What is resilience?

It is inevitable for us to experience adversities, trauma or stressors in life. Being resilient and capable of maintaining one’s well-being does not mean being able to prevent all the adversive situations in one’s life journey. In fact, resilience is the ability to bouncing back after experiencing adversities, trauma, or stressors in life. The person with resilience is able to return to one’s well-being after the adversive encounter. What’s more, the person who has overcome one’s adversities may also become more resilient and have achieved personal growth. Through coping with one’s challenges, the person may be empowered and become stronger to face future adversive experiences.

What is self-compassion and how does self-compassion enhance resilience?

Psychologist Kristin Neff defines self-compassion as having three components. The first component is self-kindness, the ability to understand one’s suffering and be able to soothe and nurture oneself in face of adversities. The second component is common humanity. It is an awareness of the commonality of human beings as being imperfect and not being judgmental of one’s inadequacies and failures. The third component is mindfulness. This is the present moment awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, without judgment and with acceptance.

Psychologists pointed out that people who are self-compassionate tend to be more resilient, optimistic and higher in positive affectivity. When they are confront with negative events, they are still able to react with self-direct understanding and kindness. Oppositely, people who are self-critical tend to have lower self-esteem, to be more depressed and perfectionistic.

Some people think that encouraging self-compassion means to promote self-indulgence, which could undermine personality responsibility for one’s problems. It could also turn an individual into being self-centered, selfish, narcissistic and less motivated to strive for success. However, numerous research show that self-compassion is positively associated with our emotional well-beings through improving life satisfaction, reducing depressive mood and anxiety, and enabling us react to negative events more equanimously. Moreover, it is positively related to optimism, wisdom, initiative, curiosity and agreeableness. Since the self-compassionate individuals do not interpret trying and failing as threatening, they tend to be more motivated to strive for success and to encounter obstacles toward goal progression.

Over self-criticism is not the right track towards success. It could suffocate us with overloading stress. On the contrary, being self-compassionate can bring us a happy and fruitful life.

Being more self-compassionate can enhance a person’s ability to face adversities and life challenges without being too self critical and self demanding. As a result, self compassion is very important for us to be more resilient in our daily life.

The Art of Gratitude and its relationship with resilience

Gratitude itself is neither limited by environment nor experience. Most importantly it depends on whether we are able to appreciate the details of daily life, and to experience life in different ways. From psychological perspective, according to some recent studies, an individual’s trait gratitude is related to his/ her own cognitive process.

In 2008, psychologists from The University of Warwick, University of Leicester and University of Nottingham in the UK, have done a study, asking the student participants to record daily their experiences about receiving assistance in the 15 days during the research. Results showed that participants with stronger trait gratitude were more likely to have positive appraisals towards the assistance they received than participants with weaker trait gratitude. Participants with stronger trait gratitude were more likely to perceive the givers as altruistic and had paid higher costs; the assistance they received was more valuable. In another study, psychologists found out that if the objective benefits of the assistance were controlled in the experiment, it would influence participants’ appraisals towards the assistance, the gratitude state of participants would thus be influenced too. It proves that our state of gratitude after receiving assistance is partly attributed to our own trait gratitude, and this relation is related to an individual’s cognitive process.

In recent years, we can learn from positive psychology that people with stronger trait gratitude experience various positive emotions more easily, such as happiness, peace, satisfaction and more. To develop stronger trait gratitude, we can have a more positive attitude when we receive assistance from others and avoid negative thinking.

Cultivating gratitude enhance our resilience in the face of life challenges. It is important that we can see positive lights in whatever adversities we are facing. Amazingly, when we are being able to perceive a different perspective in difficult situations, we can have personal growth and move beyond our limits.

What is mindfulness? What are the benefits of practicing mindfulness?

According to the founder of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, Jon Kabat Zinn, mindfulness is purposely bringing awareness to the present moment experience, moment to moment, without judgment. The awareness could be narrow and broad, from our breathe, bodily sensations, feelings, thoughts, to our internal sounds, sounds in the external environment, or interpersonal communication, etc. Being aware of our present moment experience enable us to notice our automatic pilot, our habitual way of reacting to stimulus. As we become more aware, we are able to open more options in responding to different stimulus in our daily living.

Neuroscientific research showed that mindfulness calms the activity of the amygdala in the brain. The amygdala is the center of emotional processing that is associated with fear responses and emotional memory. Regular mindfulness practice is found to be beneficial for shortening the recovery of negative emotional responses and reducing the intensity of negaive emotions.

Regular mindfulness practice also enable us to stablize and control our attention. We will be more able to notice our mind wandering with mindfulness practice and increasing the likelihood for us to bringing our attention back to our tasks. We will also be less distractible by distracting information in our conscious awareness. Neuroscientific research showed that the activation in the prefrontal cortex of the brain increased for mindfulness practitioners. The prefrontal cortex is the center for complex cognitive behavior, planning, decision making. It is also associated with sustained attention and awareness.

Our subjective sense of our body will be enhanced through the practice of mindfulness. This will increase our emotional self-awareness and help us to regulate our emtional reactions more effectively. Studies showed that regular mindfulness practice changes the structure of the insula in our brain. The insular is the center for subjective awareness of our bodily sensation. With the increased thinkness of insula through regular mindfulness practice, we will be more able to be aware of our negative emotions, so that we can manage them more effectively.

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