Resources for Recovering Resilience: Hanging Out with Healthy Brains

Dan Siegel, author of The Mindful Brain, once said at a conference focused on resilience and well-being, “Why are we all here at this conference today when we could be home learning everything we want to learn from a book? Because our brains learn better in the resonance, in the dialogue, with each other.”

Because our brains are so profoundly influenced by the quality of interactions we have with other brains, it’s truly smart to spend time with other people who are intent on being and becoming resilient.

More and more “hanging out” with people happens these days via social media on the internet. For purposes of skillfully re-wring your brain for resilience, it’s truly more effective to find ways to hang out with real people in real time. If that’s not possible in a busy life, or when the people you especially enjoy hanging out with live at a great distance, connecting by phone or e-mail still re-wires your brain in a positive direction.

Exercise with a Gratitude Buddy or a Joy Buddy

  1. Ask a friend to be your gratitude buddy or your joy buddy for the next three months.
  2. Arrange a regular process for checking in. Once a week for coffee, or once a month for a walk in nature, or every evening by e-mail. Experiment and discover what works best for both of you over time.
  3. When you check in, focus on things you have to be grateful for during the day or the past week, or remember moments of joy. Share your experiences with your friend. Recall how you felt in the moment of the event; notice how you feel now as you recall and share it. Listen to or read your buddy’s check-in; notice how you feel learning of his or her experiences. It’s most helpful when this hanging out and sharing stays open and receptive; this is not a time for advice giving or problem solving.
  4. Notice how you feel at the end of the check-in. Take in the good of the experience as a resource of resilience.

A practice of regularly sharing experiences of gratitude or joy with a friend helps deepen your friendship and creates a resource of connection and support that is one of the 5 C’s of coping. The practice helps your both develop a more optimistic approach to problems and challenges in life and strengthens your inner resources to cope well with the vicissitudes of daily living.