Unless we control thought, it will control us.
Dr. Ernest Holmes
Brain resilience is your brain’s ability to bounce back from a crisis, hardship, or just plain day-to-day stress. Even what may seem like minor thoughts of social rejection and loneliness zoom along the same neural pathways as fear and break down our energy.
There are many ways to increase your bounce-back rate of return and keep your brain healthy and strong. Just like a rubber band, our brain can stretch and fire in response to stress and then spring back to calmness with quick elasticity with a little mental workout. When you learn how to keep your brain in check, well-being can be your constant companion, and you can begin to boost your brain’s performance.
In neuroscience language, we need a way to contact our prefrontal cortex, our thinking brain, and have it tell the emotional amygdala to quiet down. No Worry! I will take care of this! Your thinking brain will be the master of your feeling brain—if we keep it in good shape and work it out regularly.
Here is a mental fitness workout critical to resilience so you can learn to exercise your brain and return it to its natural baseline of calmness and positivity.
- Face the things that scare you. Both anger and fear raise levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Learn to move into your emotions instead of avoiding them. Go ahead and jump into that briar patch! If I am upset about a disparaging remark someone made at work, I cannot focus on getting my work done. I need to take a moment and walk into my anger. Talk to someone about your irritation, or if no one is available, write down just what happened and express your real feelings. In just a few moments of going into the anger, you will be out into the light of high energy where you can do the work you need to do. Facing the things that upset you relaxes the fear circuitry in your brain.
- Participate in regular physical activity. Scientists now tell us that working out the body’s muscles makes people’s minds more resilient as well. Physical exercise spurs the development of new neurons which are quite literally damaged by stress. Find an exercise regime you enjoy and can stick to. Even a little activity will go a long way in reducing cortisol and building up a good neuronal bounce-back ability.
- Create a strong network of social support. Scientists have discovered that very few highly resilient people are strong in and by themselves. Research shows that when people are exposed to a stressor in a laboratory situation, their heart rate and blood pressure don’t increase quite as much when a friend is in the room with them. Surround yourself with people who maintain positive outlooks and see opportunities for growth in life’s challenges; they can help put negative events into perspective. If you must “vent,” limit your venting to 5-10 minutes and then have a good laugh. Laughter lowers levels of cortisol and counter-balances the negative effects of stress.
- Develop a set of positive beliefs. Wouldn’t it be great if what happened on the outside world did not affect our mental stability? Getting rid of limiting beliefs and installing a new set of positive beliefs would give you that option. One quick way to achieve that is to take one day and focus on beliefs you constantly repeat to yourself that could be negative and to rephrase them into a set of positive beliefs. A conversation with your conditioned brain might sound like: All is well in my world right now. I have everything I need within me to be ok. I have so many positive memories of my successes, so all I have to do is go back and remember how I did it then! Success is mine.
When we learn to manage our brain with our minds, we extend our longevity, build better relationships, and, yes, react better to the stressors of everyday life.
Train your brain to be resilient to adversity. This way, even when negative things happen, as they will, you can rebound quickly and enjoy more of your life, minute by glorious minute.