“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”
– Carl Jung
Bouncing back is a concept well understood in the context of recovering from a sports injury. Following favorite players’ comeback stories fills fans with inspiration, encourages perseverance in pursuit of personal goals, and fosters a sense of self-confidence, like we can do it if they can. Cultivating resilience in the face of all life’s challenges is a proactive way of dealing with the unexpected, the upsets and disappointments, the pitfalls and successes in life, including how to cope with trauma, chronic pain, adversity and tragedy.
Resilience: What It’s All About
An article in Forbes defines resilience as “the capacity for stress-related growth” and states that resilience has two parts related to the way you bounce back and grow:
From big work or life adversity and trauma
From dealing with daily hassles and stress
A study in Health Psychology showed that the frequency and intensity of repeated or chronic everyday life strains is strongly associated with overall health and illness, even more so than major life events.
A 2013 study found that exposure to chronic frequent negative emotion and the inability to process daily stress exacts a long-term toll on mental health.
Resilience, say researchers in an article published in Trauma, Violence & Abuse, can manifest either as “prosocial behaviors or pathological adaptation depending on the quality of the environment.” If individuals suffering from lasting effects of trauma and adversity have access to resources that help them cope, they will be more likely to develop prosocial behaviors that may facilitate healing.
Rolbieki et al. (2017) explored resilience among patients living with chronic pain and found that they showed resiliency in four ways: developing a sense of control (actively seeking information and conferring with their doctor to confirm his/her recommendations; actively engaging in both medical and complementary treatment; making social connections and exhibiting acceptance of pain and positive effect.
One surprising finding is that chronic stress accelerates aging at the cellular level – in the body’s telomeres. These are the repeating segments of non-coding DNA at the end of chromosomes. Scientists have discovered that telomeres can be lengthened or shortened – so the goal is to have more days of renewal of cells than destruction or wear and tear on them.
Researchers suggest resilience should be regarded as an emotional muscle, one that can be strengthened and cultivated. Dr. Dennis Charney, co-author of “Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenge,” says people can weather and recover from trauma by developing and incorporating 10 resilience skills, including facing fear, optimism and social support. Dr. Charney, resilience researcher and dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, was shot as he exited a deli. Following the shooting, Dr. Charney faced a long and difficult recovery. The resilience researcher himself had to employ strategies of coping he’d studied and taught.
The American Psychological Association (APA) says that resilience isn’t a trait that people either have or don’t. Instead, resilience “involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”
Ways to Cultivate Resilience
Among the varied ways to develop and cultivate resilience, some are more self-evident than others, yet each is worth a try when attempting to weather life’s challenges.
Act. Even small steps add to a sense of accomplishment, of being proactive instead of reactive. Start with something you feel confident you can do and ask for help if you need it. There’s a lot to be said about self-empowerment when you act in your own best interests. After all, no one else can act for you.
Add to coping resources. Everyone can benefit from having a toolkit of effective coping resources. Combat stress, depression, anxiety and other emotional, psychological and physical issues and conditions through meditation, mindful yoga, exercise and whatever helps you relax, including reading, music, doing puzzles, painting, writing and more.
Embrace flexibility. Instead of regarding your situation as no-win, steer towards an attitude of flexibility. Learn the art of compromise, as in, “I may not be able to run a marathon, yet I can manage a walk in the neighborhood with friends.” In addition, when running into fatigue or pain that prevents you from continuing, congratulate yourself on your effort and the fact that you acted to improve your resilience. Over time, you’ll get stronger and be able to do more, thus adding to your resilience and helping to improve your overall physical and mental health.
Practice optimism. Science says that some optimism is genetic, while some is learned. You can train yourself with practice in positive self-thinking to see opportunity instead of a dead-end, to view a glass as half full instead of half empty. There’s also truth in self-fulfilling attitudes. If you believe you’ll be successful in overcoming adversity, you’re more likely to succeed. The opposite is also true: If you think you’ll fail, you probably will.
Take advantage of support. When you need help, it’s OK to ask for it. In fact, when you know you have support available and are willing to use it, you’re exercising prosocial behavior. Similarly, when you can do so, offer your support to others who may need it.
Avoid personalizing. There’s no point in engaging in blame or endlessly thinking about your situation. Besides being counter-productive, it makes you feel worse. Make use of some of the healthy coping measures you’ve successfully used before and stop ruminating about what happened to you.
Regard the setback/disappointment as temporary. Nothing lasts forever, not even life-altering events, trauma, adversity and pain. You can navigate through this turbulent and emotionally trying time by realizing that this is temporary, and things will get better with your active involvement in your healing process.
Write your new story. Psychiatrists and psychologists call this “reframing” and it refers to changing your story to focus on the opportunities revealed. For example, say you’ve returned from active deployment in a war zone with extensive physical and psychological injuries. Instead of remaining steeped in the negative aspects of your experience, allow yourself to center on other senses, traits, skills and resources you have at your disposal – your empathy, understanding, ability to solve problems, a wide support network, loving family and close friends.
Cultivate gratitude. When you are grateful and actively cultivate gratitude, you are taking advantage of a basic part of resilience and in contentment in life. The more you develop gratitude, the more resilient you’ll become.
Remind yourself of other victories. This may be an intensely challenging time for you, a time when failures and negativity seem paramount and inevitable. Now is when you must remind yourself of your past successes, examples of seemingly impossible hurdles you’ve overcome, victories you’ve scored. This serves as self-reminder that you’ve come back from adversity before. You can do it again.
Enhance spirituality. Religion and spirituality have been shown as predictors of resilience in various populations studied, including returning war veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma sufferers, children and adults who experience abuse or violence, patients enduring chronic pain. Prayer, self-reflection, communicating with a Higher Power serves as a healing balm to many who otherwise may resort to negative coping behaviors, such as drinking and drug use.
Failure is not popular. It’s avoided at all costs and seen as the worse possible thing that could happen. But, believe it or not, failure does have some virtue. It’s a great teacher whose lessons can change lives. You may wonder how it’s possible to learn from what feels like defeat, but it’s possible. Check out these 10 things therapists say you can learn from your past mistakes.
Maya Angelou, an accomplished and well-known poet, said this:
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
10 LESSONS LEARNED FROM YOUR PAST FAILURES
1 – YOUR PAST FAILURE CAN LEAD TO SUCCESS…EVENTUALLY
You may have heard the story about Thomas Edison. He failed 1,000 times before he made the first light bulb. Edison is famous for saying, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” This outcome is a common experience.
Here’s a list of some of the most well-known people whose many attempts at starting over eventually led them to success.
Sir James Dyson
You never know if your current failure could lead to tomorrow’s successes. So, learn valuable lessons from poor outcomes and keep going.
2 – YOUR PAST FAILURE IS OFTEN PART OF THE PROCESS
Problems, missteps, and difficulties go hand in hand when you’re working toward a goal. According to studies, every failure changes your perspective and helps you change course when necessary. Many times, when you’re attempting to do something, it’s simply trial and error, and failure can be the key to open a new door for you to walk through.
3 – PAST FAILURE NEEDS TO BE TAUGHT
If you watch professional football, you’ll see the players fall over and over again. It’s the competitive part of the game, and the coaches are constantly reminding their players how to fall but get back up, avoid injury, and improve their skills. One study found that teaching kids to fail actually builds their confidence and helps them to grow up to be resilient adults. If you haven’t learned how to fail and get back up again, you won’t try new things. You’ll be paralyzed, worried about failing so much that you refuse to step out and take a risk. Life is messy, but don’t be afraid to deal with the messiness of failure.
4 – PAST FAILURES TEACH YOU THAT IMPERFECTION IS OKAY
Social media applauds perfection. It makes you feel like you are inferior if your home, face, and kids aren’t perfect. It teaches you to feel frustrated at imperfection even though you know deep inside that real life isn’t perfect. Failure teaches you that life isn’t all neat and tidy like social media portrays. When you learn how to tolerate your imperfections, you feel at peace. You learn that sometimes there’s nothing you can do about your failures but accept them and keep moving.
5 – FAILURE HELPS YOU PARENT
Failure is a common experience. When you experience failure, such as losing your job, how you handle it speaks volumes to your kids. As they observe you deal with your failures, they’ll learn that sometimes life doesn’t always work out the way you want. Protecting your kids from disappointment hurts their ability to grow resilient and know how to tolerate failure. Use your failures to model how not to give up.
Allow your kids to try new things. Let them fail sometimes. It’s hard to watch as a parent, but it’s an important lesson for your kids to grow into mentally strong, independent adults.
6 – FAILURES TEACH YOU TO BE FLEXIBLE
Hopefully, once you’ve failed at something, you won’t try to do the same thing in the same way. You must learn to adapt, to be flexible, to adjust where needed. It should help you understand that there are many ways to accomplish your goal. Being flexible means, you can adapt and change your ways.
Sometimes you need to throw out the old ways and start over, and that’s okay. Without flexibility, you won’t learn, and you won’t try new things in new ways.
7 – EVERY FAILURE REVEALS YOUR CHARACTER
Failing stinks. It’s a humbling experience and a great revealer of human character. Your true self comes out when stuff goes wrong. If you get angry, bitter, and blame everyone else for your own failures, you’re showing the world who you really are. Failure can also reveal humility. You suddenly understand what it feels like to fail, so you’re more empathetic towards friends or family who has experienced defeat.
If you want to get to know someone, don’t look at how they handled successes and how they handled failure.
8 – FAILURE BRINGS FOCUS
Failure can be discouraging. Once the smoke clears and your emotions settle down, the outcome can help you refocus. Perhaps your dream job wasn’t a dream, after all. You had to quit, or you got to let go. This forces you to choose a new path to focus on what you really want to do. Many people start in one career only to realize they hate it, so they venture off into another one that they love.
So try not to feel devastated by your failures. Think of them as stepping stones to something else. Let the failure reignite an old passion. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to go back to school. Maybe the failure at work is the opportunity you needed to pursue a degree.
9 – FAILURE TEACHES YOU TO TRY OTHER PATHS
Failure can look like a detour, but in fact, failure may be guiding you down an entirely new road. You learn that there are several ways to achieve the same goal. One way failed, but there are several more approaches to try. Failure enhances your curiosity and creativity to try new ideas and ways that, in the past, you just hadn’t even considered.
10 – PEOPLE DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR FAILURE
When you fail, you may worry about what others will think of you. In reality, most people don’t care about your failures. They know and love you for who you are, not what you can or can’t achieve. It’s embarrassing to mess up, but for the most part, people are typically very understanding because they’ve been there. They aren’t as concerned about your failures because they’re dealing with their own life. So, relax, and fail. It’s okay because those who are your true friends will always love you no matter how many failures or successes you have in your life.
FOUR TIPS TO HELP YOU BOUNCE BACK FROM PAST FAILURES
Even though you understand and agree that failure teaches you many things, it may still be hard to bounce back from it. Here are some tried-and-true suggestions to help you overcome past failures and look ahead.
1 – STUDY WHAT YOU LEARNED FROM PAST OUTCOMES
Step back and glean all you can from your failure. Ask yourself some questions such as,
“What did I learn about myself? What did I learn about my goal? Was there a blessing in the midst of the mess?
As you squeeze every drop of understanding out of your failure, you gain better insight into your gifts, talents, and capacity. You get a fresh vision and hope for the future. Failure isn’t fun, but it can make you more fruitful. Please don’t waste your failure. Get as much out of it as you can.
2 – GET INPUT FROM SOMEONE TRUSTWORTHY
Ask a trusted co-worker, friend, or family member for input. Be sure these people really know you, and you feel comfortable hearing what they have to say. Ask them for constructive criticism regarding the failure. Were they surprised? What did they think about your motives? Ask for their advice on how to proceed forward. You don’t need to follow their suggestions, but it’s worth getting their thoughts.
3 – DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT
When you’ve figured out what you’ve learned from a past mistake, do something. Ask yourself
“How can I use what I’ve learned from failure and take a step forward? What would I love to do now?”
Whatever you do, don’t stop moving. Don’t give up. Do something, move forward. Use your gifts and talents to the best of your ability.
4 – DON’T LOSE YOUR HOPE
Failure can be devastating, especially if you’ve worked on something for years, and you cannot get it just right. It’s hard to pick up the pieces and start over, but you can do it. Never lose hope. There’s always something for you to do, a purpose for you to accomplish. Life is full of successes and failures. Let your blunders guide you into new horizons.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON LEARNING FROM PAST FAILURES
Failure is never fun, but it can be a good tutor for those who care to learn. It reveals true character, refocuses your goals, and helps you become more empathetic to other people who fail. Every life experience is a learning experience, so let falling down from time to time be your teacher. Learn and then bounce back from your failures with fresh vision and new goals. Never give up. Remember that you’re more than your failures or your successes.
This gentle form of exercise can help maintain strength, flexibility, and balance, and could be the perfect activity for the rest of your life.
Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medication in motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren’t in top shape or the best of health.
In this low-impact, slow-motion exercise, you go without pausing through a series of motions named for animal actions — for example, “white crane spreads its wings” — or martial arts moves, such as “box both ears.” As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention — as in some kinds of meditation — on your bodily sensations. Tai chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched. Tai chi can be easily adapted for anyone, from the most fit to people confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery.
Tai chi movement
A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for tai chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age. An adjunct therapy is one that’s used together with primary medical treatments, either to address a disease itself or its primary symptoms, or, more generally, to improve a patient’s functioning and quality of life.
You don’t need to subscribe to or learn much about tai chi’s roots in Chinese philosophy to enjoy its health benefits, but these concepts can help make sense of its approach:
Qi — an energy force thought to flow through the body; tai chi is said to unblock and encourage the proper flow of qi.
Yin and yang — opposing elements thought to make up the universe that need to be kept in harmony. Tai chi is said to promote this balance.
Tai chi in motion
A tai chi class might include these parts:
Warm-up. Easy motions, such as shoulder circles, turning the head from side to side, or rocking back and forth, help you to loosen your muscles and joints and focus on your breath and body.
Instruction and practice of tai chi forms. Short forms — forms are sets of movements — may include a dozen or fewer movements; long forms may include hundreds. Different styles require smaller or larger movements. A short form with smaller, slower movements is usually recommended at the beginning, especially if you’re older or not in good condition.
Qigong (or chi kung). Translated as “breath work” or “energy work,” this consists of a few minutes of gentle breathing sometimes combined with movement. The idea is to help relax the mind and mobilize the body’s energy. Qigong may be practiced standing, sitting, or lying down.
The benefits of tai chi are generally greatest if you begin before you develop a chronic illness or functional limitations. Tai chi is very safe, and no fancy equipment is needed, so it’s easy to get started. Here’s some advice for doing so:
Don’t be intimidated by the language. Names like Yang, Wu, and Cheng are given to various branches of tai chi, in honor of people who devised the sets of movements called forms. Certain programs emphasize the martial arts aspect of tai chi rather than its potential for healing and stress reduction. In some forms, you learn long sequences of movements, while others involve shorter series and more focus on breathing and meditation. The name is less important than finding an approach that matches your interests and needs.
Check with your doctor. If you have a limiting musculoskeletal problem or medical condition — or if you take medications that can make you dizzy or lightheaded — check with your doctor before starting tai chi. Given its excellent safety record, chances are that you’ll be encouraged to try it.
Consider observing and taking a class. Taking a class may be the best way to learn tai chi. Seeing a teacher in action, getting feedback, and experiencing the camaraderie of a group are all pluses. Most teachers will let you observe the class first to see if you feel comfortable with the approach and atmosphere. Instruction can be individualized. Ask about classes at your local Y, senior center, or community education center.
If you’d rather learn at home, you can buy or rent videos geared to your interests and fitness needs (see “Selected resources”). Although there are some excellent tai chi books, it can be difficult to appreciate the flow of movements from still photos or illustrations.
Talk to the instructor. There’s no standard training or licensing for tai chi instructors, so you’ll need to rely on recommendations from friends or clinicians and, of course, your own judgment. Look for an experienced teacher who will accommodate individual health concerns or levels of coordination and fitness.
Dress comfortably. Choose loose-fitting clothes that don’t restrict your range of motion. You can practice barefoot or in lightweight, comfortable, and flexible shoes. Tai chi shoes are available, but ones you find in your closet will probably work fine. You’ll need shoes that won’t slip and can provide enough support to help you balance, but have soles thin enough to allow you to feel the ground. Running shoes, designed to propel you forward, are usually unsuitable.
Gauge your progress. Most beginning programs and tai chi interventions tested in medical research last at least 12 weeks, with instruction once or twice a week and practice at home. By the end of that time, you should know whether you enjoy tai chi, and you may already notice positive physical and psychological changes.
No pain, big gains
Although tai chi is slow and gentle and doesn’t leave you breathless, it addresses the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning. Here’s some of the evidence:
Muscle strength. Tai chi can improve both lower-body strength and upper-body strength. When practiced regularly, tai chi can be comparable to resistance training and brisk walking.
Although you aren’t working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in tai chi strengthens your upper body. Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.
Flexibility. Tai chi can boost upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength.
Balance. Tai chi improves balance and, according to some studies, reduces falls. Proprioception — the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space — declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments. Tai chi also improves muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble. Fear of falling can make you more likely to fall; some studies have found that tai chi training helps reduce that fear.
Aerobic conditioning. Depending on the speed and size of the movements, tai chi can provide some aerobic benefits. If your clinician advises a more intense cardio workout with a higher heart rate than tai chi can offer, you may need something more aerobic as well.
Tai chi is a form of exercise that began as a Chinese tradition. It’s based in martial arts, and involves slow movements and deep breaths. Tai chi has many physical and emotional benefits. Some of the benefits of tai chi include decreased anxiety and depression and improvements in cognition. It may also help you manage symptoms of some chronic diseases, such as fibromyalgia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
1. Reduces stress
One of the main benefits of tai chi is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, though most evidence is anecdotal.
In 2018, one study compared the effects of tai chi on stress-related anxiety to traditional exercise. The study included 50 participants. The researchers found that tai chi provided the same benefits for managing stress-related anxiety as exercise. Because tai chi also includes meditation and focused breathing, the researchers noted that tai chi may be superior to other forms of exercise for reducing stress and anxiety. However, a larger-scale study is needed.
Tai chi is very accessible and lower impact than many other forms of exercise. The researchers found it to be safe and inexpensive, so it may be a good option if you are otherwise healthy and experiencing stress-related anxiety.
2. Improves mood
Tai chi may help improve your mood if you are depressed or anxious. Preliminary research suggests that regularly practicing tai chi can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s believed that the slow, mindful breaths and movements have a positive effect on the nervous system and mood-regulating hormones. Further research is being done to establish a clear link between tai chi and improved mood.
3. Better sleep
Regularly practicing tai chi may help you to have more restful sleep.
One study followed young adults with anxiety after they were prescribed two tai chi classes each week, for 10 weeks. Based on participant reporting, the individuals who practiced tai chi experienced significant improvements in their quality of sleep compared to those in the control group. This same group also experienced a decrease in their anxiety symptoms.
Tai chi can improve sleep for older adults, too. In a study published in 2016, researchers found that two months of twice-weekly tai chi classes was associated with better sleep in older adults with cognitive impairment.
4. Promotes weight loss
Regularly practicing tai chi can result in weight loss. One study tracked changes in weight in a group of adults practicing tai chi five times a week for 45 minutes. At the end of the 12 weeks, these adults lost a little over a pound without making any additional lifestyle changes.
5. Improves cognition in older adults
Tai chi may improve cognition in older adults with cognitive impairment. More specifically, tai chi may help improve memory and executive functioning skills like paying attention and carrying out complex tasks.
6. Reduces risk of falling in older adults
Tai chi can help improve balance and motor function, and reduce fear of falling in older adults. It can also reduce actual falls after 8 weeks of practice, and significantly reduce falls after 16 weeks of practice. Because fear of falling can reduce independence and quality of life, and falls can lead to serious complications, tai chi may offer the additional benefit of improving quality of life and general well-being in older adults.
7. Improves fibromyalgia symptoms
Tai chi may compliment traditional methods for management of certain chronic diseases.
Results from a 2018 study showed that a consistent tai chi practice can decrease the symptoms of fibromyalgia in some people. Participants in the study who practiced tai chi for 52 weeks exhibited greater improvements in their fibromyalgia-related symptoms when compared to participants practicing aerobics. Learn about other alternative treatments for fibromyalgia symptoms.
8. Improves COPD symptoms
Tai chi may improve some of the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In one study, people with COPD practiced tai chi for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, they have improvements in their ability to exercise and reported an overall improvement in their quality of life.
9. Improves balance and strength in people with Parkinson’s
In a randomized, controlled trial of 195 participants, regular practice of tai chi was found to decrease the number of falls in people with Parkinson’s disease. Tai chi can also help you to increase leg strength and overall balance.
10. Safe for people with coronary heart disease
Tai chi is a safe form of moderate exercise you can try if you have coronary heart disease. Following a cardiovascular event, regular tai chi practices may help you:
increase physical activity
improve your quality of life
11. Reduces pain from arthritis
In a small-scale 2010 study, 15 participants with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) practiced tai chi for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the participants reported less pain and improved mobility and balance.
A larger, earlier study found similar results in people with knee osteoarthritis (OA). In this study, 40 participants with knee OA practiced 60 minutes of tai chi, two times a week for 12 weeks. Following the study, participants reported a reduction in pain and an improvement in mobility and quality of life.
When compared to physical therapy, tai chi has also been found to be as effective in the treatment of knee OA.
Always talk to your doctor before starting tai chi if you have arthritis. You may need to do modified versions of some of the movements.
Is tai chi safe?
Tai chi is generally considered to be a safe exercise with few side effects. You may experience some aches or pains after practicing tai chi if you’re a beginner. More rigorous forms of tai chi and improper practice of tai chi are associated with increased risk of injury to joints. Especially if you’re new to tai chi, consider attending a class or working with an instructor to reduce your risk of injury.
If you’re pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program.
How to start tai chi
Tai chi focuses on proper posture and exact movements, something that is difficult to learn on your own. If you’re new to tai chi, take a class or get an instructor.
Tai chi is taught in studios all over the United States and other countries. Larger gyms, like the YMCA, sometimes offer tai chi classes as well.
Choosing a tai chi style
There are five different styles of tai chi, and each style can be modified to suit your goals and personal fitness level. All styles of tai chi incorporate continuous movement from one pose to the next.
Yang style tai chi focuses on slow, graceful movements and relaxation. Yang style is a good starting point for beginners.
Wu style tai chi places an emphasis on micro-movements. This style of tai chi is practiced very slowly.
Chen style tai chi uses both slow and fast movements. This style of tai chi might be difficult for you if you’re new to the practice.
Sun style tai chi shares a lot of similarities with Chen style. Sun style involves less crouching, kicking, and punching, making it less physically demanding.
Hao style tai chi is a lesser-known and rarely practiced style. This style of tai chi is defined by a focus on accurate position and internal strength.
How does tai chi differ from yoga?
Tai chi emphasizes fluid movement and has roots in Chinese culture. Yoga focuses on posing and originated in Northern India.
Both tai chi and yoga are forms of exercise that involve meditation and deep breathing, and they have similar benefits, such as:
Tai chi is an exercise that can benefit both healthy adults and adults living with a chronic condition.
The benefits of tai chi include:
management of chronic conditions
If you’re interested in trying tai chi, an instructor can help you get started. Classes are offered in specialized studios, community centers, and gyms.
Passover, Easter and Ramadan are occasions that typically bring families together to pray, reflect and celebrate – fellowship needed, perhaps, now more than ever – will look different this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The loss of those traditions is added to a growing list of losses that North Americans are facing as they endure at least another month of social distancing and with it an extended departure from routines, habits, social circles and normalcy.
“There is literal grief like losing loved ones,” said Dr. Vaile Wright, the American Psychology Association’s director of clinical research. “But there is a grief of experiences that we are losing right now. There can feel like there is a lot of loss right now, a loss of freedom, a lot of things we took for granted.”
The next few months may take a toll on the nation’s mental health, experts say, but it is possible to mitigate the stress.
North Americans’ collective trauma
Extended isolation and stress from the pandemic can affect everyone differently, said Dr. Dana Garfin, a health psychologist.
It could put strain on families, send children home to abusive situations, make those living alone feel isolated and threaten people’s sense of purpose by keeping them from work, Garfin said.
And those experiencing financial insecurity in the midst of the pandemic have an added stress that is difficult to resolve, said Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University.
Despite those differences, the experience of staying home together through a pandemic can be considered a collective trauma, said Garfin, who studies collective traumas such as hurricanes, terrorist attacks and earthquakes.
Collective traumas start at some point of impact and then ripple out to loved ones of the afflicted, witnesses to the devastation and people whose lives are disrupted.
In this case, many Americans fall into one or more of those categories. People in quarantine show signs of confusion, depression and anger, Garfin said.
“We necessarily run much of our lives by habit,” said Fischhoff. “We know what we have for breakfast, we know how to prepare the kids for school, and that enables us to get through the day reasonably well.”
But now that many North Americans aren’t waking up and going to school and work, it can be difficult to know how to restructure even the most rote daily habits that won’t be coming back for weeks yet.
What life might look like on the other side of coronavirus
How long the pandemic and the isolation continue will dictate how severe the effects are on people’s mental health, Garfin said.
Prolonged exposure to the traumas of coronavirus can activate the fight or flight response, which over time can cause cardiovascular problems, anxiety, depression and PTSD, Garfin said. And the extended isolation can contribute to fear, anxiety, headaches, muscle tension and difficulty concentrating, said Wright.
For some groups, like health care workers, those in the media and people in newly deemed “essential jobs,” the end result may be guilt, grief and PTSD, said Wright.
But, Wright and Garfin agreed, humans are resilient.
Some may forget everything they just went through and go back to their daily lives when it is all over, Wright said, but many can come out of this with stronger relationships and a better perspective on what is important.
How to get through it
The future is uncertain, but life will be different for at least the next month and that knowledge can be the first step to making this new, temporary reality as good as it can be.
Now that it is clear the change is for more than a couple of weeks, it is important to create a new routine – one that includes showering, getting dressed and maintaining family meals — not treating the time as an extended snow day or spring vacation, Wright said.
There is an opportunity for people to develop new habits around the disruption, which can relieve the stress of feeling like starting from scratch every day, Fischhoff said.
And all three say it is important to use social media to be social, not to feed the anxiety that conflicting coronavirus information on the platform stokes.
They also agree that this experience is difficult, and it is important to acknowledge that and not be too critical of what one could have done before or could be doing now.
“I think that we need to recognize that this is totally unprecedented, and we really are just doing the best we can – and that’s OK,” Wright said. And for people doing the best they can but struggling to work, study or care for their families, virtual mental health resources may be a crucial next step.
And for those who are lonely and isolated, Garfin suggests reframing for a feeling of community within that experience.
“We aren’t in our houses alone, we are doing something for each other for our community,” Garfin said. “It’s a shared effort, something that we are all a part of and something we are all contributing to.”
“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s not permanent.”
Take A Breath:
How The Simple Act Of Meditative Breathing
Helps Us Cope
A global pandemic causes so much worry, concern and fear. There’s the pressure of suddenly being a homeschooling parent and trying to create structure around newfound chaos in your home.
A lot of us are adjusting to working from home, all while tending to worries about the state of the world. Maybe you fret over the health of aging parents or feel anxious over the ever-changing news cycle.
Psychological stress can damper your overall health, affecting your ability to remain resilient in the face of challenges. It can also thwart a strong immune system, which is needed to keep from getting sick.
“Living through a pandemic can be scary,” said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the March 18 episode of CNN’s “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction” podcast.
The good news: Meditation is one tool that can help our immune systems functioning optimally, according to a recent study.
One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is by simply focusing your attention on your breath, according to Harvard Medical School, since it’s a form of beginner level meditation that anyone can do.
Alternative medicine advocate Dr. Deepak Chopra, in Dr. Gupta’s podcast episode titled “Pandemic Panic,” walks us through how to do a breathing meditation to ease our stress, thus calming our minds.
Breathing through the stress of a pandemic
According to Harvard Medical School, breathing meditation requires either sitting comfortably, standing or walking in a setting with minimal distractions. Many people prefer to sit.
If you’re sitting, focus first on your posture: You should sit with your spine erect.
As you become aware of the space you’re in and sit comfortably, observe your breath without manipulating it for a few seconds, Chopra suggests.
Then, slow your breath down by inhaling deeply to the count of six.
Pause for two seconds.
Exhale to the count of four. Then repeat this six-two-four breathing method for two minutes.
“Then, when you’re done with that, bring your awareness into your body and wherever there seems to be any discomfort, just bring the awareness there without manipulating it,” Chopra said. “Awareness by itself heals. Awareness without conceptual intervention restores self-regulation.”
“The goal is really to breathe from your diaphragm,” as opposed to shallow breaths from your chest, said Vaile Wright, a psychologist and director of clinical research and quality at the American Psychological Association.
“And the way to know whether you’re doing that or not, or a trick at least, is to place your hand just below your ribs on your stomach.” When you inhale you should feel your body expanding, then contracting when you inhale.
If the initial peace is interrupted by your thoughts, the meditation isn’t a failure. Though breathing meditations are simple to begin with, they can take practice before you’re able to maintain focus for an extended period of time, Wright said. Just acknowledge the thought and try to let it go.
You don’t have to concentrate on any format, but some people find that adding some sort of mantra or visualization to it helps, Wright said.
“For example, when you’re breathing in, telling yourself [in your head that] you’re breathing in love. When you’re exhaling, telling yourself you’re exhaling anxiety. Or, breathing in positive energy, exhaling negative energy or visualizing negative energy coming out of your mouth and out of your body.”
Chopra starts his day with three or four intentions: “I’m going to maintain a joyful, energetic body today; a loving and compassionate heart today; a reflective and quiet and creative and centered mind today; and lightness of being and laughter today, whatever it takes.”
By doing these intentions, you can start to feel better, he said.
Modern technology offers up apps and smart watches that can help guide you through a meditation if you have trouble staying focused.
“Slow your breath, your thoughts will slow down as well,” Chopra said.
try this for 2 – 5 minutes
Benefits for your overall health
Breathing meditations can contribute to a state of mindfulness by bringing your focus to one thing and only thing only – your breath, Wright said.
“The goal of that is to draw your attention away from maybe worry thoughts you’re having or sort of the catastrophic thoughts or maybe depressing thoughts about feeling alone,” she added. When you’re focusing, those thoughts can be pushed aside, helping you to control your emotions.
Mindfulness has been found to influence two stress pathways in the brain, altering brain structure and activity in regions that regulate attention and emotion, according to the American Psychological Association.
In a 2015 review of studies on the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), researchers found that people who received this therapy were less likely to respond to stressful situations with negative thoughts or unhelpful emotional reactions.
Those participants were also more likely to focus on the present moment and less likely to experience ruminating thoughts.
Breathing meditations can also reduce muscle tension and your heart rate, which are signs of stress, Wright said.
Carrying yourself through a hard time
Breathing meditations are another tool you can add to your coping toolkit, which may also include journaling, baking or virtually connecting with others.
“What’s great about breathing is you can do it anywhere,” Wright said. “If music is your way of relaxing, what happens when you don’t have access to it? You always have access to your breathing, so in that sense [breathing meditations] are really portable and very accessible. We really need a variety of different coping skills in order to get through particularly unprecedented situations like this one.”
Mindfulness may not make everything go away, Wright said, but it can bring you to a “calmer state so that you’re better able to deal with all the stress that’s going on.”
How to become more emotionally resilient in the face of uncertainty.
When uncertainty rocks our world, making us wonder which path to take, what decision to make, or whether to respond at all, it can be crippling for some of us if we have not developed emotional resilience.
Not sure if you struggle with resilience? Take this well-being survey. If you do struggle with resilience, how do you move through the challenge? How do you respond effectively to the situation? And how can you become more emotionally resilient in the face of uncertainty? Here are nine ways to develop the emotional resilience that’ll help you in tough times:
1. Try to be flexible.
Often we have difficulty learning to “go with the flow.” Obstinacy, ego, fixed beliefs, expectations, and habits are some of things that lead us to resist change. But when the house you thought you’d live in forever is destroyed in a fire or hurricane, or the job you had trained for has been automated, or perhaps the “love of your life” has married someone else, what do you do?
It can be heartbreaking and crushing all at once. But it is also true that your life is demanding a “course change.” In these situations, it’s wiser to practice acceptance and acknowledge that the situation has changed. You do not control the world; you only control yourself. The only way forward now is to adjust your attitude, shift your thoughts, and create new dreams by being flexible.
2. Practice being OK with discomfort.
When we are navigating a situation in flux, most of us will feel somewhat unsure of ourselves. This is normal. Accepting yourself and your situation is a good place to begin. Calm the inner voices of fear, blame, or resentment, and resist the urge to create drama around the uncertainty. Appraise the situation from a balanced place, realizing that it is OK to feel genuinely uncomfortable at times. You’ll build emotional resilience if you use this time to practice accepting yourself despite the discomfort you feel.
3. Learn from your mistakes and successes.
Do not panic! By allowing discomfort amid uncertain circumstances to reveal something about yourself, you can grow and become more emotionally resilient. Trial and error is how we learn. Once you adapt to being somewhat uncomfortable, you can apply yourself to the challenge at hand, which often triggers a flood of new ideas. Explore the positive thoughts, emotions, and ideas. Perhaps you will learn to speak up for yourself, or you may be forced to apply new approaches to the situation in flux.
This can open up whole new avenues of experience for you that may enhance your coping skills, build resilience, and even expand the range of your resume with newly discovered abilities. Test out some new approaches to see what works in this situation. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because they will make you more emotionally resilient if you are willing to learn from them. By recognizing uncertainty as an opportunity for growth, you can more easily move through it to attain your desired goals. Ultimately, resilience is just getting back up when you fall down.
4. Step back to gain a broader perspective.
Widen your field of vision by reviewing the past and imagining the future. From this perspective, envision various plans, and estimate how they might unfold into the future, until you discover a path that shows promise. Then give it a shot. If that one doesn’t meet your goals, don’t hesitate to try another approach. A shift in perspective can help you see the situation from a new point of view and try out new solutions that make you more emotionally resilient in the future.
5. Coordinate with others.
Review your options and then enlist helpers. Before moving forward with a plan of action, share your uncertainty, and brainstorm ideas for how to move forward with colleagues and friends. Remain open to suggestions, but defend ideas that you really believe in with fervor. Then move forward, knowing you’ve considered multiple options.
6. When at a loss, imitate someone you respect.
Sometimes the hurdles seem too high, or we are at a loss about how to proceed. In these moments, we don’t feel very emotionally resilient. One trick is to think of someone you respect and imagine what they might do in this situation. For example, you might think about how your friend Jane, the most gracious and balanced person you know, maintains her poise in the face of crisis. If her method is to listen attentively, speak slowly, and establish good eye contact while responding, try that. A shift in the way you act can give you ideas for how to be more emotionally resilient.
7. Practice self-compassion.
In difficult moments, it’s essential to practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself to maintain your self-confidence. It’s OK to take some time to release your disappointment or take a break from your routine. A walk or run in nature may be helpful for processing your thoughts and releasing pent-up emotions. Or eating healthfully can help remind you of the importance of being kind to yourself. Once calm, research several options, and open your mind to all possibilities, so that a new avenue of experience can blossom for you.
8. Celebrate your successes.
After all the work you have done to wend your way through uncertain times and situations, once you have initiated a plan that is working or picked yourself back up after a tough experience, celebrate your success with those who helped you achieve positive results. Give yourself credit for a “win” that feels affirming, and let joy sweep into your heart. Congratulate yourself and commit to continuing your success. Practice being grateful for who you have been, as well as who you are becoming. Emotional resilience is about more than recovering from challenges — it’s about thriving in the face of those challenges.
9. Learn to love change.
Heraclitus once said: “The only thing that is constant is change.” Besides, doing the same thing over and over can wear us down with its accumulative boredom. Change breeds something different and potentially exciting. New efforts stimulate growth potential through new experiences. It is “our ability to respond to life” that is being put to the test here, and the more we exercise this muscle, the more we will feel invigorated by the variety of life, and therefore the more emotionally resilient we will become.
The winners in life know the rules of the game and have a plan. Whether you want to begin a new career, shed pounds or find the love of your life, consider these characteristics which Dr. Phil says are common to people who succeed:
Have a vision.
Champions get what they want because they know what they want. They have a vision that keeps them motivated and efficiently on track. They see it, feel it, and experience it in their minds and hearts. What is success for you? You won’t get there without knowing what it feels and looks like.
Make a strategy.
People who consistently win have a clear and thoughtful strategy. They know what they need to do and when they need to do it. They write it down so they stay on course and avoid any alternative that does not get them closer to the finish line.
Find a passion.
Are you excited to get up in the morning? People with a passion are, and they’re energized about what they are doing. You need to live and breathe what it is that you want, and be passionately invested in both the journey and the goal.
Live the truth.
People who consistently win have no room in their lives for denial, fantasy or fiction. They are self-critical rather than self-deluding, and they hold themselves to high but realistic standards. They deal with the truth, since they recognize that nothing else will make their vision obtainable.
Life is not a success-only journey. Even the best-laid plans sometimes must be altered and changed. Be open to input and consider any potentially viable alternative. Be willing to be wrong and be willing to start over.
People who consistently win are willing to get out of their comfort zone and try new things. Be willing to plunge into the unknown if necessary, and leave behind the safe, unchallenging, and familiar existence in order to have more.
Create a strong nucleus.
Surround yourself with a group of people who want you to succeed. They will move with you toward your goal. Choose and bond with people who have skills, talents and abilities that you do not. Winners give and receive by being part of other people’s nuclear groups.
Do it! People who succeed don’t just sit and think about what they want to do. They take meaningful, purposeful, directional action consistently and persistently. Every step they take puts them toward the outcome they’re looking for.
People who are consistent winners manage their challenges in hierarchical fashion. They commit to managing their time in such a way that does not allow them to keep grinding along on priority number two or three if priority number one needs their attention.
Take care of yourself.
People who consistently win are consciously committed to self-management. They are the most important resource they have in achieving their goals. They actively manage their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.
The noun resilience stems from the Latin resiliens “to rebound, recoil.” As a character trait, resilience is a person’s mental ability to recover quickly from misfortune, illness or depression.
For most, life eventually throws us a major curve ball. Like millions, I have had my share of adversity. Growing up in Bangladesh, I have seen war, famine, and inhumane poverty. As an entrepreneur, technologist, and author, I have faced many professional and personal failures and rejections. I had to learn the art of resiliency to survive and then thrive.
Resilient people develop a mental capacity that allows them to adapt with ease during adversity, bending like bamboo instead of breaking. They possess a set of powerful traits. I’ve shared some of these traits separately in my previous posts; in this article, I wanted to bring them all together.
They Protect Their Soul
Dusting ourselves off every time we fall requires disciplining our inner energy and drive to protect our soul.
1. They Control Their Destiny. It is difficult to understand how you can control your destiny when the very nature of adversity takes away your control. Destiny results from “intention” — our spiritual will, something that drives us to do what seems impossible.
Laurence Gonzales, author of SURVIVING SURVIVAL: The Art and Science of Resilience, in an article writes:
Julian Rotter, a professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut, developed the concept of what he calls “locus of control.” Some people, he says, view themselves as essentially in control of the good and bad things they experience — i.e., they have an internal locus of control.
This internal locus allows us to create options and scenarios based on instinct, the situation, and foresight. It allows us to create alternative plans in anticipation or in the midst of adversity.
2. They Accept Their Battle. As humans, our instincts are to fight bitterly against adversity. The most resilient among us will often find a way to fight it by embracing it.
On my desk is a copy of “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. Very few have talked about embracing adversity like him. A professor at Carnegie Mellon and a husband and father of three, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given only a few months to live. He gave his Last Lecture on Sept. 18, 2007. His story, and particularly this final lecture, are a powerful reminder of the strength of the human spirit.
It’s not about how to achieve your dreams, it’s about how to lead your life … If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you. — Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
Randy decided to accept his situation and live out the days he had remaining by making a difference. He died on July 25, 2008, and now he lives on not only through his family but also through the millions he inspired. I am certainly one of them.
If you haven’t seen the “Last Lecture“ or read the book, then you must.
Once we accept our situation and let go of the outcome, it allows us to adapt and even thrive in the face of adversity.
3. They Use Adversity As Their Compass.
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable. — Helen Keller
Sometimes, if we pay close attention, we see that adversity can come into our life to guide us to our true destiny. It certainly did for Helen Keller.
Helen Keller fell ill, lost her sight, her hearing and fell mute while she was a child. Today, her name is known around the world as a symbol of courage, strength and determination in the face of overwhelming odds. Through the tutelage of her teacher, Ms. Annie Sullivan, and other great supporters, she used her adversity to find her vision, her voice, and a calling for herself that led to great benefits to others.
They Learn to Suffer Well
Adversity inherently invokes pain, suffering, and disappointments. Accepting and growing through our pain is part of our personal growth. This is hardly easy. Like any other skill, learning to suffer well requires conscious practice and learning.
4. They Practice Patience. The realization of the power of patience was most obvious to me during my visit to the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Japan. There, I stood in front of a famous Japanese calligraphy, a quote by Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868.
It says: “The strong manly ones in life are those who understand the meaning of the word patience. I am not as strong as I might be, but I have long known and practiced patience. And if my descendants wish to be as I am, they must study patience.”
Over time, I have found that the practice of patience begins with:
Compassion — The Dalai Lama says, “a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively or hurt you.” It is perhaps one of the hardest things to practice, yet there’s no substitute for compassion.
Gratitude — When life turns upside down, staying in an attitude of genuine thankfulness helps us realize what we have.
5. They Let Go. Fear is a protective emotion signaling danger and helps us to prepare for and cope with it. Fear perhaps is the key fundamental emotion that holds us back — fear of failure, losing people, success, the unknown, and fear of moving forward or making a change. Emotional pain is another key factor that often holds us back. Although others can cause pain for us, our pain can also be caused by our own actions, including our inability to achieve a desired aspiration.
The physical reaction to fear and pain is called the “fight or flight” response. Letting go is the inner action that stops resisting fear and pain, allowing us to restore our ability to see clearly. Letting go comes from having a “nonjudgmental” outlook toward life and people. It allows us to forgive others and ourselves equally for mistakes and incompatibility. We must be willing to let go of fear, pain, anger, and people. It is the ability to let go that drives a constant process of change — it is what makes us flexible and adaptable. This is hardly easy, takes a conscious effort, and is something I know I struggle with every day.
6. They Live in the Moment. Being truly in the moment allows us to escape from adversity and conserve our inner energy. Living in the moment doesn’t mean we don’t care about the past or future. It means that when we make a choice to do something, we focus on solely doing it, rather than letting our mind wander into the future (or the past).
It’s been said that the only two jobs of a Zen monk are sitting zazen (meditation) and sweeping. Cleaning is one of the most important daily rituals of a Zen monk. They sweep or rake, and they try to do nothing else in that moment. The next time you’re doing housework, try concentrating on the housework — on the dust, the motion, the sensation. Cooking and cleaning are often seen as boring chores, but actually they are both great ways to practice mindfulness — something I ritualistically try to do at least once or twice a week. Sounds simple — but it’s actually pretty hard.
They Lead From Within
Despite our darkest moments, it is our duty to stay connected to our core intention. Resilient people reach their highest potential by taking risks that are consistent with their ethos and purpose. They lead themselves by constantly standing on an uncomfortable ledge.
7. They Develop Flexibility. Lao Tzu said, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: What is soft is strong.”
Our ability to effectively survive, thrive and lead comes from flexibly riding out our ups and downs. An authentic journey does not always come from blasting through rocks and impediments, rather from having the faith, resilience and adaptability to cope with harsh realities of life.
8. They Find the Right Traveling Partners. The people we surround ourselves with make the difference between failure and success. It’s not only whom we surround ourselves with that matters, but also how we interact with them that make the difference. It is important to avoid people who bring us down, waste our time, take us backward, and have no interest in our suffering. While we cannot always avoid them, at a minimum we can choose to not allow them to weaken us. And sometimes the right companion shows up through chance encounters.
In life’s journey there are many encounters. Some are planned; some are by accident; and some by divine intervention. I have had many amazing “Chance Encounters,” where it seems the universe rallied to come to my aid when I needed the help most. They have occurred when least expected — and many of the people I’ve encountered have become friends and family. And whenever those encounters initially left me with a “negative” experience, they turned out to be much-needed lessons for me.
9. They Take the Next Step Forward. The ability to visualize our dreams creates a mindset that makes our ambitions possible. Understanding exactly what we want is the foundation for our success. But executing that success requires taking the next step, every day, no matter how hard it may be.
Author Joseph Marshall III shares Native American wisdom on taking the step in his book Keep Going.
It means letting the tears flow through the grief; it means to keep looking for the answer though the darkness of despair is all around. Each step takes you closer to the top of the hill, closer to the light of the next sunrise, and the promise of a new day.
Faisal Hoque 02/06/2014
Entrepreneur, Author | Founder of SHADOKA and other companies.
Author of “Everything Connects”, “Survive to Thrive”, and Others.
Serial entrepreneur and author Faisal Hoque is the founder of SHADOKA and other companies.
Author of several books, his newest book is “Everything Connects – How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability“
(McGraw Hill, Spring 2014). Copyright (c) 2014 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved.
HERE ARE 5 THINGS THAT HAPPEN WHEN YOU’RE IN AN HONEST RELATIONSHIP:
1. YOU GROW SPIRITUALLY AND EMOTIONALLY.
When you are in an honest relationship, you learn things about yourself through your counterpart. You grow together in many aspects. You enrich each other. No one is pushing anyone. You are both gently expanding and changing to the best parts of yourself. An honest union enhances each other to grow. They support one another in careers, parenthood, spirituality, health, sexuality, and other facets of life. As individuals you thrive, and together you are a team.
2. YOU ARE VULNERABLE, AND IT’S FREEING.
Trust is underrated in relationships. It’s that one component that binds partnerships. Once that’s gone, it’s difficult to get it back. Vulnerability is perhaps the glue that holds an honest union together. It takes courage and strength to be raw. By exposing all to one another, you are set free of expectations, assumptions, and disappointments. There are no guessing games. There is no hidden agenda. You can show the strong and weak parts and still be loved by your partner.
In an honest relationship, there is no criticism because you are both open to whatever happens. This becomes part of the attraction. It’s not based on co-dependency, but rather the admiration of strength and courage. At times, life is a journey of challenges and difficult circumstances, but together you make it through.
3. YOU FORGIVE EASILY.
There are no perfect relationships, because we are imperfect humans. We will make mistakes. We will have bad days. You will argue and disagree on many things, however you don’t hold grudges. You get past it and move to the next issue. You learn that holding anger is destructive, so you move away from it by letting things go. Forgiveness solidifies the partnership. You learn the art of agreeing to disagree while still supporting the other. As Martin Luther King Jr. quoted, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
4. YOUR SELF-WORTH IS IN A HEALTHY PLACE.
You can both admit your weaknesses and still love one another without judgment. Dr. Dovid Lieberman, speaker and author has dedicated his research on self-esteem in his book, Real Power, in which he shares, “When a person has very low self-esteem, it does not matter how accomplished he appears; such a person is dependent upon everyone and everything to feed his ego…. A healthy sense of self-esteem endows us with the ability to give. To the degree that we do not like ourselves, we cannot receive, we can only take. The more self-esteem we have, the more we are whole, as receiving is a natural consequence of giving.”
When we are in an honest relationship, we feel good about ourselves. We can transform and transcend love for ourselves because we are being emotionally sustained.
5. YOU LEARN TO COOPERATE, COMPROMISE AND COMMUNICATE.
In this new era of self-promotion, it seems that communication is not always available. Most people put themselves out there in social media without any regard to their partner’s feelings. But, healthy-loving relationships understand and accommodate each other. They affirm one another to meet their needs. Compromising is healthy, but it can also lead to unhealthy boundaries where one partner is constantly taking and the other is always giving. Cooperation is a unit and you learn to faithfully support one another. But without communication, there is nothing.
The key to an honest relationship consists of the 3C’s: cooperation, compromising, and communication. Honest relationships don’t take the other person for granted. They don’t bulldoze one another. They know that in order to succeed in their partnership, there is equal parts of giving and receiving. There are times that they will need one to help pull the other up. Communication allows them to freely share without feeling used or abused.
Honest and loving relationships learn from each other. They learn new perspectives, share goals, and succeed because they are a team. They grow through the changes. They compromise, share, support and most of all, provide a safe haven for their souls to transcend. There is nothing more beautiful than the authenticity from your partner who is also your best friend.
Writer Paulo Coelho has an incredible line in the book, The Alchemist, that reads: “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” When you are in an honest relationship, your heart feels the priceless treasures. From the time we are children, we are exposed to fairy tales. Little girls begin believing in hopeless love. Little boys play games about knights and saving others. What entails a loving and honest relationship? You might have to kiss a lot of frogs before finding your “One,” but when you do, you will know it.
I recently took a trip to the Florida Keys, when I often sat on the porch along the beach, mostly alone, next to the ocean. Sometimes I read, sometimes I practiced yoga; I napped, sipped peppermint tea, wrote, soaked up the sun, and relaxed. But mostly, I gazed out into the ocean.That’s where I found an incredible source of healing.The grandness of the water created a quiet, yet visually stimulating space for my meditation. Next to the ocean, I nestled into an easy place to silence the chatter noise of the external world and my inner voices.That first day, gazing at the blue, I dug much deeper within myself than I have ever done before.
In feng shui, elementally speaking, the Water Element symbolizes spirituality and wisdom. It helps us foster a deeper sense of self. It is a vehicle that helps us navigate and seek our inner truth and purpose. And it also teaches us to go with the flow of life.
While nature has its many gifts, the ocean, in particular, has taught me a few new things worth sharing, and they are:
1. Life is not always how you plan it, no matter how much you force or try to control it.
2. Change is inevitable, so you might as well welcome and embrace it.
3. Letting go is the scariest and most liberating thing you can do for yourself. It’s a gift in disguise.
4. It’s totally OK to be by yourself, alone; because sometimes, growth is a solo journey.
5. Learning to be more flexible affords you the ability to adapt. By adapting, you become more understanding, compassionate, and patient, especially when things get a little tough.
6. Clinging to the conviction of certain ideals and thoughts can sometimes destroy you. Once in a while, it’s best to bend the rules.
7. Never underestimate the power of idle silence. Some of the most profound insights come from the quietest of places.
8. Your inner strength manifests when you’re ready to confront your struggles. You are stronger than you think.
9. Make room for less talking, less exchanging. Just be.
10. Embrace all of your human tendencies — the good and bad — because those qualities already make you beautiful and real.
Dr. Neala Peake, selected from AllThingsHealing.com May 4, 2014
I recently learned that the leadership-training curriculum at Google places a heavy emphasis on self-awareness building.
The thinking, of course, is that managers can only become effective influencers of others once they’re fully mindful of their own strengths and limitations.
Google’s objective is to produce leaders who have profound self-knowledge along with the clear and humble understanding that whatever motivates their performance won’t always match up to the styles and inclinations of every employee. Self-discovery, therefore, leads to a greater appreciation for people -– and a compassion for all their varying personalities, behaviors and approaches to work.
I can spot genius when I see it, and Google’s insight is profound. I’ve known for years that my greatest leaps in leadership effectiveness came after I’d discovered some belief, practice or peccadillo that had unwittingly limited my success. Too often, and to my regret, these epiphanies occurred only after I’d blown an assignment or an interaction with a colleague.
If your organization hasn’t yet devoted itself to helping you identify the components of your greatness, or the behaviors that might one day derail you, I urge you to find every way possible of discovering them on your own. In this regard, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that may help you:
The Law Of Requisite Variety
Early in my career, I was introduced to what’s known as the “Law of Requisite Variety.” Also called “Ashby’s Law,” it essentially means that the most flexible and adaptable person in any situation is inherently the most influential. Keeping leadership in mind, this means that the more versatile your own skill-set and world-view, the greater value you’ll bring to your team and organization.
Years ago, my brother gave me a book called Soar With Your Strengths which made the seemingly compelling argument that we should spend far less time worrying about our weaknesses and devote ourselves instead to maximizing our natural talents.
What I’ve since discovered, however, is that some weaknesses can greatly hinder a leader’s effectiveness and even stall a career. Tied to my understanding of the “Law Of Requisite Variety,” I‘ve devoted myself to finding every means possible to minimize my limitations and even turn some into strengths.
Ask The People You Work With And Manage To Tell You What Needs Fixing
People who see you in action every day come to understand you in the most intimate way. Tapping into that collective insight, and then taking real action against their list of needed repairs, is the fastest road toward leadership excellence.
The way I’ve accomplished this in the past is to solicit (in person) one thing that each person believes I do well. From there, I’ve given people permission to hit me with their best shot and describe one behavior they perceive is holding me back.
Long ago, I filled out a diagnostic tool (“DISC,” if you’re familiar) that helped identify my dominant behavioral style. After the workshop was over, I went up to the facilitator – someone who knew me very well – and asked him to review my profile and tell me one weakness I should be most concerned with.
I owe the guy a debt of gratitude for his incisiveness. “Based upon what I see here,” he said, “you have more than one gap that will do you in if you don’t fix them. First, you need to become far better organized, and you also need to learn to communicate in a much more direct manner.”
The first rule of soliciting feedback like this is to not shoot the messenger. I knew what my friend had just told me was entirely accurate and, in that very moment, committed myself to a life-long self-improvement process. I can tell you proudly that I’ve not only become a highly detailed and plan-oriented person, I know how to be direct when I need to be.
Learn To Embrace And Emulate People’s Differences
As Susan Cain points out in her new book Quiet, people more consistently chosen for leadership roles tend to be extroverted and charismatic. According to her impressive research, this only has been true since the early 20th Century.
Extroverts, of course, have many admirable qualities that match up well to the responsibilities of management. They’re generally good communicators – often inspiring. They have a tendency to get things accomplished quickly and to be very disciplined in achieving goals.
Introversion, on the other hand, is a “second class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology,” Cain writes. Or is it?
While I’ve recently confirmed that I have a slight tendency toward introversion (you can determine your own proclivity here), in the days I believed myself to be an extrovert, I recall feeling slightly dismissive about the introverts I worked with and their more quiet and methodical ways.
Turns out extroverts also can be condescending and ego driven.
Over the next several years, while I managed large teams of people, I gradually (slow learner) came to better understand that my own unique way of operating in the world wasn’t the only way of succeeding. More to the point, I realized that the introverts on my teams had a profound influence in shaping my understanding of circumstances and altering decisions I would have made all on my own.
This is because introverts listen far more than they speak, tend to ask a lot of questions – and actually wait for the answers. While introverts are not necessarily smarter than extroverts, they more often think more carefully and, as Einstein said, “stay with problems longer.” This might explain why they tend to perform better on exams like the SAT’s and earn more post-graduate degrees.
What I’ve come to believe with conviction is that leaders are best suited by being more “ambi-verted,” a balance between being disproportionately extroverted or introverted.
In any given day, leaders need to take action and to be reflective. They need to move with great speed and with great caution. Before giving firm direction, they’re wise to solicit the informed guidance from others.
My best advice: Step back from your own preferences and see what the world looks like from everyone else’s. Over time, this will transform you.
by Mark C. Crowley, Contributor to Meditation on AllThingsHealing.com