Resources for Recovering Resilience: Unexpected Influences On Our Decisions and Behaviors

Drunk Tank Pink, by social psychologist Adam Alter, is a well-researched, well-written exploration of recent discoveries about how our environment unconsciously, yet dramatically, shapes the judgments and decisions we make every day, surprisingly relevant to our resilience and happiness.

The title comes from research in the 1980’s: that walls painted the color of bubblegum calmed down aggressive prisoners – within minutes. Bus companies that painted the seats in their buses bubblegum pink reduced vandalism. Solicitors for the United Way charity tripled the donations received when they wore pink uniforms. The color came to be known as “drunk tank pink” for its effect on reducing violence in prison holding cells.

The author offers other surprising examples of the influence of physical – social – mental environments on our behavior:

  • Individuals shown an image of a light bulb – the symbol of innovation – even unconsciously, come up with better ideas than those who aren’t;
  • We are so deeply attracted to our own initials that we give more willingly to the victims of hurricanes whose names match our initials: Kims and Kens donate more generously to Hurricane Katrina victims, whereas Rons and Rachels give more openly to Hurricane Rita victims.
  • Hospital patients in rooms where the windows looked out on deciduous trees recovered faster and required less pain medication than patients in rooms where the windows looked out on a brick wall.

Names, labels, symbols, and the environment “cue” the brain in myriad and often undetectable ways. Alter doesn’t offer solutions to the power of this pre-progamming in his book. I’m recommending the stunningly beautiful environment of the Esalen Institute on the Big Sur, California coast and workshops offered there to help people rewire their brain’s responses to cues:

My dear friend and colleague, Rick Hanson, who wrote the foreword to Bouncing Back, is offering a weeklong workshop at Esalen, July 21-26, 2013 called Lighting up the Neural Circuits of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom.

Rick will be doing an immersion in his core material, with presentations, discussion, and experiential activities. He’ll cover the mechanisms of experience-dependent neuroplasticity that enable you to use your mind to change your brain to change your mind for the better.

I’m also offering two brain-savvy workshops at Esalen in September 2013 that will help you strengthen your inner capacities to cope with life’s challenges and crises and recover the natural resilience that supports your well-being and flourishing.

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;
  • deepend the self-compassion, empathy and resonant relationships that connecy 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 spectacular setting on the cliffs of Big Sur overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy scrumptious meals, relaxing massages, and the world-famous hot springs as part of your learning about happiness and resilience.

P.S. Rick Hanson is also offering a free interview series – The Loving Brain – beginning July 15, 2013. The guests are (in order) Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt, Tara Brach, Paul Gilbert, Geneen Roth, Paul Zak, Sara Gottfried and Christine Carter. The freely offered series will be archived so that you can access them any time you like.