Day 7: Creating your Resiliency Roadmap
Attending to positive emotions
We are nearing the end of our resiliency roadmap journey. I hope you're seeing all the tools you already had available and are adding to your toolbox. Welcome back for those of you who have been following the series all along. If you are just finding us--Welcome! I'm so glad you've found us. As always, I want to encourage our new readers to take a look at our Introduction to the series and then work you way through the other pieces of the roadmap (recognizing your personal signs of stress, recognizing situational factors that cause stress, identifying positive coping techniques you already use, learning diaphragmatic breathing, learning other formal relaxation techniques, and cultivating helpful and healthy thinking patterns) before coming back to this topic.
Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.
This quote by Alice Morse Earle is perfect for this topic. However, I said this last time, and I want to emphasis it again today: sometimes bad things happen to us or we make a mistake (sometimes a big one). It is important to acknowledge that. But, it is also important to acknowledge in everyday there is always something (big or small) that brings us joy or for which we are thankful. On days that are full of joy, it is easy to bathe in the emotional aftermath of a day of positive experiences: joy, thankfulness, and happiness. With all that lovely serotonin (a neurotransmitter related to mood) flooding our system, we feel great! But what about those days filled with stress? How do we get a serotonin dose on those days?
Fairly recently on this newsfeed, I discussed some research into gratitude and experiments related to the impact of gratitude practice. I encourage you to review that full post for all the details. To summarize, the results showed that when people focused on and recorded all the frustrations they experienced during the day, they had much higher negative emotion ratings and much lower positive emotion ratings ratings than when people focused on and recorded things they are grateful for. The impact of this practice is stronger if done on a daily basis (as opposed to weekly). Beginning a daily gratitude practice overall improved satisfaction with life, optimism, feeling connected to others, and improved sleep in comparison to a group that was not instructed to start a gratitude practice.
I wish to emphasize that gratitude is not a practice of ignoring the negative or stressful aspects of life--those are real, often very serious, and acknowledging those emotions is important. However, gratitude is about acknowledging the positive even as we process the negative.
If you've followed along in the resiliency roadmap series so far, it won't surprise you that I'm giving you homework. Just like other tools we're recommending, using the tools regularly and building them into your routines means you'll be more likely to use them in times of stress and be less distressed by stress when it happens.
With that, I hope you'll try to join me as I fight my own tendency to focus on my frustrations and hassles and instead focus on those things I'm grateful for or have brought me joy. Here's my two step homework assignment for us to do together.
- Try it out here. I'd like to start with having you comment below with 1-3 things you can identify today that bring you joy or for which you are thankful. Try to be as specific as possible so that your daily reflections can be unique. My entries for today are: 1) Remembering the chuckle I had when I heard my son singing to himself in his room. 2) My colleagues had a wonderful success in implementing a new follow-up service for patients who are COVID survivors; I'm so grateful I get to be a part of of this team and help. 3) I'm watching the moon each night (really afternoon as the moon is already visible then!) and enjoyed just recently seeing the full moon again. How about you?
- Make it a habit. Now, how can you do this regularly? For me, I have an "appointment" with myself set for 7pm each evening. When that reminder pops up on my smart phone, I just enter a couple reflections right there on the appointment. Other people prefer to actually to keep a written journal. I have a colleague who keeps a photography version of a gratitude journal where she takes a photo everyday of something she is thankful for or brings her joy. What are the ways you can think of to begin building this habit? What reminders and techniques can you use to get started and keep that record?
I look forward to hearing from you on the above. If you are interested in continuing a gratitude discussion, I'd encourage you to join in the gratitude discussion group here on Mayo Clinic Connect!
On Friday, we'll meet again and discuss the importance of social support and brainstorm ways to reinforce our social support networks in the time of COVID social distancing.