As I poured our cereal into bowls and heated up water for our instant tea, Dharma began explaining that frogs, and humans too, can hardwire resiliency into our brains. Here are 12 resources for building resilience and the best ways to use them.
Compassion. This means being sensitive to the burdens of others, as well as ourselves. And with this awareness, we need the desire to help make things better.
Grit. Being doggedly tough and resourceful. While this may not come easy to everyone, it is something we can learn to do. Failing is easy. Getting up and trying again takes real determination and courage.
Calm. We need emotional balance and a sense of capability in the face of threats.
Courage. Protecting and standing up for ourselves and others.
Mindfulness. Staying present in the moment as it is, whatever it is, rather than daydreaming, ruminating, or being distracted.
Gratitude. Appreciating and feeling good about what we already have.
Motivation. Pursuing opportunities in the face of our challenges.
Aspiration. Reaching for and achieving results that are important to us.
Learning. Growing and developing; the process that allows us to cultivate all the other strengths. Learning from our mistakes fall into this category.
Confidence. The feeling of being cared about, worthy, and self-assured.
To start building resilience, Dharma told me, we must start by picking a challenge in our lives. What needs are at the heart of this challenge? Which of the 12 resources stand out? You can do this by asking yourself these questions:
1. What, if it were more present in my mind these days, would really help?
2. Which inner strengths could help me stay peaceful, content, and loving when I’m dealing with this challenge?
3. If this challenge began in the past, what would have been really helpful to have experienced back then?
4. Deep down, what experience do I still very much long for?
The answers to those questions will point to which resource(s) you might need to go through this challenge. Then, Dharma explained, you can use the HEAL approach to cultivate that resource.
H = Have a beneficial experience. Nearly everyone has beneficial experiences, some last longer than others. As an example, it can feel good to put on a sweater when you're cold. That little act is a beneficial experience. We have many of those during the day. Begin to pay attention to them. The brain learns from these positive experiences and can slowly begin to rewire itself.
E = Enrich it. This simply means staying with it for as long as you can. Really savor it. Intensify it by breathing in deeply, letting the pleasurable moment sink in. Look for things that are new or different about this moment. Are there new sensations you can feel in your body, or new thoughts that come up?
A = Absorb it. Consciously choose to let this experience sink in. Choose not to let it just float by. Pay attention to whatever pleasurable thoughts or feeling the moment gives you. These pleasurable moments will increase dopamine and norepinephrine, two "feel good" neurotransmitter systems in your brain.
L = Link it, This is a simplified way of saying that you are conscious of both the good and bad feelings associated with your beneficial experience. While putting on the sweater by feel good, it might also trigger bad memories of feeling cold as a child and not having a sweater to put on. By putting more focus on the good feelings now, it will soothe and lessen the feelings of the past. You then begin to link warm thoughts to a previously bad memory.
Just as you prepare yourself for a long hike in the wilderness by bringing food, water, and other supplies with you, you must also prepare yourself for the long and often uncertain road of life. Be sure to fill up your emotional "backpack" with all the resiliency supplies necessary to keep you going during your difficult times. For while we never want to encounter rough terrain on our walk through life, we are bound into stumble a few rocks and obstacles on our journey. And the tools in that backpack will sure come in handy!
Dharma's lesson today made me realize that I have the ability to overcome my challenges. All it takes is a little time and effort. I was a Frogscout when not much older than my little brother, Quigley. And their motto is "Always be prepared." This message holds equally true for we adults.
I invite you all back here tomorrow and until then, I wish you