Build­ing Re­silience

For­get about pure grit and willpower – it’s love, com­pas­sion and un­der­stand­ing that help us deal with ad­ver­sity.

Good - - CONTENTS - Words Kyra Xavia. Art­work Lisa Lodge

Why prac­tic­ing self-love and com­pas­sion is key

We all know how im­por­tant it is to bounce back from hard knocks, over­come re­jec­tion and keep try­ing. Yet there’s a com­mon mis­un­der­stand­ing in our cul­ture about re­silience. The key to han­dling change, chal­lenges and set­backs isn’t due to grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion. Nor is it de­pen­dent upon willpower, en­durance or some in­nate qual­ity a lucky few were born with. In­stead, re­silience re­quires some­thing sur­pris­ingly lovely. Bet­ter still, it’s sim­ple to achieve, no mat­ter the cir­cum­stances.

Our re­silience is greatly de­ter­mined by two fac­tors: self-com­pas­sion and how we recharge.

Self-com­pas­sion means be­ing gen­tle, ac­cept­ing and kind to one­self, just the way we would treat the per­son we love, re­spect and care for most. While this seems log­i­cal enough, self-com­pas­sion doesn’t al­ways come nat­u­rally. When events don’t go our way, sur­vival mech­a­nisms can kick in. As a re­sult, we’re li­able to re­act counter-pro­duc­tively.

For­tu­nately, this evo­lu­tion­ary foible is straight­for­ward to over­come. It’s im­por­tant to ad­dress be­cause of the many ben­e­fits that re­sult.

Self-com­pas­sion en­ables au­ton­omy, wis­dom and in­sight. It helps us ac­knowl­edge our flaws and lim­i­ta­tions and feel con­nected to hu­man­ity, while fa­cil­i­tat­ing ful­fill­ing, re­ward­ing and re­spect­ful relationships. Self-com­pas­sion­ate peo­ple gen­er­ally see the world more re­al­is­ti­cally and ob­jec­tively, mak­ing them hap­pier, con­tent and more ac­cept­ing. They’re likely to be com­pe­tent, mo­ti­vated and em­pa­thetic too, with higher life sat­is­fac­tion and less anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion, stress and shame.

As they recog­nise er­rors, ad­mit their own short­com­ings and learn from mis­takes, they are also keen to make amends. Not only that, they tend not to dwell on mis­takes and they’re aware of the point­less­ness of ru­mi­nat­ing over fail­ure and en­vy­ing oth­ers. Per­haps most im­por­tantly though, they can si­lence the inner critic – that neg­a­tive, judge­men­tal voice in the back­ground that left unchecked can harshly nar­rate and poorly gov­ern our life.

Mis­con­cep­tions about re­silience of­ten be­gin early and com­monly in­volve dis­torted no­tions about force, push­ing and deny­ing our­selves. In re­al­ity, it de­pends on how adept we are with gen­tle­ness, ac­cep­tance and giv­ing our­selves what we need. An op­ti­mally re­silient in­di­vid­ual is well-rested, nour­ished and bal­anced – and able to self-soothe. Self-sooth­ing in­volves sit­ting with dis­com­fort know­ing we can cope and that we’re okay.

A big part of self-sooth­ing is the way we talk to our­selves, and herein lies a gem. Each of us has im­mense in­flu­ence to di­rect our ex­pe­ri­ences into those of growth and grat­i­tude. When­ever we think a lov­ing thought, ut­ter an en­cour­ag­ing com­ment or give a com­pas­sion­ate re­sponse, we in­vite in re­silience – and it all has a pro­foundly pos­i­tive ef­fect on our bi­ol­ogy.

Be­ing lov­ing to­wards our­selves stim­u­lates the

re­lease of the neu­ro­trans­mit­ter oxy­tocin, which makes us feel bonded, safe and se­cure. This state keeps our mind clear and present, which en­ables deft de­ci­sion-mak­ing. Quite sim­ply, when we mas­ter our re­sponses to sit­u­a­tions (self-reg­u­la­tion) in a help­ful way, we en­rich our lives.

Self-love also strength­ens neu­ral path­ways to the creative part of our brain that pro­vides so­lu­tions and an­swers. Just the ges­ture of plac­ing our hand over our heart, slow­ing the breath and recalling a time when we felt deeply loved can calm us down and favourably in­flu­ence changes in our brain. In turn, this pro­motes adapt­abil­ity and al­lows us to de­velop im­proved cop­ing tech­niques. Self-com­pas­sion is also en­er­gis­ing as it frees us up and mo­ti­vates us to do bet­ter. We gain in un­der­stand­ing and de­velop trust in our ca­pa­bil­i­ties. We be­come in­trepid ex­plor­ers, imaginative artists and bril­liant in­no­va­tors. Ob­sta­cles and fail­ures turn into op­por­tu­ni­ties, and ev­ery sce­nario is a chance to re­in­force how well we are do­ing. This is how we thrive against ad­ver­sity – and learn how truly re­silient, re­source­ful and lov­able we are.

Be­sides, the more we demon­strate ten­der­ness, the more it be­comes sec­ond na­ture and the eas­ier it is to ex­pe­ri­ence con­sis­tent hap­pi­ness.

When we ac­cess our creative side, we’re in­clined to also tap into pos­i­tive emo­tions such as cu­rios­ity, joy, peace, resolve and thank­ful­ness.

Lov­ing words and thoughts have an­other ben­e­fit: they can si­lence the fear-based inner critic, that sabo­teur who dis­torts re­al­ity, pre­vents ra­tio­nal think­ing and stops us from tak­ing ap­pro­pri­ate steps.

The need for lov­ing-kind­ness also ap­plies to how we recharge. True re­cov­ery in­volves prop­erly switch­ing off be­cause our brain re­quires respite just as much as our body. What’s more, the qual­ity of the pause in be­tween per­for­mance is just as im­por­tant as the ac­tiv­ity it­self, which is why sleep is cru­cial. Some of our deep­est healing oc­curs in bed, at night, in the dark. Sleep is the almighty elixir which pro­vides the en­chanted ma­te­rial we need to re­pair, re­ju­ve­nate and re­vi­talise.

Be­cause our well­be­ing hinges upon home­osta­sis, the body’s ca­pac­ity to con­tin­u­ally re­store it­self and main­tain equi­lib­rium, when we strate­gi­cally stop dur­ing the day, re­fresh our­selves and mind­fully set aside time for en­joy­ment, we as­sist that vi­tal process. Never un­der­es­ti­mate the power of be­long­ing, the sup­port of groups and the ad­van­tages of be­ing part of a close-knit com­mu­nity. Sur­round your­self with peo­ple you ad­mire, re­late to and as­pire to be like, who make you feel good. Com­mit to reg­u­lar get-to­geth­ers, help each other and cel­e­brate mile­stones no mat­ter how small and seem­ingly in­signif­i­cant. Re­mem­ber to seize ev­ery chance you can to hug – it’s a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial and plea­sur­able way to trig­ger the re­lease of oxy­tocin, and we all need more of that.

Fi­nally, try Ho’opono­pono, a Hawai­ian healing prac­tice of for­give­ness that in­volves re­peat­ing a short mantra. The word trans­lates to put in or­der, rec­tify, and man­age.

“A gen­tle word, a kind look, a good-na­tured smile can work won­ders and ac­com­plish mir­a­cles.” Wil­liam Ha­zlitt

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