How to use mindfulness to enhance your resilience? 3 key learnings from the My mind Masterclass
What you resist, persists. This quote is just one of the many pearls of wisdoms from the My mind masterclass. Psychologist and mindfulness expert Björn Prins shared fascinating insights and tips on how to thrive amidst this coronavirus crisis (and similar situations). Missed the My mind webinar? With this recap, you'll be up to date in no time at all!
Your reaction is the ultimate freedom
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
This is a quote by psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. While the Austrian Jew was a prisoner in a concentration camp, he somehow managed to find freedom. Despite the gruesome scenes around him, he discovered that he was freer than he thought. In other words, you can't control what happens to you - like a coronavirus dominating the world. However, you can choose for yourself how you react to such situations. This philosophy applies not only to global disasters, but also to our daily experiences in life. For example, our work atmosphere, a family member’s behaviour, etc.
So ask yourself what ultimate freedom means to you. How do you deal with everything that comes your way? How do you react to negative experiences? Our webinar participants were asked to fill out a survey, and three different responses came back several times. Some people feel anger and frustration, others lay low and hope the situation will improve, while a third group tends to exercise their flight response. The end result of the three reactions is always the same: double trouble. In other words, your attitude makes you feel even worse.
A new mindset: take away the sting with mindfulness
So what's the best way to deal with anxiety and negative experiences? Allow yourself to feel your feelings instead of resisting them. In the webinar, a photo of a yellow jeep was shown, and participants were instructed not to think about that jeep for a minute. Of course, all anyone could think about was the picture. Because the brain showed resistance.
And that's where mindfulness comes into play. What's more, a scientific approach to mindfulness! More than thirty years ago, a man by the name of Jon Kabat-Zinn started yoga and meditation classes at the university hospital for a group of patients being treated for chronic pain. Kabat-Zinn introduced them to the world of mindfulness, a form of meditation where practitioners observe and allow (and don't try to repress) their thoughts and feelings. And what was the outcome? 60% of the patients reported lower levels of pain afterwards. Make no mistake: that doesn't mean that pain is 'between the ears'. But it is a nice example of the mind-body connection.
This also became clear when scientists examined a group of people who had overcome depression. Although the formerly depressed usually have a 60% chance of relapse, it turned out that mindfulness can cut that percentage in half. And the research findings of psychologist Kelly McGonigal are even more revealing. According to McGonigal's research, people who believe that stress is bad for them have a much higher risk of dying prematurely. In fact, 43% more than people who suffer from stress and do not believe that it is bad for their health. Stress doesn't have to be the enemy: it's your mindset that counts. And you can control this by practicing mindfulness, an evidence-based method.
Based on this vision, Björn Prins used the so-called 'chain reaction of SLOW'. It consists of four steps, where each person can learn to deal with stress, fear and work pressure:
- S for Stop: Try to stop negative thinking patterns. Getting an incoming phone call? Let it ring for a while before you pick up. Take a deep breath, and notice how you're more relaxed and in the present moment when you do take the incoming call. And while you're busy with your phone: disable as many alerts as possible. They are distracting and often trigger stress reactions.
- L for Land: chances are that your thoughts are constantly buzzing around in your head. Try to focus on one activity or movement instead. Focus on your breathing for a minute. When it slows down, you immediately activate the resting system in your body.
- O for Open: It stands for observing with an open mind. If you are angry with your significant other or a colleague, it can be useful to look at that anger from a different perspective. Don't think 'I'm angry', because then you'll act on it almost automatically. Think 'I notice I'm feeling anger', because then you create the space to choose for yourself how you deal with the feeling.
- W for Wisdom: self-insight plays a crucial role here. Ask yourself what boosts and depletes your energy, what negative patterns you recognise in yourself.