and you will eventually find them.
HOW TO DO IT
Put your thoughts into this 30-second ‘Thought–Feedback Cycle.’
Finish these sentences:
‘A frequently recurring negative thought I have is …’
‘The emotions I experience as a result of that negative thought are …’
‘The behaviors I indulge as a result of those negative emotions are …’
‘The outcomes I achieve as a result of such behaviors are …’
‘The subsequent thoughts I have that feedback into my emotions as the cycle continues are …’
Do you notice the pattern of self-sabotage? Repeat this exercise by starting with a positive, alternative thought you could have about the same topic. Did you notice the more self-serving pattern that emerges?
Recognizing the enormity of this ‘thoughts–outcomes’ link gives you the power to stop your thoughts before they hamper your mood.
BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND
Your resilience is being tested by an important goal, elements of your life that you loathe, the people in your life, or unexpected life-changing news you’ve just received, you need to ensure you talk to yourself as you would want a best friend to talk to you.
A simple rule: if it’s negative, deflates you and knocks your self-belief and confidence, don’t say it; if it’s positive, helps you to have self-belief, feel confident, and focus on your goals, then go for it.
Our words silent or spoken, influence our minute-to-minute emotions and tell our mind what to focus on and work towards. Habitual thoughts, emotions, and behaviors change the structure of your brain. If you don’t consciously create good habits, you can unconsciously create bad habits, however unintentional. From now on, do yourself a favor: be a good gatekeeper of all that you allow into your mind, thereby protecting and reinforcing your resilience armor.
HOW TO DO IT
1. List any negative statements you frequently say to yourself that sabotage your happiness and your goals, and stop saying them. Once you identify more, ban them too.
2. Make a habit of talking positively to yourself ALL the time. Do something often enough and it becomes a habit.
FIND YOUR MEANING
When you’re thinking and talking positively, you are more likely to discover your goals. You are more likely to find the motivation to achieve them. For example, a mother who lost a child may help raise awareness or funds for charity, to help prevent others from experiencing the same distressing loss she has suffered.
Just changing your outlook gives us a different perspective on what has happened to us in life. It can motivate us to want to do something with the experience. When we find meaning, we find strength and purpose. Sometimes, we don’t pursue the goals we really want. I remember one client who told me her number-one goal was to write a book, only to find that she wasn’t making progress on finishing her manuscript and hadn’t been for some time.
What transpired was that the book goal was actually a little further down Caroline’s list of priorities: at number three. Only once she had identified and started to make progress on her number-one and -two goals, which were expanding her social circle and finding her Mr. Right, did she start making progress again on her unfinished novel.
HOW TO DO IT
Rule two columns on a page, in the first write down the important life goal, and in the second, why you are motivated to achieve it. Your answers may change as you go through life. and you may realize that some become more or less important over time. The key is to identify a written list of your ultimate specific goals, with a specific date for achieving them by. Review the list daily if you can, but at least weekly as it’s very important to keep your goals at the forefront of your mind.
FREE YOURSELF FROM FRENEMIES
Positive relationships are a lifeline. People who have good social networks (family, friends, community) are happier, physically healthier and live longer than less well-connected people, whilst people who feel lonely are less happy, tend to have declining health sooner (in midlife) and die younger than those who are not lonely.
One thing I’ve noticed with clients with low-self-esteem is that they seem to actively keep unhealthy relationships in their life, often unintentionally, because of their low self-worth. But when they distance themselves from negative relationships they start to feel better about themselves. Life looks brighter and feels lighter.
They start spending their time only around those that elevate their self-worth, and this then builds their resilience at such a rapid rate that they transform their lives, within weeks sometimes; such is the power of our relationships.
…HOW TO DO IT
Think about the people in your life who drain your energy, enthusiasm, and self-belief. Either minimise your time around them or work at changing the dynamic between you so that you slowly but surely mold their behaviors with you in a way that will help you to feel more resilient around them.
THE RESILIENCE O-METER:
You can easily check the current strength of your resilience at any given moment by using the physical sensations you feel within your body. That’s because our bodily sensations are connected with our thoughts and emotions, and can help you to learn important answers and make great decisions.
To use your body as a source of information, tune in to it. If you first need help tuning in, close your eyes and take three or more deep breaths. As you breathe in, hold your breath for four to five seconds and then breathe out with force. Now turn your mental attention inwards to your body’s inner world. Using the acronym OFF (overwhelmed, fatigued, fragility) check how OFF you feel.
With this in mind, try to gauge where your resilience level is hovering at this moment. Think of your body as a glass thermometer, and your resilience as the mercury inside. So if you’re feeling unbreakable, your resilience would be 100 percent and at the top of your head, while rock-bottom — zero percent — is the soles of your feet.
Once you’ve worked out where you are at the moment, you can then try some of the simple activities to boost resilience and then try the exercise again to discover which approaches work best for you.
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