During my Positive Psychology studies, I came across a research paper that has always stuck with me. This research found that participants’ happiness wasn’t related to whether they could prevent things from going wrong in their lives - but rather, whether they felt confident they could cope when things went wrong. If there’s anything the last few weeks have reminded us of, it’s that we can’t control what happens in our lives. Building resilience and trusting that you can cope with these changes is now more important than ever. Building resilience is a topic I’m so passionate about, and honestly, unlocking my own confidence that I can cope has changed my life. The good news is, Positive Psychology (the core of the work I do) is the science of resilience. It gives us numerous practices to strengthen ourselves during times of stress.
Here are 3 evidence-based practices you can use to build resilience:
1. Have a formal gratitude practice
Right now, you might feel “zoomed in” on negativity, and this is normal: it’s the brain’s way of keeping alert during times of uncertainty. Intentionally refocusing your attention onto the good in your life can help you to feel calmer and maintain a sense of perspective. You might like to start or end your day by writing a gratitude list, or you could invite your family to join in by sharing a daily gratitude during dinner.
2. Start meditating
Meditation will keep you focused on the present moment and help you to calm anxious thinking. In the face of uncertainty, living in the moment and taking things one day at a time can be very helpful. Right now, I’m meditating daily using the Calm app. (You can access many free meditations on their app, even without the free trial. Simply sign up for an account, then click the X when the free trial box pops up.)
3. Journal difficult feelings
Negative thoughts are feelings that are left to race around in your mind often continue to spiral out of control - unless you put them down on paper. Researchers aren’t quite sure why writing about how difficult experiences like this has such a positive effect on resilience, but they hypothesise that it may mean the experience is able to move from the front of your mind (working memory) into long-term memory as you make sense of it. This exercise can feel uncomfortable as you initially wade deep into your feelings, but later on, you’ll feel a big wave of relief.
P.S. I've just released an online course called Coronavirus: Coping with Anxiety and Social Isolation, specifically designed to help you to cope better with the ways Coronavirus regulations and social distancing are affecting your life, work, and ability to feel connected to others. Check it out here.