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3 ways to help you bend and flex with your life

How many goals did you set this year to improve your resilience?

*Crickets.*

Not at the top of your list?

Admittedly, resilience gets crowded out by the more action-y stuff we focus on as the new year starts.

  • We set goals to lose weight (again).
  • We make plans to improve our professional skills, or find that dream job.
  • You Type A folks may even be launching a life plan this year to go after like, you know, everything, in your whole entire life. (That sounds easy enough.)

We almost never consider our own resilience, much less how to practice and use it when we need it.

What is resilience, anyway?

We tend to think of resilience as the ability to bounce back from a challenge, and that’s partly true.

  • When life knocks you down, resilience gives you the wherewithal to get back up.
  • When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade (if you have enough lemons thrown at you to make a decent amount of lemonade, you might be having a rough go at it, just sayin’…).

But resilience also is being mentally and emotionally prepared to identify the resources available to you when things get challenging.

If you’re stressed, tired, and full of negative thoughts, it’s hard to care about finding creative ways to get past a difficult situation.

Resilience then, can be more of a mindset that allows you to see the path forward and empowers you to actually walk down that path.

And, as with many things in life, it’s better for you if you build that mindset ahead of time. #sorrythatsjusthowitis

So, how do you build resilience?

The best part is that many of the things we already know about a healthy lifestyle are the very things that build resilience. It’s like life skills double-dipping.

Here are three really good ones you can practice every day:

1. Exercise

Exercise is a most outstanding way to build resilience because it generates blood flow to the brain’s frontal lobe, right behind your forehead. The frontal lobe handles things like planning, logic and organization. These come in handy when you need to make a healthy decision.

Exercise also relieves the negative emotions related to stress. After a long workday, just a 10-minute walk with your dog can boost your mood for several hours (and probably your dog’s mood, too).

I’ll bet you make better decisions about your life when you can stay clear-headed, relaxed and in a positive mood.

And the best part is, you don’t need special skills. You just have to move.

Can you move? Carry on…

2. Be quiet

Quiet time lets us focus on our thoughts and try to figure stuff out.

Thanks to our devices and a limitless supply of entertainment in almost all areas of our lives, we no longer have to suffer the plight of being bored or reflective.

Our brains and souls are drinking daily from a firehose of data with little time to figure out if any of it even makes sense (spoiler alert: most of it doesn’t).

And studies are bearing out that our marvelous brains are starting to notice. Our daily experience now includes:

  • reduced memory and attention spans,
  • constant dopamine rushes from social media interactions, and
  • reduced productivity from multi-tasking.

Finding some time to step away, in some way, for a few minutes each day allows mental space for creativity and problem solving.

You can call it mindfulness or a spiritual practice.

Just carve out 15 quiet minutes for yourself to:

  • Pray,
  • Let your mind wander,
  • Breathe deeply,
  • Ask yourself questions about what you’re feeling,
  • Journal,
  • Draw, or
  • Let the sacred words of wiser ones than you pour into your soul.

Having said that, resilience does require some boundaries on all that thinking.

3. What are you thinking?

While we can’t help the thoughts that pop in to our minds, we do have complete control over what we allow to roil and take root.

Allowing unchallenged thoughts to linger can quickly become rumination, obsessing over the same negative thoughts until you make yourself feel really bad.

Like a cow chewing its cud.

Rumination is one of the hardest thinking habits to change.

  • It’s never forward-focused.
  • It always dwells on past wrongs or failures.
  • It’s a natural predator of resilience.

Resilience, however, requires you to

  • Find your strengths,
  • Look for possibilities, and
  • Focus on what you can bring to the situation.

So in order to bolster your resilience, you’re going to have to do a whole lot better than rumination.

Start being the gatekeeper for your marvelous brain.

How much news do you consume?

What’s more backwards-focused than the news? Its very nature is things that have happened in the past.

The news is now particularly negative and vicious, and it feeds many of our anxieties about what’s not working in our lives.

Take a week off from it and see if it doesn’t change how you think.

What positive, forward-focused things are you reading or listening to?

Focus on material that will build your skills, build your faith, or help you build a resilient attitude about life.

Self-help is a multi-billion dollar industry. There’s something out there for what you need.

I like listening to motivational speaker Les Brown because he reminds me that I am responsible for my own change, which is a little scary, but that I can totally do it. Yes!

Who do you pay attention to?

You’ve heard it before. You are the sum total of the five people you associate with.

What do your five talk about? Do their comments and conversations build people up, or tear down?

Do they always focus on what’s gone wrong? And who’s gone wrong?

This will have an effect on your thinking, I promise.

You may need to upgrade your five.

Resilience is a marathon.

Keep in mind that building resilience is a lifelong endeavor.

You will never do the end zone dance of resilience, and there’s no Golden Globe for the Most Resilient Performance in a Life Drama (or Comedy).

So, go ahead, put resilience on your list of goals to crush in the new year, but you won’t be able to really check it off.

I know, that’s annoying.

What you can check off, though, is the fact that you are helping yourself a little bit each day to build the courage to face your challenges and take action.

That’s golden.

Spend this year improving your ability to bend and flex with your life.

#alwaysbeflexin

#alwaysbelearnin

Sources:

Why do we worry what people think about us?

Why do we care what people think about us?

Why does it matter that someone seems to speak badly of us, in spite of our best efforts to please? Or appear to ignore us when we’ve gone the distance for them?

That hurts.

Have you met someone who seems to easily blow right past these kinds of things? They cavalierly throw their head back, shake their fist at the sky in blind anger and say they don’t care at all what people think of them. You can watch the back of their head whilst they walk away.

I don’t believe ‘em.

I think they do care; I’m pretty sure they care a lot. But I think their mojo is that they’ve learned to manage their own perceptions of other people’s actions.

How do they do that?

Here’s the deal: It’s not what people think about you that matters. It’s what you think people think about you.

It’s more about you and less about them.

Don’t you just hate that?

So how do we get there? How do we know what’s for real so we can move past it?

Acknowledge the pain.

If you feel hurt, then you are hurt. That’s really okay. Our feelings are an indicator of what needs our attention. Just because someone says they “didn’t mean it that way” doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

Your feelings are your experience. No one else can tell you you’re not feeling something or shouldn’t feel something (my personal favorite).

You are the sole authority on what and how you feel.

BUT you can’t get stuck here. If you step out of the mud for a minute, then you’ll realize that you can actually decide what you believe about the source of that pain.

Challenge your perceptions.

You don’t have to take everything that is said or done to you at face value. Just because words were formed and projected into the air towards you doesn’t mean they 1) were well thought out 2) contain any factual truth and 3) really have anything to do with you.

Put your muddy finger on the pause button for a second and ask yourself, “What else could be going on here? What could I be missing? Where’s the remote?”

This can take some of the emotional edge off.

  • Maybe you just heard it the wrong way (clarification never hurts).
  • Maybe they’re a jerk and treat everyone that way (then in this particular case it’s not about you at all, yay!).
  • Maybe, like Wonder Woman, you just don’t have all the information about who you really are, but they see it and they don’t like it and want to throw lightning at you!

Get creative but come up with something that’s less about you being a horrible person and more about you being the victor in your own life story.

It may sound like denial, but in this case it might be the best way to move on from people who may have nothing invested in you anyway.

Recognize that we all have different ways of perceiving the world.

I think social media has more than proven this point. With all of the ways we can now share our unique perspectives, along with our food choices, you really have no way to know where people are truly coming from.

Unless you ask them, of course. And even then, you still won’t have the complete picture because you’re not in their head.

You are having your own undeniable experience, and other people are having theirs, too.

Someone who hurts you is responding based on their own perceptions of the world. Their own upbringing, their own personal models of how to relate to people, and their own feelings of inadequacy.

Just like you.

It’s not that people always have it in for you. For most people, it’s just that they’re scared, too.

Don’t underestimate the power of fear. It makes people do some pretty stupid things.

I say this all the time, but don’t be afraid to run interference on your emotions.

Instead of letting your mind run away with all the reasons someone doesn’t like you, challenge those reasons and design a different perspective for yourself.