Being Resilient Pays Off!
As I have aged, I have come to recognize and appreciate the qualities of being resilient. You know that resilient type. They seem to have boundless energy and enthusiasm, are constantly curious and wanting to learn new things, and able to see things in a good light.
To be clear, being resilient is not about wearing rose-colored glasses and pretending that everything is just ducky. Part of resilience is to recognize difficulty and adversity and experience it. As Nelson Mandela once said, “The greatest glory in living is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” Determination and perseverance are important qualities of the resilient person. Being able to recover, learn something and become stronger makes us more able to live an optimal life.
Examples of resiliency surround us in nature. We see how the flora and fauna returns after a fire sweeps through. River water finds a way around newly fallen rock. This tells us something important that is now being supported by scientific research. Resiliency is a natural human capacity. The great news is that we can take the resiliency we have and grow it. We can become MORE resilient!
Research over the past few years has shown the impact of mental health concerns both on our personal lives as well as the economic burden it places on employers and the health care system. There is significant correlation between, for example, depression and an increased rate of coronary heart disease. Depression can lead to increased blood pressure as well as a weakened immune system.
Turns out, there are great health benefits associated with the ability to be resilient. Many researchers have gone so far as to say that building resilience can help reverse this trend. Studies have shown that when resilience goes up, depression and anxiety go down! The really cool thing is that we KNOW how to build resilience. Humans have been doing it for thousands of years.
One of my favorite authors, Viktor Frankl put it this way in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” The space that Dr. Frankl refers to is the one we create when we have a more practical response to the events happening around us. Can we find a part of a problem to manage? Do we have the ability to change our perspectives as we learn something new? Can we get up and try something different? Can we be more compassionate?
Growing this space is the gift of many ancient traditions. There is a wide variety of practices to choose from:
- Contemplative practices such as prayer and meditation
- Expressive arts whether it is song, dance, theater, poetry, painting or journaling
- Movement practices like yoga, qigong, and tai chi
- Being mindful throughout your day
All of these practices have been shown to play an important part in cultivating “the space”. They are easy to learn and important to include in your daily life. Done regularly, these practices are a part of helping each of us create a life that has that all-important “space”. Having the “space” is what allows us to be more resilient.