Today we are going to start off on a three-part journey on the subject of resilience and mental fitness. Over the next three posts, we will explore the metal mechanics of resilience, how we get hijacked by our own minds, and how to combat these forces to enjoy more positivity, more productivity, and ultimately more satisfaction, fulfillment, and happiness by developing mental fitness.
So let’s get started with part one.
According to Mirriam-Webster dictionary, resilience is defined as the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. Notice the word “easily” in that definition.
According to Oxford Languages (borne out of Oxford English Dictionary), resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Notice here, the word “quickly.”
And psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.
All these definitions amount to one thing: our capacity for resilience is dependent upon the strength of our mental fitness relative to ease and speed.
But first, we need to do a little science. It’s rather deep, but let me try to break it down in simple terms. Warning: I will be referring to parts of the brain and their functions, but don’t worry, there is no quiz at the end.
Are you ready? Let’s get in there.
Negative thoughts or feelings are born and raised in the limbic system, basically our amygdala, hypothalmus, hippocampus, and the limbic cortex. These small sections, located deep in the middle of the brain right behind your eyes, are responsible for behavioral and emotional responses.
You’re probably already familiar with the fight or flight response? When we feel threatened, we either retreat or attack. That’s the limbic system in action.
On the other hand, when we feel loved, we tend socialize, smile, and feel a sense of happiness and satisfaction. That’s the limbic system too. The way we behave is dependent on the hormones released by the limbic system.
Makes sense, right?
Well, here’s where it gets interesting. Our limbic system is tightly connected to the prefrontal cortex. What’s that you ask? Well, the prefrontal cortex sits at the front of your brain right behind your forehead, and it is responsible for your executive function.
This is where you make decisions on how to think, move, and act. It’s what separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Executive function initiates planning, problem-solving, decision-making, social cognition, and working memory.
So, why do I tell you all of this?
So, unless you have an organic failure in your brain due to physical trauma, you can always decide how you want to think, move, and act.
All right, with all that biology and neurology out of the way, let’s focus on what we can do to improve our mental fitness and get ourselves reducing negative, hurtful behaviors and producing more positive, helpful ones.
First up? We need to acknowledge that each of us has a nasty, cruel, and punishing judge riding on our shoulder all the time. This insidious creature just loves telling us that we are not worthy, not loved, or just not good enough to receive or enjoy anything good in life. The judge whispers in your ear every time you are challenged, encounter uncertainty, or experience self-doubt.
This judge is mean and unfair. But he comes from a good place. He comes from your childhood. When you were innocent and loving and daring.
The judge made sure you didn’t run around the house with scissors (ok, maybe you did that anyway). The judge made sure you didn’t say something stupid (ok, maybe you did that too). My point is, the judge showed you the consequences after you acted in a reckless way, and scolded you to prevent future harm.
Today, you don’t really need a judge to do that for you. But guess what? He’s still there, having his way with your emotions. Preventing you from looking foolish if you fail, or hurt if you are rejected or let down, or reprimanded if you do not perform at a level of perfection.
If you listen to this judge, you are kept safe from all that can hurt you. And by that same token, you are inoculated from experiencing the joys of accomplishment, love, and purpose.
So how do we get past this judge who keeps us from attaining our goals and reaching our true potential in life and love?
We have to acknowledge he exists and call him out from hiding.
You can say, “I see you judge. You’re trying to hold me back. You’re trying to prevent me from being hurt. Thank you for telling me this might be difficult, but I’m ready to move forward now.”
Once that is accomplished, you are free to move on to strengthening the next mental muscle.
But that will have to wait until the next post.
Until then, work on scanning for negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions. And once you spot them, call out your judge and thank him or her for their service. It won’t be easy, but it is the vital first step to improving your mental fitness.
Your Mindful Moment:
Know that your judge is there to protect you, not guide you. You decide when to use the gavel.Tweet