By Maya Shlanger, Psy.D.
Often, the moments that you overcome adversity are the moments when you appreciate the gift that life offers us the most. When you are facing those less-than-enjoyable moments and dealing with great challenges, you may wonder: How hard will this hit me? How soon will I recover? And most important, how can I help myself?
Resiliency is the ability to work with adversity in such a way that one comes through it unharmed or even better for the experience. Resilience means facing life’s difficulties with courage and patience — refusing to give up. It is the quality of character that allows a person or group of people to rebound from misfortune, hardships and traumas ability to weather the storm of life
Below are three ways to increase positive emotions and bring you into resiliency.
1. Gratitude practice.
As defined by Robert Emmons, this is “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.”
Although being thankful is a good start, expressing gratitude is a lot more than just saying thank you. Research now indicates people who are consistently grateful have a lot to benefit from. According to positive psychologist Sonia Lyubomirsky, gratitude boosts happiness in eight ways:
1. promotes savoring the positive life experiences
2. bolsters self-worth and self-esteem
3. helps cope with stress and trauma
4. helps us move on from loss or chronic illness
5. encourages moral behavior
6. builds social bonds, strengthens existing relationships and nurtures new ones
7. is incompatible with negative emotions and may actually diminish or deter such feelings as anger, bitterness and greed
8. helps prevent people from taking the good things in their lives for granted
You can practice gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal, expressing gratitude directly to others, and keeping your gratitude practice fresh and meaningful.
2. Meditation practice.
Be mindful and aware. Once you can perceive difficult patterns without anxiety, you can work to rewire them. No matter what experience is arising in the mind, when you remain steady in awareness, you’re not upset or retraumatized.
Meditation practice requires no tools, no money, and can be practiced virtually anywhere. You can try classes, audio guides, books, retreats, phone apps and many other tools to assist or support the practice. Ultimately, a mindful practice can seamlessly be part of your everyday life.
LKM or Loving-Kindness Meditation brings about positive attitudinal changes as it systematically develops the quality of “loving-acceptance.” This is a powerful way of healing the troubled mind to free it from its pain. This meditation can be extremely powerful in cultivating self-love and opening up the heart.
Loving-kindness is the first of a series of meditations that produce four qualities of love: friendliness (metta), compassion (karuna), appreciative joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha).
Below are some loving-kindness phrases to say silently or aloud. The practice starts with saying phrases of loving-kindness to yourself, although many start with a beloved person, which can be easier for some to access opening their heart. Then follow with a neutral person (somebody you know, but have no special feelings toward, e.g., a person who serves you in a shop), lastly a hostile person (someone you currently have difficulty with).
You may choose to start with three phrases, and either build to more or switch to another three phrases as you continue your practice.
May I be happy and peaceful
May I be safe and protected
May I be healthy and strong
May I have ease of mind and heart
May I be free from suffering
May I be kind to myself
May I trust my goodness
May I love and accept myself just as I am
May I live with ease and well-being
And be filled with loving-kindness
3. Decreasing the landmines of negativity.
We feel negative emotions more intensely. This stems from evolution: Each of us is the offspring of ancestors who took dangerous cues seriously enough to create the next generation. It is important to learn from situations such as “do not eat poisonous berries.” But if we over-experience negative situations, we are not easily able to recover from them. Working with a professional can help you break negative thinking patterns.