Finding an Upward Spiral of Resilience – Even in the Hardest of Times
While researching Barbara Frederickson’s suggestions for a media diet [see Information Overload – Dealing with the Deluge Wisely], I re-discovered her “toolkit” from her book Positivity: Discover the Upward Spiral that Will Change Your Life. Excellent suggestions, all very doable and very relevant to resilience. May they be helpful to you and yours.
1. Be Open
Cultivate both curiosity and acceptance about whatever you’re experiencing. Give yourself permission and time to experience the richness of the present moment. On your morning walk, set aside the mental to-do list and practice being open to the colors of the leaves and blooms, the call of nearby birds, the smell of wet grass, the feel of the cool morning air against your skin, or even the pressure of the earth beneath your feet.
2. Create High Quality Connections
Be present, attentive, and respectful to the people you encounter throughout the day. Offer understanding and support for whatever another person is trying to accomplish. Trust that expectations can be met or re-negotiated. Be playful and open without having a particular agenda. These practices transform ordinary or even corrosive interchanges with others into more reliable sources of genuine positivity.
3. Cultivate Kindness
Do five thoughtful acts of kindness all in a single day, and then notice the shifts in how you relate to yourself and others. Practice five different acts of kindness every day for five days in a row. Notice the more positive connections you feel with others and a fitting sense of pride for yourself that you are contributing to others’ well-being.
4. Develop Distractions
Spend time in healthy activities that completely absorb your attention and break the grip of worry and rumination and curb needless negativity – go for a bike ride, play chess with your son/daughter, read a good book or watch a good movie. Get your mind off your troubles and return to them with new perspective and the energy to solve them.
5. Dispute Negative Thinking
[from the Penn Resiliency Program] On separate index cards, write down your most common negative thoughts or self-criticisms: Overslept again! How will I get anything done? Or Why hasn’t she called by now? Doesn’t she are about me? Write down thoughts that are realistic, true to you, the voice of our inner critic that is pounding on you.
Shuffle the cards, pick one at random. Read it out loud. Then dispute it as fast and as thoroughly as you can – out loud, with facts, with conviction. When satisfied, move on to the next card and repeat. As you work your way through our negativity deck, nip the negative thoughts in the bud before they pull you into gloom and doom. You’ll convince yourself that you are a skilled disputer and quite an all right person.
6. Find Nearby Nature
Identify a dozen places that you can get to in a matter of minutes that will connect you to green or blue, to trees, water, or sky. The more expansive the better. Visit these places regularly to exercise, socialize and be one with nature.
7. Learn and Apply Your Strengths
Ask 5-10 trusted friends, colleagues and family members to share with you the strengths and good qualities they see in you. Compile the list and identify the top five. Then identify ways you can use your strengths more every day, in work and daily activities.
8. Meditate Mindfully
Begin by setting an alarm to go off in five or ten minutes so you don’t have to worry about time. Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably without being interrupted. Settle into sitting in a comfortable posture, no strain or effort. Take a few deep breaths and notice the sensations of each in-breath, each out-breath. Witness each in-breath and out-breath with reverence. You are alive, here and now.
When your mind begins to wander, see if you can quietly observe your thoughts arising. Gently identify them, let them go and stay in the present. Notice this happening again and again, returning to the present, anchoring in the present moment.
Gradually extend the time you are able to sit quietly and meditate. Enjoy the deepening capacity to be present, alive, in the here and now.
9. Mediate on Living Kindness
Sit quietly, bringing a kind awareness to your breathing. Reflect on a person for whom you already feel warm, tender, and compassionate feelings. – your child or spouse, a good friend, a cherished pet. Notice the feelings, let go of the images, and just savor the warm-hearted feelings.
Extend the same warm feelings toward yourself; stay there for a few moments. Imagine sending these warm feelings toward another person you know well, extending those warm feelings toward more friends and family, then to all people with whom you have a connection, even a remote connection. Gradually extending these warm feeling of love and kindness to all people and creatures of the earth.
As your meditation comes to a close, remind yourself you can generate these good feelings for yourself and others any time you wish.
10. Ritualize Gratitude
Take stock of endings. Any time you leave a person, or a place, or an activity, notice any good that has happened, give thanks out loud, if appropriate, or quietly to yourself. There are many endings in every day; this practice strengthens giving thanks all day long.