In this book Dr. Rick Hanson shows you how to develop twelve vital inner strengths hardwired into your own nervous system. Then no matter what life throws at you, you’ll be able to feel less stressed, pursue opportunities with confidence, and stay calm and centered in the face of adversity.
This practical guide is full of concrete suggestions, experiential practices, personal examples, and insights into the brain. It includes effective ways to interact with others and to repair and deepen important relationships.
In life, you can’t always trust the outside world, other people, or even your own body. But when all else fails, you can still count on your mental resources. That’s where resilience comes in. It includes strengths like determination, confidence, and compassion, which give you the ability to get through hard times, beat stress, and follow your heart in pursuit of opportunities.
Resilience is at the root of mental well-being – it’s the main building block of happiness and inner peace. What’s more, everything you need to grow it is already within you. Developing resilience comes down to unlocking the powers of your own mind and, by doing so, changing your brain for the better.
Luckily, developing resilience involves simple practices and easy techniques that you can incorporate into your daily life. And along with discovering the psychological mechanisms that resilience is based on, you’ll be able to help yourself – no matter what life throws at you.
Though the author suggests 12 tools, in this review I’ll share with you four of them that really helped me.
1. Self compassion
Compassion is a combination of warm concern for feelings and a desire to relieve suffering. We can feel it both for others and for ourselves.
Most of us have no problem feeling compassion for other people, but we struggle to feel it for ourselves. Have no fear, however – it’s something we can develop by following a few basic principles.
First, bring past experiences of compassion to the front of your mind. Second, focus on and feel them as fully as you can. For example, you can start by remembering a time when you were helping someone else – perhaps supporting a sick relative. Think about what it felt like and what kinds of feelings were going through your mind. That’s what compassion feels like. Now, apply this same attitude to yourself. Get a sense of what it feels like to be your own friend, and stay committed to it.
Self-compassion doesn’t just make you feel better in the moment; the more self-compassion you feel, the more resilient you become over time. That’s because it lowers your tendency to criticize yourself and, instead, helps you build up self-esteem. It can even help you become more ambitious and successful in both your personal and professional lives.
2. Practicing mindfulness to reduce stress
Mindfulness means staying in the present moment – and being aware of it – instead of getting distracted. It’s easy enough to do for a moment or two, especially when things are going well.
The challenge is to stay mindful under stress, like in the middle of an argument. Those are the times when we need it most. This is because staying mindful helps us limit the impact of harmful experiences while allowing us to get the most out of enjoyable ones.
Mindfulness boils down to regulating your attention and avoiding judgment. Instead, just observe whatever is happening in your mind at that moment. The more you do it, the more natural it will feel. It’s like a muscle you can exercise.
To get started, you can try noticing the times when you feel at ease – and allow yourself to simply be. You could be looking out of the window watching the world go by, or reflecting on your day before you drift off to sleep. That sense of calm focus, without trying to change anything in your awareness, is what mindfulness feels like.
The more mindful you are, the more you’ll be able to conserve your resources, recharge, and refuel. By doing so, you’ll avoid getting into a flurry of stress at every minor incident. At the same time, if something that needs a more urgent reaction happens, you’ll be ready – and it won’t hit you so hard.
3. Being grateful
Think about the last time you felt thankful. Maybe you were appreciating a tasty dinner that a friend cooked for you. Or perhaps it was a more abstract feeling of gratitude, like looking up at the clear sky on a beautiful day. No matter the occasion, it felt good, right?
We often get so stressed and exhausted trying to make sure we’ll feel good in the future that we forget about all the ways we feel good already. But if you take a few moments to think about it, you’ll probably find plenty of things in your life that you’re thankful for.
Thankfulness doesn’t just feel great; it also brings a lot of benefits along with it. Researchers have found that it increases optimism and happiness while lessening anxiety and depression. And it doesn’t end there. Gratitude also leads to stronger relationships, less loneliness, and better sleep. Along with these benefits comes – you guessed it – greater resilience. With gratitude being so rewarding, how can you generate more of it in your daily life?
One powerful way to foster thankfulness is to make it a regular part of your day. For example, you could write a reminder for yourself to give thanks and put it on your desk. You could also keep a journal of everything you’re grateful for, or write a letter to a person you really appreciate.
4. Stay calm
If you’re an animal in the wild, there are generally two kinds of mistakes that you can make.
First, you might convince yourself that there’s a tiger lurking in the bushes when there isn’t one. Not the most pleasant feeling in the world! You might get needlessly scared, but no harm done.
The other mistake animals can make is to believe there’s no one in the bushes – exactly when the tiger is about to pounce. This kind of mistake is often much more costly.
It’s no surprise that our minds have evolved to keep making the first, harmless kind of mistake –
just so that we can avoid the deadly one. In other words, we have a tendency to overestimate threats while also underrating our ability to handle them. The result? A lot of anxiety that serves no useful function and drains us of the energy we need to face real problems.
Something as simple as slowing down your breath can help you relax and stop anxiety in its tracks. In practice, this might involve you inhaling for three seconds and then exhaling slowly for six.
With that in mind this book teaches that resilience is about making use of your own strengths and resources. It’s your secure inner core
that you can build on by creating positive experiences and incorporating them into your daily life.
You can develop your mind’s powers to learn how to deal with adversity, stay calm under
pressure, and grow the confidence required to follow your dreams.