According to Linda Graham, psychotherapist and author of Bouncing Back, resilience is: “The capacity to respond to pressures and tragedies quickly, adaptively and effectively.”
So why do we need to be resilient?
It’s inevitable that in our lifetimes, circumstances will come along that throw us off track. We can lose a job… or lose a loved one. We can argue with a coworker… or discover we’ve been betrayed at the deepest level by someone we trusted. We can be struggling with finances… or receive news that forever changes our lives in an instant. Some of these circumstances are easy enough to bounce back from while others can completely derail us. How we handle these life events has a lot to do with our wiring, our beliefs, our worldview, our thoughts, and our conditioning.
While we used to believe that our brains were fixed by around age 25, the great news is, through neuroplasticity, it is possible to rewire the brain to harness new ways of coping, hardwiring us so that we can more easily adapt and recover from the less severe stressors, as well as recover from trauma.
The more I learn about the brain, the more I respect this amazing organ and its capacity. Years ago I was a believer that “we are who we are,” and I’ve since learned that while who we are may have been shaped by lots of influences like family, how we were raised, what we’ve experienced and more, we are in complete control of either staying the same, or changing our brain and propelling forward, if we choose to.
So how do we do that?
That’s what I’ll be covering in this blog series, but to start, here are the ways the brain is conditioned:
• Conditioning: This is what the brain does all the time, on its own, when we’re going about our day. This is the result of repeated thoughts which over time, have become unconscious beliefs. For example, have you ever noticed how you seem to respond to a particular scenario the same way time after time? That’s conditioning.
• New Conditioning: Here’s where we learn a new way to work with the brain. Maybe we begin a mindfulness practice, we start to journal, meditate or begin a gratitude practice. We’re creating new wiring which opens the door to a new perspective and new way to think, act and react.
• Reconditioning: Here’s where we actually rewire the brain. Instead of those triggers which would normally ignite our stress response, we’re choosing to use those new practices we’ve been learning to lesson the emotional charge the stressors previously caused. For example, and in a very simplified way, maybe when you think of your ex-partner, you feel angry, bitter and resentful. With reconditioning, you’re choosing to use one of the tools and strategies you learned through new conditioning so that the power of the positive emotion you learned through your mindfulness practice, for example, is stronger than the negative charge you feel when thinking about your ex. At the very moment you’d normally go to that automatic and negative response, you choose a different response to create a different outcome. Over time, the negative experience loses its emotional charge. The memory will still be there, but the impact and hold it has over you has lost its grip.
• Deconditioning: Here’s where we’re daydreaming, visualizing and open to new possibilities because we’re using the insights we’re receiving during these mentally relaxed times to implement change. For example, an insight now available to you because of the clarity you’re feeling as a result of your new meditation practice, has an opportunity to be formulated and created.
Becoming more resilient allows us to better handle how we respond, and handle the challenges we face. Stay tuned for ways to increase your resilience and hardwire the brain in ways that support you and bring you closer to the body, health, life, mindset and lifestyle you want most.
Have you started a new conditioning process, like journaling or a mindfulness practice? We’d love to know, comment and share!
Photo from here, with thanks.