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A good half of the art of living is resilience."
– Alain de Botton
Resilience and the strategies each of us can learn and use to build and sustain resilience play a crucial role in our lives. When Chumbawamba released ‘I Get Knocked Down (But I Get Up Again)’ it took its rightful place as a resilience anthem. Given our wonderfully diverse nature as human becomings there are as many individuals as there are unique preferred resilience strategies. Research from mental health institutes point to a distinct set of resilience strategies.
Two of the primary strategies are focused not only on mind health and resilience but on physical health, recognising the chicken and egg relationship between our mind health and our physical health, together creating our overall health status. One strategy is the importance exercise: of 30 minutes of heart rate raising activity every day. The other is fuelling and resting your body appropriately. Fresh food, water, rest and recreation as well as sleep all come into play here.
Human contact and relationships with others is also of fundamental importance in being resilient. The research says ‘good relationships’ are a cornerstone of resilience. Yet when I ask people to define what a good relationship means to them too many struggle to articulate the what and how of a good relationship. My invitation to you is to think of your top three keys to good relationships: what you appreciate others doing for you and what you believe is important to do for them.
Being aware of and choosing thoughts that serve you well, coupled with keeping a level head, are the next two resilience strategies. In the work I have been doing as an Executive and Corporate Coach for the last 15 years there is a saying that I often use: Your language generates your reality. This has a direct link to the importance of keeping a predominantly positive attitude when it comes to your thoughts and your language. Level headedness can be gained and maintained through deep breathing, meditation and being the gate keeper of your own thoughts.
Volunteering is the next resilience strategy on the list of research proven strategies. Whether it’s hitting the nearest soup kitchen, taking care of an elderly neighbour, being a Rotarian or volunteering on a community radio station volunteering in a way that matches your skills or preferences with a group or individual in need of assistance is an all-round win-win situation.
Research has shown that having some spiritual dimension, something that is bigger than us as an individual can help build and sustain resilience. It need not be organised or even a recognised religion that you engage in… you might find that nature might be the way you feel connected to a larger sense than yourself.
‘Appreciating the little things’ seems like such an easy thing to do. It is simple but not necessarily easy when the day to day challenges and regular activities approach like an epic tsunami. Finding the time to recognise, engage and enjoy the little things in life can mean a useful refocus when the tsunami hits. The smell of a heritage rose, dew drops on spider webs in the early morning sunlight, the changing colours of the leaves in autumn, the infectious giggle of little kids or your pet asleep with their legs in the air like they just don’t care all fit the bill.
Play and Creativity is the resilience strategy that works for me. Putting pen to paper without thought, plan or design allows for a free flowing release from expectations that we all experience in life. Play, although something seemingly relegated to the purview of children, is something that is missing from the lives of adults. To engage in activities that have no purpose but pure childlike wonder and enjoyment are deemed to be a waste of time and childish – like childish is a bad thing to be when you are relaxing and playing. And yet every time I get adults to play in childlike ways the smiles on their faces, their relaxed postures and expressions of wonder tell me that this is something that would benefit them.
When will you play in a childlike way? Will you dip your fingers in finger paint and create in an unconstrained way? Will you pin the tail on the donkey? Will you let a 7 year old put make up on your face? Will you get your face painted the next time your 3 year old niece does? Will you jump whole heartedly into the next big puddle you find?
Here’s to finding playful, creative, child-like ways to build and sustain your resilience.
Because your Mind Health Matters…