HOPE™ for Building Personal Resilience

mindfulness resiliency Jan 01, 2022

Resilience has been and remains a hot topic. With the pandemic, burnout has soared to record levels and more of us than ever before are searching for a solution to feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, ineffective, disappointed, anxious, and stuck.

Life is complex. HOPE is a simple model for building personal resiliency and elevating the joy, goodness, and potential of your life. This article is for you if you’re ready to make positive, lasting changes to your quality of life and need an easy place to start your journey.

 

What is Resilience?

Resilience is the ability to recover, adapt, and grow from stress and adversity. When we are resilient, we are able to interact with our environment and its stressors in an optimistic and adaptive way, focusing on purpose, human connection, and personal growth.

Rather than a simple, reactionary rebound, resilience is a process of personal transformation. Change is the heart of resiliency. Events and hardships beyond our control throw us curveballs and require us to mix things up. Responding successfully calls us to see things differently, to think differently, and act differently.

The first step in the resiliency process is to face the difficulty. To look it in the eye and see it for what it is. After getting a good look, we can begin absorbing what it will mean for us. It is through the process of understanding the implications of the challenge, loss, or traumatic event, and accepting those consequences that we begin to change and adapt. We may redefine our priorities, alter our perspective, and change the way we think about and do things. It is this personal transformation that builds our resilience.

Each time we respond to a challenge by absorbing and transforming, we expand our ability to successfully navigate future hardships. With each transformation we build new coping mechanisms and become more flexible. Our skills and our confidence in our abilities to overcome adversity grow. When problems arise, we can see more possible solutions and we have more success and wisdom to draw from in order to overcome the challenge.

If we try to sugar-coat, deny, or avoid hardships, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to build resilience, to grow stronger, and to enhance our well-being.

Absorption of stress or a traumatic event begins with an honest assessment of the situation and includes:

  • Accepting the tragedy or hardship
  • Understanding its implications
  • Acknowledging our feelings about it
  • Assigning meaning and purpose to it
  • Learning from it

Absorption is essential to the resiliency process and it is important that we allow ourselves grace and time as we move through the process. By courageously and patiently being with, and absorbing the hardship, we build resiliency.

 

Building Resilience

We naturally develop resilience every time we respond successfully to stress. Small, routine stressors create micro-opportunities to build our coping strategies and flexibility. Over time these little adjustments add up and give us a wider array of tools and skills that help us succeed when we face bigger challenges and hardships.

There are also proactive ways to build resiliency. We can intentionally develop our capability to respond successfully to stress by focusing on specific personal resiliency resources. We can adopt mindsets and practices that boost well-being and help us develop skills that will serve us when difficulties arise.

Resilience is described as “ordinary magic” by author Ann Matsen, because while the human ability to overcome adversity and thrive is truly extraordinary, it is a power that we each possess. In this way human resilience is ordinary and the good news is that each of us is capable of this “ordinary magic.”

The HOPETM Resiliency Model draws on a wealth of well-being and resiliency research to organize personal resiliency resources into four broad categories. It offers a simple way to begin building your resiliency resources. The four broad categories of personal resiliency resources that we can develop are human connection, optimism, purpose, and empowerment.

 

HOPEResiliency Model

HUMAN CONNECTION

Warm, trusting relationships help us manage through life’s stressful events and stay happy and healthy. Having friends and family who we can safely share our hardships with boosts our resilience. Knowing that we can rely on others for support during difficulties makes us stronger. Research shows that healthy relationships are the single biggest factor in determining happiness. Additional studies find that meaningful relationships are a positive force that keeps us both physically and mentally healthy (Ryan & Deci, 2001). On the other hand, loneliness is associated with a greater risk of depression and poor health as we age (Luo, et al, 2013).

Positivity, and a healthy relationship with ourselves set us up for happy relationships with others. Our ability to communicate and connect through empathy and compassion foster meaningful relationships. Self-awareness and self-regulations are also important and facilitate our ability to nurture warm trusting relationships.

Life can be tough and all the data shows that we are better off when we don’t go it alone. Connection matters. High-quality relationships with friends and family are powerful and boost our well-being and resilience (Ryan & Deci, 2001; Wilks & Spivey, 2010).

The Human Connection bucket of resiliency resources includes:

  • Feeling a sense of connection, belonging, and support
  • Self-compassion
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Connecting communication

OPTIMISM

Optimism is a certain way of thinking about life’s challenges. When we are optimistic, we see problems as temporary, not personal, and only an isolated part of our lives. Optimistic personalities realize that difficulties will pass, bad things can happen to anyone, and that hardship doesn’t affect every aspect of their lives. Positive people are able to see things in the whole and know that challenging times will ultimately be a passing blip on the radar of their lifetime. Optimism is a powerful force that greatly enhances our resiliency and the good news is that it can be learned. (Seligman, 2002; Segovia et. al., 2012)

To practice optimism, we must be aware of our thought patterns and intentionally choose thinking that creates an optimistic perspective. We can remind ourselves that the problem will not last forever. We can see that our difficulty is not personal and that others have successfully gone through similar experiences and can relate to our current pain.  We can reflect on the parts of our lives that are good and that offer a reprieve from the stressful event.

Optimism calls us to avoid judgement in favor of an open awareness. In this place we realize the temporary nature of our struggles and the limited impact of our hardships. We can see other perspectives and appreciate what is working well in our lives. We can find humor in challenges and hope in our abilities to persevere. Optimism has the added benefit of enhancing our well-being and making it easier to connect with others.

The optimism bucket of personal resiliency resources includes:

  • Curiosity
  • Learning mindset
  • Sense of humor
  • Exercising our ability to choose our thinking
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Hope

PURPOSE & MEANING

Purpose is like our own personal North Star, setting aim for a defined life direction, driving goals and behaviors, and creating meaning. A clear purpose defines who we are and makes our lives more meaningful. When our purpose, values, goals, behaviors and daily activities align with our true selves, we lead a more satisfying life and experience a greater sense of well-being.

We have meaning in our lives when we can make sense of our lives, feel that our lives have significance, and are tied to a greater purpose. Pursuing our life’s purpose has beneficial effects on our resiliency. The pursuit exposes us to different situations, and obstacles that we are motivated to overcome. Through these challenges and successes, we build new self-regulating skills, and become adept at seeing things from various perspectives. These acquired skills and abilities greatly enhance our flexibility and increase our repertoire of responses and coping strategies. Through pursuing our purpose, we develop useful tools for overcoming life’s inevitable struggles. Additionally, it is believed that purpose enhances positivity, energy, and has a beneficial effect on both our physical and mental health (McKnight & Kashdan,2009).

The purpose and meaning bucket of resources includes:

  • Clear purpose
  • Strong personal values
  • Choices and behaviors guided by intention
  • Goal direction
  • Motivation for goal achievement
  • Connection with things greater than ourselves
  • Belief that we are making an impact and contributing on a higher level

EMPOWERMENT

Empowerment comes from within. It is the understanding and belief that we know what to do and that we can get it done. It requires courage, ownership, and dedication. It all starts with an honest look at where we are and where we want to be. We consider our strengths and our opportunities for growth. We find areas that we would like to build and develop. We choose changes that we want to make, habits we will start, and things we will let go. We commit to accepting ourselves as we are while simultaneously honoring our potential to grow.

An important part of empowerment is continually enhancing our relationship with ourselves. We begin to understand our needs, how to best care for and support ourselves. We befriend ourselves. We develop self-compassion. We transform our negative self-talk into understanding, encouragement, and affirmation.

We begin to see our time and energy as precious resources. We use them wisely and in alignment with our life’s purpose. We maximize the impact of our efforts by operating in our circle of control and our circle of influence. We gain self-knowledge, emotional intelligence, and the ability to regulate our moods and emotions. We know ourselves better and are better able to establish meaningful relationships in which we are supported and support others. Our optimism grows because we have confidence in ourselves and the possibilities that lie ahead.

Each category of personal resources in the HOPETM Model can be developed. Building your human connections, strengthening your optimism, connecting with your purpose, and empowering yourself all lie squarely within your control. That is the essence of self-empowerment.

The self-empowerment bucket of resources includes:

  • Befriending ourselves
  • Honest self-assessment
  • Self-compassion
  • Self-awareness
  • Positive self-talk
  • Self-regulation
  • Self-care and a healthy lifestyle
  • Operating in our circle of control
  • Building competencies and having confidence in ourselves and our abilities.

 

Three Powerful Personal Resiliency Practices

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a conscious state of open, receptive awareness of the present moment (Kashdan & Ciarrochi, 2013). It has been researched extensively and demonstrated to improve every aspect of our well-being. Neuroscience shows that mindfulness has beneficial effects while we are practicing it as well as lasting positive benefits for those who make mindfulness a routine. Research discovered that changes in the brain occur over time to deliver benefits that enhance our well-being and performance (Holzel, 2011

The five major benefits of mindfulness are: Enhanced cognitive performance

  • Less reactionary behavior
  • Greater ability to connect with others
  • Enhanced positivity
  • Greater ability to see various perspectives

The three main ways to practice mindfulness are meditation, mindful movement, and sensory awareness.

Simple Ways to Try Mindfulness

  • Sit comfortably on a sofa or chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting in your lap. Take three deep rounds of breath paying attention to the sensations of the breath entering the nostrils, filling the lungs and belly, and exiting the nose or mouth.
  • Stand up tall with your feet hip-width apart and your hands at your side. Breath in deeply and as you do so stretch your hands out to the side and overhead. Try to time your hands touching overhead as you complete your inhale. When you exhale, allow your hands to remain together and gently drift down to your waist and then separate and fall to your sides as you complete the exhale. Repeat several times.
  • Transform a routine task into a sensory awareness exercise. Choose soemthing you do every day like making coffee or washing your face. Do it as you always do, but place all of your focus on the task. Use as many of your senses as you can - sight, sound, touch, smell, taste - to notice what is happening in the moment. If you catch your attention drifting, just redirect it back to fully experiencing the task in the moment.
  • Try these 3 simple mindful moments

Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is valuing a positive relationship with ourselves and choosing to befriend ourselves with kindness and acceptance. It involves mindfulness in two ways. One is that we are aware of our tendencies to be hard on ourselves. The second is that we can take on various perspectives which helps us to see that our hardships are part of being human and that others can likely relate to our suffering. In this way, we don’t feel alone or isolated when we are going through a rough time.

Self-compassion is an important source of strength and resilience when we are faced with difficult times. Research has found self-compassion to be associated with happiness, positivity, motivation, emotional well-being, and curiosity (Bluth & Neff, 2018; Shapira & Mongrain, 2010). Self-compassion guards against depression, anxiety, and stress. It can also enhance our romantic relationships. Partners who practice self-compassion are described as more emotionally connected to and supportive of their partners (Germer & Neff, 2019).

Simple Ways to Practice Self-Compassion

  • When you are experiencing a difficult time, pause and take a moment for yourself. Quickly scan your body and notice any place you feel tension or pain. For example, you may realize that your neck or shoulders are very tense. Gently touch the painful spot and name the pain. For example, you may touch your shoulder and say “this is really tight… this hurts.” Then try taking three deep rounds of breath and see if you can soften the area hurting with you exhales.
  • Begin to notice your self-talk especially when you make a mistake or a misjudgment. If your self-talk is negative, write down the negative language. Then draw a line through it and write a positive statement that you can use in place of the negative self-talk. Repeat the positive statement out loud to yourself several times.
  • If you are in a stressful situation at work or in the company of others, try gently placing one hand on top of the other. This is a simple way to extend warmth and kindness to yourself. It is a self-soothing technique that lovingly acknowledges your stress and offers support.

Journaling

Journaling is a reflective exercise that allows us to learn, grow, and define ourselves. It offers a safe way to release emotions and to make sense of challenging experiences. Through self-reflection we gain valuable self-knowledge, learn from our successes and failures, define our values, and discover purpose and meaning. It offers a wonderful means of connecting with ourselves, enhancing our well-being, and boosting our resiliency.

Journaling is shown to improve self-awareness and empathy enabling us to connect more effectively with others. It improves cognitive well-being and our ability to understand complex situations and make better decisions (Johnson, 2020). Journaling enhances physical, social, and psychological well-being and our relationship with ourselves. Gratitude journaling has been shown to improve well-being, positive emotions, and kindness to others (Kashdan & Ciarrochi, 2013).

Simple Ways to Practice Journaling

  • At the end of each day, list of one specific thing that happened during the day for which you are grateful.
  • When in the midst of a difficulty, journal to take an optimistic perspective by answering these three prompts.
    • This situation can’t go on forever because …
    • Other people who may have experienced something like I am going through now are …
    • Some things that balance out this difficult time are …
  • Bring a smile to your face at the end of a rough day by completing this springboard statement. The funniest thing that happened today was…
  • Sample mindful journaling to center yourself and gain insight 

If you would like to learn more about the HOPETM Model of Resiliency reach out at [email protected] or visit www.ResiliencyWell.com

 

References

Bluth, K., & Neff, K. D. (2018). New frontiers in understanding the benefits of self-compassion. Self and Identity17(6), 605-608.

 

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2012). Self-determination theory.

 

Germer, C., & Neff, K. (2019). Mindful self-compassion (MSC). In Handbook of mindfulness-based programmes (pp. 357-367). Routledge.

 

Kashdan, T. B., & Ciarrochi, J. V. (Eds.). (2013). Mindfulness, acceptance, and positive psychology: The seven foundations of well-being. New Harbinger Publications.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual review of psychology52(1), 141-166.

 

Shapira, L. B., & Mongrain, M. (2010). The benefits of self-compassion and optimism exercises for individuals vulnerable to depression. The Journal of Positive Psychology5(5), 377-389.

 

Wilks, S. E., & Spivey, C. A. (2010). Resilience in undergraduate social work students: Social support and adjustment to academic stress. Social work education29(3), 276-288.

 

Beth Guyton is an executive coach and mindfulness facilitator with a Masters in Industrial and Organizational Psychology who is, passionate about creating positive work environments and helping others become their absolute best selves. She is a New Orleans native and well-rooted Dallas transplant who draws on her creative spirit to paint, journal, and make mindfulness simple, easy, and accessible through her work at www.ResiliencyWell.com

If you have enjoyed this blog and are interested in building your personal resiliency resources, join us for our free First Things First Fridays sessions. The first Friday of every month, we connect for a 15-minute live session designed to offer a little self-care amidst the chaos of life. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or YouTube to get our live-streaming notices.

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