Resilience: Can You Re-Program Yourself?

And in 10 minutes? Yes! Small Stepping-Stones are ideal to build resilience!

Stepping-Stones:

  1. Meditation
  2. Journaling
  3. Connection
  4. Sleep
Self-Care Builds Resilience. Signal Your Mind and Body!

Neurons that fire together wire together!  Neuroplasticity enables us to rewire our brains by signaling self-love through self-care.  Meditation has been scientifically shown (via fMRIs) to rewire your brain, increasing positivity, resilience, and productivity while improving your vagal tone (calming effect of vagus nerve).  Journaling and connection have similar positive impacts.  Sleep allows our body and mind to integrate these wonderful changes through the recovery process.

#1 Meditation: Who has time to learn? Not me!

For years, I avoided meditating.  I thought I was too high energy.  And who has the time?  Then I took a class.  The teacher stated “The only thing you know for sure is that you are breathing.  All the rest is a matter of perspective!” 

For meditation, I realized 10 minutes, or even 5-8 minutes, of relaxed breathing makes all the difference. Find a comfortable place to sit and do a few movements or stretches so you feel you could sit still for 5 minutes.  Put on relaxing music and a 5-minute timer.  Close your eyes and say to yourself: “I breathe in”, then “I breathe out”, as you experience your breath.  If thoughts wander to matters of the day, go back to noticing and stating your breathing.  When the timer chimes you are done.  I started at 5 minutes and then do what I feel like, up to 15 minutes.  Loving kindness meditation, where you wish yourself and others well, can be done in 10 minutes and improves your vagal tone (ability to relax), mental and cardiovascular health.  You could try meditating right now!

#2 Journaling: I’m Not a Novelist!

No novel writing is necessary! You intuitively know how to journal since you know how to write.  You will know which type is right for you at different times.  I journal when I want, and how I want.  Stressed?  Journal as if you are venting.  Not in the mood to write everything down?  Use bullet points to get out your thoughts.  Feeling like you need more direction? Journal your daily manifesto the night before and set yourself on your desired path. Gratitude journaling, writing down what you did well and what you are grateful for, is the fastest path for improving your ability to calm your heart and lungs and gut through better vagal tone. Journaling can include drawing, painting, writing a short story. Explore!

#3 Connection: Why Isn’t it Working?

The need for connection is a key survival mechanism, build into the most ancient part of our brain, the Amygdala.  As a newborn, connection is survival.  Removal of connection is life threatening.  As we age, isolation is life threatening in a different way: it leads to a higher prevalence of inflammation and disease.  At all ages, healthy connection drives overall health.

Have you ever had a really dynamic evening of conversation to go home and feel drained? 

Did the conversation feel energetic yet something was off?  I felt I was very “interesting” and “engaging”, and I now realize I was competing, often with some form of verbal diarrhea.  You say one thing.  I come up with something else.  If you don’t interrupt, I keep talking.  We each wait for the other to finish, or not, and jump in with our cool thing.  I was an attention-seeking machine!  Attention seeking is natural as the first step to connection, yet it often destroys connection.  Zero connection at the end of the evening full of fun, interesting people.  I was missing the link.  We can be with people all the time and still feel isolated.  Even those with plenty of friends may not connect. 

I have found that the key to healthy connection is active listening.  This allows you to share positive micro-moments with the other person.  Barbara Fredrickson PhD , Psychology Professor University of North Carlolina at Chapel Hill has studied the phenomena of increasing positive emotions through shared positive micro-moments, which she calls Love 2.0.  This can be in person as well as over the phone.  The key is to get curious about the other person.  One great exercise is that anything you think of while the other person is talking is immediately off limits.  You cannot mention it.  Next, really get curious, listen without interrupting and keep asking follow-up questions.  I recently learned something brand new about my best friend of 30 years!

To integrate all the brain rewiring of meditation, journaling and connecting, we need sleep.  This can be a challenge in our dopamine flooded, attention grabbing world. 

#4 Sleep: Top Tips!

Sleep builds physical and mental resilience.  It is when the brain embeds memories and learning.  But what if sleep eludes you? Here is a checklist to try.

Environment
  1. Create a dark, cool (70 degrees or less) room
  2. Use blue light blocking glasses in the afternoon
  3. Reduce noise. I find Laser Light Earplugs very comfortable
Actions
  1. Turn off all screens 1 hour before
  2. Try not to watch TV in the bedroom.
  3. Have a consistent sleep schedule and bed-time
  4. Walk outside at sunset and sunrise to synch with the sun
  5. Use an app or wearable to track progress. I like the Oura Ring.
  6. Reduce stress. Clear your mind of conflict, even by writing it down.
  7. Try not to read in the bedroom if you are having trouble sleeping. Read in another room.
  8. Walk outside during midday to get more Vitamin D and feel the difference between day and night
Food
  1. Move larger meal to lunch.
  2. Stop eating 2-3 hours before bedtime
  3. Eliminate afternoon caffeine (coffee, sodas, sweets)
  4. Reduce sugar and food that raises insulin and blood sugar (especially in the afternoon)
  5. Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption (while it may feel relaxing, it leads to shallower sleep)

Summary: 10 minute Resilience:

  1. Meditation can rewire your brain and is easy to do in small bites
  2. Journaling can be different for you on different days. Make it work for you.
  3. Truly connect with others by flexing your active listening muscles
  4. Sleep: remove distractions, avoid stimulation, and integrate your positive rewiring!

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