Practices for Personal Resilience and Development

February 21, 2017 Leave a comment
resilience

Photo by Elade Manu. Found on Flickr and shared under Creative Commons Attribution 2.o license.

This is a slightly edited version of a post from about 3 years ago, and it feels more timely in light of current events. Many groups with whom we work at IISC are trying to find a way to stay resilient amidst onslaughts and uncertainties. I have found my own need for personal practice to have grown accordingly. 

When I take time to slow down my interest is always refueled in practices that support my and others’ ability to maintain perspective and a sense of effective agency in the world. My line of inquiry is not simply focused on what can keep me energized, pull me back from the edge, or deal with burn-out, but also how I can align my internal state with external aspirations in an integrated way. My thinking and reading often takes me back to the work of Barbara Fredrickson, the emotions scientist based at the University of North Carolina, as well as to others in the fields of positive and social psychology. Having revisited some of these writings again recently, here are 10 recommended practices for personal and social resilience:

  1. Ritualize gratitude: Fredrickson defines gratitude as noticing the gifts and blessings in our lives. One way to notice is to keep a gratitude journal. The suggestion is to, at the start or end of each day, write at least one thing for which we are grateful.  Studies show that this helps to develop our ability to handle adversity and grow possibility.
  2. Write for 15 minutes a day, especially after or during a difficult or challenging situation:  Research has shown this can help with meaning making and resilience.
  3. Practice 3-5 acts of kindness every day: A practice that I like to invite groups to engage in is to note what assets we have that we can pass on to those in our networks. As the world’s wisdom traditions have long known, this has tremendous personal and social benefit.
  4. Get the body moving: Go for a 20-30 minute walk. Do yoga. Maira Kalman among others has demonstrated the power of movement as a generative force of intellect, awareness, and creativity.
  5. Laugh: Drs. Steven J. Wolin and Sybil Wolin have noted the connection between creativity and humor in people who are resilient. Check out some of these laughter exercises.
  6. Visualize success: In appropriate doses, optimism has been shown to broaden our view on life and possibility. Consider doing the best possible future self exercise.
  7. Get into natureResearch shows that getting out into nature promotes positive emotions and that viewing and walking in nature have been associated with heightened physical and mental energy.
  8. Use the mantra, “Be open”Fredrickson’s research in particular suggests that if we try to force ourselves to be positive or happy, this can backfire. Much better to try to keep an open mind.
  9. Reach out and connect to others who feed us: We are social beings, and who we associate with has implications for our outlook on life.
  10. Meditate: More and more research points to the health and outlook benefits of mindfulness practice, including loving kindness meditation. See more about how to do this form of meditation on the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society website.

I hope that readers of this will share other practices that you have found helpful as well as your thoughts about and experiences around the connection between personal practice, resilience and social change.

Image by dispicio – found on Flickr and shared under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license

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