We all hear about terms like resilience, grit, happiness, fortitude, perseverance, and more. But before we do a deep dive into the core principles of how to become more resilient, let’s start with a definition of what it is.
Join me as we explore Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. The author starts out by explaining that there is a fundamental idea in medicine and psychology that the trajectory of your life depends several key factors that occur either in your world, your body, and your mind. But the one area that you have the most control over is this: your mind.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to count on the strength of your mind.
According to Dr. Hanson, resilience is the ability to count on the strength of your mind–and how to grow and cultivate these strengths.
Merriam Webster also defines resilience like this:
(n.) an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
One thing that I think we can agree on is that increasing our resilience increases our ability to manage our lives, our world, and ultimately, the contentment and joy we experience.
Here are the Four Core Principles summarized for you and what my biggest takeaway is on each.
In Hanson’s book, the first principle is Recognition. This includes cultivating Compassion, Mindfulness, and Learning. If you don’t ever read past the chapter on Compassion, taking away just one core lesson . . . and that’s all, it’s this:
Learn How to Be For Yourself.
We often think of compassion as caring for and empathizing with others. But true compassion begins with knowing that your rights and needs matter and that you will protect and love YOU first. This is the wellspring from which deeper compassion for others can flow.
We are bombarded with the idea that we are not enough.
I think this is especially true for women. We are taught to be caretakers, put others first, minimize ourselves and play small. As a result, most of us were never taught how to love, accept, and enjoy who we are. We are bombarded with the idea that we are not enough. That message teaches us that we aren’t worthy of having compassion for a “less-than” self.
In Mindfulness and Learning, you will be taught how to turn your thoughts and feelings into lasting patterns in your neural circuitry to improve and increase your resilience. These two chapters are super-packed with actionable, tangible steps you can easily take to change your awareness, the way you process information, and even how to set up healthy boundaries for and against influences in your life that either empower and enrich you—or deplete and distract you.
You can decide to change today and make it happen.
Dr. Hanson gives you tools and practices that are based on neurology and the way our brains and bodies work together. The wisdom here is this:
Your brain has what’s called neuroplasticity. This means that no matter where you are now in your ability to cope or bounce back from life’s ongoing trials, you can improve your resilience. You can start with small steps towards training your brain to deal with the ups and downs of life better.
My training, studies, and research in the area of neuroscience, psychology, and human behavior over the years have taught me perhaps the most amazing thing I can tell you about changing your life . . . at any age.
Those old ideas about “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and “I will always be this way because it’s how I was taught or raised” just simply aren’t true.
And in just the last 20 years or so, we have the evidence and technology that proves that you can change and learn all the way to the end of your life.
So here’s a message worth repeating (and you’ll hear me say it a lot):
You can decide to change today and make it happen.
You can choose how to respond to the world around you.
Resourcing includes Grit, Gratitude, and Confidence. The #1 thing I would want you to know from this second principle?
You have agency.
So what does that mean? It is the opposite of helplessness. It’s the story you tell yourself. It’s seeing that you have the ability to cause change to happen in your life. Sure, stuff happens in your life that is often not in your control.
But having agency means that you can always choose how to respond to the world around you.
You also have the choice to appreciate your body, nurture it, and increase your vitality. All of these factors affect your ability to have the energy you need to face life head-on.
There is an amazing chapter in this section on gratitude, how to practice it, and its effects on your brain as it relates to being happy and finding joy. And then the last chapter in Resourcing is one of my fave subjects: Confidence.
In Confidence, you’ll learn how to quiet that Inner Critic. This chapter is chock-full of suggestions and how to break down the messages we get from the outer world as well as the harmful messages that might be playing in the inner world of our minds.
The rates of depression and anxiety continue to rise year over year.
If anxiety, anger, chronic unrest, sticking to goals, or struggling with deep connection plague you, jump to this section which includes Calm, Motivation, and Intimacy.
We are now living in a world that is more distracted and anxious, more disconnected and less attached to pursuing (and finishing) the goals that we want because of sheer overwhelm and exhaustion. The rates of depression and anxiety (and the use of medications for the symptoms) continue to rise year over year . . . and it’s affecting age groups from elementary school kids to the elderly.
But there are solutions and steps you can take to reprogram your brain and, ultimately, enjoy life so much more. Here’s where you can explore meditation, relaxation, controlling reactions by learning how to use a different part of your brain than the “fight of fleet” first reaction, and learn how to be assertive without being angry.
You’ll also learn how the dopamine centers of the brain work and how to stay on course with a desired goal or outcome while still enjoying the process and the pleasures on the journey without the stress of “wanting”. In Intimacy, concepts like empathy, kindness, and focusing on our own actions and values are explored as they relate to others and having deeper and more satisfying relationships.
On the last day of your life, can you look back and know that you put in all your effort . . . even if you didn’t reach all the goals?
The fourth, and final, principle, is all about relating. Everything comes full circle here in the chapters on Courage, Aspiration, and Generosity. I love, love, love the chapter on courage. This is all about boundaries, knowing your values, and sticking up for yourself.
In Aspiration, you get to explore your dreams and your purpose in love, work, and play. We are reminded here to “use the time you have”, and nothing could be more true. Seriously. What do you want people to say about you when you’re gone? How do you want to be remembered? And, my most important question, “On the last day of your life, can you look back and know that you put in all your effort . . . even if you didn’t reach all the goals?”
The book concludes with Generosity. A pretty good place to finish, in my opinion. I love that the take here on generosity means all of us. It means not dividing the world into groups of “us” and “them”. It means seeing every human being as a whole person. It means forgiving, and also that forgiving doesn’t mean that you have to like the people who wronged you. You might even be taking action against them. Forgiveness is really about letting go of hostility and resentment. Forgiving is also about forgiving yourself.
The Art of MORE
Often I talk or write about Live More, Be More, and Do More. As I was reading this book (and subsequently the book you will see in the December book circle), I really had to ponder what I meant by these words and if I am sending the right message.
Dr. Hanson ends this book with this statement in the final paragraph:
“As you grow more, you give more.”
This is what I want to always convey when I talk about “more”. More isn’t about more stuff, more goals, more agendas, and more relentless or mindless pushing and aspiring.
More is about learning more so that you can be better, do better, and live better. More is about living a life by design, not default. More is about more resilience, more compassion, more courage, and more joy. More is about doing more of the stuff that empowers and strengthens you . . . and less of the stuff that drains you and takes away from your life.
The best way to get there is to read, learn, sign up for courses, explore the world, and explore yourself and those around you. There is a way to grow your mind, nurture your body, and navigate through life with more joy. So keep reading and learning, my beautiful friend. The world needs you to lean into your best self.
Sending love and support your way.
You can find this book on Amazon or your favorite bookseller.