Resources for Recovering Resilience: Challenge Your Inner Critic and Celebrate Your Personal Strengths

I was leafing through The Self-Esteem Companion: Simple Exercises to Help You Challenge Your Inner Critic and Celebrate Your Personal Strengths from New Harbinger Publications on the way home from teaching on the East Coast last weekend. While the field has shifted somewhat from focusing on self-esteem to focusing on self-acceptance and self-compassion (always available, not dependent on accomplishments), the 75 or so exercises are practical, helpful, easy to incorporate into a daily routine, and definitely helpful in heading you in the right direction. Anchoring to the Good Times, Compassion for Things Past, Finding the Truth You Missed are good examples.

My favorite is a Five Finger Exercise to Feel Good Fast

  1. Take three or four deep breaths, let feelings of relaxation and calm spread throughout your entire body. Let all of your muscles release their tension as you close your eyes. Now, as you continue to relax, become aware of your dominant hand.
  2. This is called the five-finger exercise, but it’s really about your four fingers and your thumbs. Touch your thumb to your index finger. As you do, think back to your past, to a time when you felt really cared for and loved. Maybe it was when you had that stomachache and your parent took such good care of you. How about the time your friends threw you a big birthday party? Any time will do, whether it’s a big event or a small moment.
  3. Next, touch your thumb to your middle finger. Think back to a time you felt really successful. Was it your graduation from school? How about when you got your job or promotion? Or, maybe it was when your kids were born. Again, any time will do, as long as it provides a strong memory of your feelings of success.
  4. Touch your thumb to your ring finger and remember a time that you did something important for someone else. Maybe it’s taking care of a sick neighbor or baby-sitting for your sister’s kids. It can be any moment of selflessness that’s important to you.
  5. Finally, touch your thumb to your pinkie and look for a memory of loving someone else. Think back to a moment when you felt love for another very strongly, when that feeling filled your heart.

Practice this exercise and use it whenever you need a quick pick-me up, especially when you’re feeling particularly gloomy and down on yourself. This simple exercise helps you feel good, even great, about yourself in just a few moments.

[for more exercises, see The Self-Esteem Companion: Simple Exercises to Help You Challenge Your Inner Critic and Celebrate Your Personal Strengths by Matthew McKay, et al. New Harbinger Publications, 2005.]

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I’ll be offering exercises similar to this one, using memories of positive experiences and competencies to cultivate a sense of resilience and well-being, at two upcoming workshops at Esalen:

September 13-15 The Neuroscience of Building Resilience Through Positive Emotions

In this experiential weekend, you’ll learn more than a dozen tools and techniques – drawn from the intersection of brain science, relational psychology, and mindfulness practices – that will help you handle life with more calm, courage, and flexibility.

You will learn new and creative ways to navigate the twists and turns of life, and the practical exercises offered during this weekend of renewal will help you use the power of positive emotions to broaden your perspectives toward more optimism and exploration.

September 15-20 The Neuroscience of Resilience and Renewal

Dive deeper into harnessing the innate neuroplasticity of the brain to develop the 6 C’s of Coping: Calm, Compassion, Clarity, Connections to resources, Competence, and Courage. You will practice tools and techniques among the most powerful agents of brain change known to science to:

  • reduce the impact of stress and trauma and come out of “neural swamp” or “neural cement” of survival mode and restore your equilibrium after overwhelm;
  • deepen the self-compassion, empathy and resonant relationships that connect you to the resources and perseverance that support resilience;
  • shift perspectives through mindful awareness and reflection to discern options and choose wisely;
  • use self-directed neuroplasticity to rewire your habitual conditioning and create more neural receptivity to flexible and adaptive patterns of response to everyday disappointments and extraordinary disasters.

Esalen is a world-renowned setting for recovering resilience nature-ally. The spectacular setting on the cliffs of Big Sur, California overlooking the Pacific Ocean, stirs and stills the heart and soul. Enjoy scrumptious meals, relaxing massages, and the world-famous hot springs as part of your learning about happiness and resilience.