Okay, I know. The elephant is turning pink.....
Last Thankful Thursday I introduced you all to the Best, Worst, Ordinary practice and this week I'd like to explore it a little more. Practiced regularly, BWO does more than amp up appreciation, but it also cultivates a trait that in a lot of ways is just as, if not more important: Resilience. In discussions with people about the BWO, some mistake it for optimism and while optimism is a part of being resilient and definitely a trait to be cultivated, resilience is more about coping with all circumstances in life. In psychology a definition of resilience is the positive capacity of a person to deal with stress and adversity. Some of the characteristics that resilient people exhibit:
- They are excellent problem solvers
- They look for opportunities of self-discovery or growth in negative situations
- They are good at recognizing what they have control over, what they don't have control over and make decisions to either accept what is (cannot change) or make positive changes (over what they do have the power to change)
- They avoid seeing times of crisis or stress as unbearable problems
- They maintain a hopeful outlook
- They are able to keep a long-term perspective and think of circumstances with a broader outlook
These are some of the characteristics, and the BWO is a practice that can build resilience in any person. While I am not a psychologist or any kind of professional, I am a work in progress and hope that using my examples might encourge you to try this out. So instead of thankful things I'm going to share again this week a typical Best, Worst and Ordinary list and have a brief discussion on how I think they help cultivate resilience.
- Best: Lots of laughs during a skype session with Erin.
Long Term Positive Meaning: I have a nineteen year old that still likes to chat with me and I like to think that we have a future of open conversations and connections that will only get deeper. She also has been having a tough time of it lately and it was a night that we let that go and hopefully boosted her spirits in a positive way.
Applied to traits of resiliency: Rather than just overlooking what is a not uncommon occurrence, a resilient person reflects on the positivity and draws out the specialness in the moment, projecting to future moments and seeing how they can still be a valuable asset in a relationship.
- Worst: Alright, this might not be a real "worst" in any way except the way I reacted to it. While out for my walk/jog the wires in my ear buds became frayed and I could only hear the music out of one ear some of the time and it was stat-icy a lot of the time and my initial reaction was to be really irritated. To the point of distraction. First I tried to hold the connection together while jogging so that I could hear properly and that was annoying. Then I had an internal debate every time the static picked up, should I keep listening? Should I turn it off? UGH! Then I'll have to run in quiet and I wasn't in the mood! And here I am on my walk/jog, something that is supposed to be a stress reliever and every time I hear static I feel myself stressing.
Long Term Positive Meaning: It really is silly because HELLO! I'm out for a walk/jog after weeks of working through an injury and just plain sluggishness, that is good! And for pity's sake, all of that music is on a tiny little iPod with little ear buds, not one of those huge CD or cassette Walkman things, which limited how much music I could take with me. Not to mention it was an hour. One.hour. Only an hour that I would either have to go in silence or put up with static. At the end of that I just have to go to the store and get another pair of ear buds for ten whole dollars.
Applied to traits of resiliency: This is where daily practice shines. I usually tend less toward optimism and more toward negativity. Daily journaling of BWO, along with a meditation practice, has also cultivated awareness. I'm still a work in progress, but in this situation I was aware of what I was doing in my mind and was able to change my thoughts immediately, deciding that music with a little static was, in this case, better than none at all. The important thing is to become aware of how your mind and body reacts to even small crises (I was an over reactor) and change your thinking to the positive. I admit that this really is a small example, but try it out in instances where the positive slant is in easy reach and work up from there. It isn't a big step to some of the other traits, such as learning from negative situations, recognizing what control you have over any given situation and how to respond appropriately, and how to keep small or medium issues from taking over your thoughts and body.
- Ordinary: Laundry.
Long Term Positive Meaning: This could be a negative, but really. It's laundry. Some people hate doing it, some love it, some are neutral, but you can't beat the feeling of fresh sheets, a pile of clean bath towels and knowing that when you get up in the morning there will be drawers filled with clean clothes to choose from, all folded and neat and pretty. Having it done takes the stress out of digging through piles of clothes to find enough clean and matching things to wear. I kind of love that feeling of opening my sock drawer and seeing all of those beautiful hand knit socks waiting to warm my feet.
Applied to traits of resiliency: Like seeing the positive in the positive, this helps in appreciating the average and normal, which is so often overlooked in our busy lives. It is just that simple.
I was introduced to this concept some time ago and have been mentored in a way, but even in the learning and taking notes I have needed to take advantage of some online resources to help organize my thoughts and refresh my memory with the appropriate vocabulary. Those of you who are close to me know that age combined with what is easiest to classify as minor brain injury, but is really a bit more complicated than that, know that this post would have taken me a lot longer to write if I had to wait for my addled brain to remember the right words. This wikipedia article has more information than I have shared here.
The Best, Worst and Ordinary exercise was in some way (and I don't know the chain of events here) inspired by this study where researchers who were already studying resilience had the opportunity to work with subjects before and after 9/11. While the study wasn't executed in the manner above, questions such as "Did anything good come out of dealing with this problem?” “Do you feel that you might find benefit in this situation in the long-term?” and “Do you think it is likely that there is
something to learn from this experience?” were part of how they gauged resilience. They had measures taken before the events of 9/11 (for this study a measure for resilience had been created) and had the opportunity, unfortunately, to observe if there were changes in the resilient and those measured less resilient. It is a lot to read, but a very interesting study and worth your time.
The main thing to take from this is that our brains are malleable and we can grow into more resilient beings by just making a conscious effort to start a practice, cultivate awareness and make it all a habit.
Whew! Part of the reason I am behind in posting is because I wanted to write this post and it seemed like such a huge project. The perfectionist in me wanted it to be on Thankful Thursday and to have some sense of cohesion with the previous TT post. I was not as concise as I would have liked (as I still ramble on and on), but I hope you could muddle through and take something way from it. I'd love to hear if you are trying it and how it is going.
2010. Seventy-seven. NaBloPoMo. 11/11. Believe it or not, I think I will have more to say on this. I will definitely share my BWO (or at least what I will share in public, so it might be the picks of the week) on Thursdays and if you find it helpful, great. If you see something to contribute to my perspective I would also love that. You guys always have so many good things to say.