Taking a holistic approach to your wellbeing strategy is never simple. Even when your wellbeing strategy is established, growing the health of your staff and remaining proactive is crucial. As Prof. Cary Cooper states, “A workforce that is well works well.” Creating a culture of wellbeing takes time, commitment and constant innovation. The old one size fits all approach to wellbeing is now obsolete. One of the most new and innovative ways to support staff wellbeing is writing. Long since recognised in the US as a workplace intervention, it is slowly gaining popularity in the UK.
Resilience: from the Latin word resilo – to jump back. The capacity to bounce back from adversity, adapt and succeed.
Embracing difficulty is key to resilience. But what is it? Resilience describes our ability to manage difficulties effectively rather than be overwhelmed when confronted by adversity. Perhaps one of the most profound definitions is from Viktor Frankl, concentration camp survivor and author of ‘Man’s search for Meaning”. ‘When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.’ It comes as no surprise that Frankl’s work has been modified and applied in a workplace setting. An increasing body of research suggests that resilience is also a valuable predictor of success. Penn Professor, Angela Lee-Duckworth’s research suggests that resilience is an even more accurate predictor of success than IQ. A heady claim for something we’re not taught in school. So what’s is it about resilience that makes it such an important differentiator? Lets find out.
Glenn Richardson, Professor and chair, Department of Health Promotion and Education, University of Utah describes resilience as mental toughness and encourages employees to think differently about how they view difficulty. When met by challenge, Richardson suggests that we develop the mindful habit of taking a moment of calm to support ourselves in developing resilience, by making a choice to work with our emotions to accept failure and examine what we can learn from it. This presents a very different approach to turning away from difficulty to get the job done which employees are sometimes forced into doing by workplace pressures. Dr Gregg Steinberg suggests that challenge and adversity can develop emotional intelligence and grit, enabling people to bounce back to an even higher level of resilience than before. For Steinberg, adversity creates and shines a light upon what is missing in life, highlighting what we need to be more successful and happier. Watch Gregg talking about ‘Falling Up’ in our ’10 Best Resilience Videos’ blog. You might be asking yourself how you can turn towards difficulty or failure when your natural response is to turn away, run for the hills and avoid it. Resilience is a skill that can be learned and you can begin to work out your resiliency muscles right now. The next time you face adversity, try the following;
Embed calm checkpoints into your day.
Take a moment to notice what’s happening. Breathe and sit with what is there for you in that moment.
Known as ‘Affect Labelling’ this is where you identify the emotion. Try saying to yourself “Hello anxiety” if that’s what you’re feeling. Recognising and naming the emotion makes a distinction; you are experiencing anxiety rather than labeling yourself as an anxious person.
Work with what shows up.
As human beings we typically move towards what feels good and avoid what doesn’t, frequently missing what we feel neutral towards. Instead of moving toward the positive or trying to push difficult emotions away, bring a gentle curiosity to both. Notice your reaction without judging it. Reflect on the nuances of perceptions of positive, negative and neutral. Is there an associated response in the body? Tension or lightness? Bring mindful awareness to whatever arises.
It’s not Forever.
Recognising the impermanence of all emotions is key. Mindfulness teaches us that emotions are just mental events with a short life span. Ask yourself what you need in order to manage that emotion in this moment.
Reflect on what is really going on for you. Is there historical stuff or emotional baggage that has led to this emotion? Your response might be appropriate, now you’ve investigated you’re in a better position to choose how to respond effectively and skillfully.
Practice on a regular basis.
When you develop the capacity to face difficulty you are able to make more skillful choices. Mindful awareness of challenging situations gives us the opportunity to defuse difficult thoughts and emotions and create distance. With that distance we can choose our response rather than falling into habitual knee – jerk reactions.
Difficulty is part of life, it isn’t going anywhere soon but the good new is that resilience isn’t an absolute. Changing over time it can grow, be learned and developed. For more information on how to build your resilience check out our other blogs, our free ‘Build Your Resilience’ webinar or come to one of our resilience training courses, we’d love to see you there!
To find out more about building resilience or resilience training contact us at email@example.com
Your attitude to ageing – more than a passing thought?
We’re almost continuously bombarded with tips and advice about the secrets of remaining young but have you ever considered how your attitude towards ageing could impact you in other ways?
Ageing and resilience
New research from North Carolina State University (NCSU) examines the link between attitudes towards ageing and resilience. The team at NCSU were curious to know why previous research examining older adults attitudes towards ageing and resilience had shown mixed results. Lead researcher, Jennifer Bellingtier explains,
“… some studies have found that older adults are less resilient than younger adults at responding to stress; some have found that they’re more resilient; and some have found no difference … we wanted to see whether attitudes toward aging could account for this disparity in research findings. In other words, are older adults with positive attitudes about aging more resilient than older adults with negative attitudes?”
Forty three participants, aged between 60 and 96 were asked to complete a daily questionnaire regarding stress and negative emotions they’d experienced over a period of eight days. Researchers factored for how optimistic and upbeat participants generally were in order to establish whether attitudes specifically towards ageing influenced resilience. Participants were asked a series of questions at the beginning of the research to establish their attitudes towards ageing. For example, researchers asked if participants felt they were as useful now as they were when they were younger, or whether they were as happy now as when they were younger.
Bellingtier and her team found that older people with a more positive attitude towards ageing were more resilient in the face of stressful events. The older people with a more positive attitude did not show a significant increase in negative emotions on more stressful days. Participants with a more negative attitude towards ageing showed significantly increased negative emotions in relation to stressful events.
Implications of the research
The way we think about ageing has a very real impact on our ability to manage stress as we get older. Stress has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The research illustrates the importance of managing our emotions and cultivating the skills that allow us to effectively deal with stress. We’re are all able to practice and develop the techniques that enable us to enhance a feeling of calm and quickly move away from negative emotions rather than dwelling on whatever has caused us to feel that way. Why not try Positive Change Guru’s ‘how mindful are you? assessment to get started on managing your negative emotions.
We love to talk about all things positive psychology at Positive Change Guru. Check out our forthcoming events or get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses. We’ll be excited to talk to you about bespoke positive psychology training for your organisation.
What is post-traumatic growth?
The effects of trauma can be hard to handle and at times, overwhelming. A comforting thought is that, whilst we are experiencing the negative effects of trauma, something more positive may also be taking place.
Trauma can lead us to question deeply held beliefs. We search for effective ways to heal and support. Psychology has begun to examine the potential for positive growth following trauma. Growth resulting from trauma is known as post-traumatic growth.
Tedeschi and Calhoun on post-traumatic growth
Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun, psychologists at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte are experts in post-traumatic growth.
In a review of literature on post-traumatic growth, Tedeschi and Calhoun found reports of growth experiences exceeded reports of psychiatric illness following trauma.
In an example of profound post-traumatic growth, Viktor Frankl, psychologist and holocaust survivor,wrote,
“Everything can be taken from a man but …the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Examples of people responding positively to trauma can also be seen in the creation of organisations such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa and the UK wide Mothers Against Guns campaign.
How can we benefit from post-traumatic growth?
Calhoun and Tedeschi’s found that firmly held religious and philosophical beliefs are often questioned following traumatic events. Trauma prompts soul searching questions like, ‘how do I make sense of the world and what is my place in it?’ Beliefs and values are considered in greater depth. We often develop a greater understanding and appreciation of life following trauma. Existing goals are also questioned and new goals formed to fit in with the new, adjusted world view.
Psychologists have developed tools to measure post-traumatic growth, including the Stress-Related Growth Scale and Tedeschi and Calhoun’s Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory. These scales measure items such as relationship to others, new possibilities, personal strength, spiritual change, and appreciation of life.
Research using the above tools has linked post-traumatic growth with the following positive changes:
Increased perception of competence and self-reliance.
Greater acceptance of one’s vulnerability and negative emotional experiences.
Improved relationships with significant others.
More compassion and empathy for others.
Increased effort to improve relationships.
Greater appreciation of own existence.
Greater appreciation for life.
Positive changes in one’s priorities.
Increased religious/spiritual beliefs.
Finally, one important aspect of post-traumatic growth that Tedeschi and Calhoun emphasise, is that such growth exists alongside the emotions of suffering and loss rather than replacing them.
Here at Positive Change Guru we love to talk about all things positive psychology. Get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses and discuss bespoke positive psychology training for your organisation.
Like to find out more? Watch Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talk discussing post-traumatic growth.