”Resilience is not about overcoming,
– Sherri Mandel
Resilience (noun) re-sil–ience
”… the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace or financial stressors.”
– American Psychological Association
The past year has definitely been a year filled with adversity, threats and significant sources of stress. For many of us our sense of control swiftly disappeared, and we found ourselves solely relying on our inner strength. Taking it day by day. And some days, hour by hour.
In a Ted Talk, Shauna Shapiro talks about mindfulness as one of the most effective vehicles for how to help people transform. ”What you practice grows stronger”, says Shapiro. According to research we can sculpt and strengthen our synaptic connections based on repeated practice. However, paying attention in the present moment is not enough, says Shapiro – it is how we pay attention. She talks about paying attention with kindness. The beneficial effects of kind attention are that it decreases stress, strengthens our immune functioning and helps us sleep better, among other things. (Shapiro, 2017).
But can mindfulness strengthen our mental health or resilience? According to Goleman and Davidson high level of meditation practice can help us better control our emotions; hence not let them pull us into their melodrama. According to the authors Mindfulness-Based-Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has been an effective way to lower the relapse rate in severe depression. Studies have shown that in cases where people suffer from depression so severe that no medication helped them, MBCT did. However, when it comes to meditation it is all about consistency. In order for you to enjoy the benefits you need to make it into a repeated practice. (Goleman & Davidson, 2017).
A principle within cognitive therapy is that of decentering – in other words, to observe thoughts and feelings without being overly identified with them – and meditation can be used as an effective tool to help us with that. (Goleman & Davidson, 2017).
Resilience – skill or a trait?
According to a study by Leys et al. (2018) it is currently impossible to determine with certainty the nature of resilience – whether it is a skill or a trait. The arguments for resilience as a skill explores that resilience could be seen as a dynamic process, which can be strengthened through therapeutic intervention.
Contrastingly, the arguments for resilience as a personality trait argue that resilience is associated with personality traits, seeing it as more stable over time. For example a study indicates that resilience was positively related to openness to experience, conscientiousness, and extraversion, and negatively related to neuroticism. (Leys, Arnal, Wollast, Rolin, Kotsou & Fossion, 2018).
Man’s Search For Meaning
I think it’s impossible to write about resilience without mentioning Victor E. Frankl. In his book Man’s Search For Meaning Frankl discusses his own personal experiences and observations of life in a concentration camp. He writes that it seemed that sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life might have suffered much pain, but the damage to their inner selves was less – as they were able to retreat to a life of inner resources and spiritual freedom. Frankl writes that this is one way to explain ”the apparent paradox that some prisoners of a less hardy makeup often seemed to survive camp life better than did those of a robust nature.” (Frankl, 2004, s. 47).
Whether resilience is seen as a skill or a trait, I do believe we humans can enhance our resilience through consistent practise. Some of the characteristics of resilience are for example a sense of meaningfulness (to find meaning in the seemingly meaninglessness), faith, humor, patience, tolerance and optimism. Moreover, having strong self-esteem and self-efficiency, as well as an adaptability to change and an action-oriented approach, are also some attributes associated with a person’s amount of resilience.
It’s okay if today the only thing you did was to breathe. Every tiny action is still an action. An action forward, working towards a solution, rather than focusing on the negatives. Don’t let your thoughts control the way you feel. You’re more than capable of controlling your mind – its’ all about trusting yourself. Trust your ability to take care of yourself. Hold space for all aspects of life – everything is here to teach us something, if we let it.
Frankl, V. E. (2004) Man’s Search For Meaning. Great Britain: Rider.
Goleman, D., & Davidson, R. (2017) The Science of Meditation – How to Change Your Brain, Mind and Body. United Kingdom: Penguin Life.
Leys, C., Arnal, C., Wollast, R., Rolin, H., Kotsou, I., & Fossion, P. (2018) Perspectives on resilience: Personality Trait or Skill? European Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 4, 1-6.
Shapiro, S. Tedx Washington Square. (2017, 10 march). The Power of Mindfulness – What You Practice Grows Stronger. Accessed from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeblJdB2-Vo