The 5 Habits of Psychological Resilience

Resilience. When you look at or hear that word, do you find yourself thinking “What is it? And, how can I get some of that?” The word conjures up incredible images of strength and flexibility, of being adaptable, of possessing the ability to bounce back from the challenges of life.

Resilience is the ability to absorb high levels of change, while maintaining your personal resourcefulness. It is more than stress management. Stress management is about managing or getting rid of something that is negative (that you don’t want). Developing or building resilience is more about creating something positive (that you want). Focusing on what you want to create provides you with opportunities and answer that will not come to you when you focus on what you want to eliminate.

And, that is precisely what Habit #1 encourages. Decide What You Want.  Every moment of every day, focus on what you want. What do you want to attract to your life at work and beyond? What do you want to experience more often? What words would you like to choose to describe your day?

Once you decide what you want, develop Habit #2, Be Mindful. In order to be mindful, you need to move out of autopilot and away from the default narrative running through your mind (that’s the little voice in your head, that’s always on, although you might not even be aware of it). When you purposefully STOP and PAUSE for a mindful moment, you have the opportunity to access information from your environment that you might not have noticed otherwise. You also, during moments of mindfulness, will become aware of your thoughts and emotions. This increased awareness helps you to self-regulate (rather than being hijacked by emotions that seem to sneak up on you).

Habit #3 is Choose Positive. Your brain’s primary purpose, in addition to being an amazing logic-processing machine that helps you make decisions and solve problems, is to keep you alive. Every moment it is assessing whether to move away from danger (negative) or to move toward reward (positive). While we know that positive yields far better results, your brain is by default, negative. You need to, mindfully, choose positive thoughts. And what we are discovering is that when you get in the habit of choosing positive thoughts (beliefs, expectations of yourself and others), and getting the positive results that go along with that choice, you can create new neural circuitry – you can actually change your brain.

And that is exactly what Habit #4 encourages: Integrate the Experience. You can create new pathways in your brain that move you toward what you want (rather than away from what you don’t want). When you mindfully notice the benefits of moving toward what you want, and choosing positive thoughts, pause again and integrate that experience. One NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) strategy is to anchor the experience physically. As you are noticing the sights, sounds, feelings and behaviors of the positive results you are achieving, touch a part of your body (make it a body part that you can easily access in public!!) for a few seconds. You might choose to place a finger on your wrist, for example. Choosing an anchor point, and then using that same anchor point each time you are experiencing this resilient state will help you to build new memories in your body and brain that work FOR you.

Finally, Habit #5 is Take Action. I love the quotation from Elbert Hubbard “People who want milk should not seat themselves in the middle of a field in the hope that a cow will back up into them.” It’s one I’ve adapted to “People who want resilience should not read a short article and hope that their brain can suddenly read their mind.” If you want different results, you need to ‘do’ something different.

Let’s look at the example of Ted, who was finding that he was continually stressed and tense when he was at home with his family. “It really bothers me”, Ted said, “they are the most important people in the world to me, and I am miserable and uptight most of the time I spend with them. The kids are growing so fast and I don’t want their memory of me to be of a guy who could not relax.” Ted worked his way through the 5 Habits of Resilience, and this is how it came out for him.

What do you want?

I want to be calm at home with my family.

When you are calm, what is happening? What does it feel like? Where do you feel it in your body? What are you thinking? What are you doing? What are you noticing around you?

I see my wife and kids smiling; I attend fully to what they are each saying and doing; I feel relaxed, my face is loose and my body is open and light; my breathing is at a regular rate; I am thinking about how much I value each one of them, I am smiling.

What positive thoughts can you choose to ensure you create this experience more often?

I can choose to believe that this is possible for me every day. I can choose to believe that my children will benefit far greater from a father who is calm and present than from one who is uptight and over-worked. I can choose to believe that being ‘in the room’ with my family is not taking away from my effectiveness as an executive, and is in fact making me an even better leader.

How will you integrate this?

Each time I experience this sense of calm – at work or at home – I will pause and take note of it, and I will touch my thumb and middle finger together for a few seconds.

What will you do so that you can have more ‘calm’ in your life?

I will breathe deeply to slow my rate of breath; I will shake my shoulders to loosen and relax my body; I will clear my mind so that I can focus on the other person; I will take note of extraneous distracting issues to look back at later; I will focus my attention on the other person; I will smile; I will remember my anchor.

Start each day by asking “What do I want today?” (#1) Start each meeting by focusing on what you want to notice from your team, and what you want them to notice from you. Decide, like Ted, what you want from your time with family and friends. Pay attention to what you notice (#2) when you have what you want, choose to focus on what’s positive (#3), integrate the sights, sounds, thoughts, and emotions (#4) and continue to move toward (#5) creating the life you desire.

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker, Author, and Organizational consultant, Deri works with organizations who want to create happy and healthy workplaces for increased positivity, productivity and prosperity! 

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