Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning

Brain Fact Friday on “Building Resilience: A Pathway for Inner Peace, Well-Being and Happiness.”

April 23, 2021

Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast, for Brain Fact Friday and episode #126 on Building Resilience: A Pathway for Inner Peace, Well-Being and Happiness.

If you are listening to this episode on iTunes, click here to see the images in the show notes. 

This week’s Brain Fact Friday will take a closer look at resiliency, with some simple strategies that you can implement immediately, for improved results in your personal and professional life by accessing this powerful inner resource that will allow you to walk confidently, especially, on uneven ground.

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a psychologist, senior fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and New York Times best-selling author is so passionate about this topic, that he wrote an entire book on it, called Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength and Happiness.[i]

“If we are going to have lasting well-being in a changing world, we’ve got to be resilient. To be resilient, we’ve got to have inner resources.” (Rick Hanson, Talks at Google)[ii]

In Today’s Brain Fact Friday we will cover:

  • What does it mean to be resilient?
  • How can we build it in ourselves and others?
  • And how does it create a sense of well-being, an inner sense of peace and happiness?

Welcome back, I'm Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. If you have been listening to our podcast for some time, you will know that we’ve uncovered that if we want to improve our social and emotional skills, and experience success in our work and personal lives, it all begins with an understanding of our brain.

We started Brain Fact Fridays last month to dive a bit deeper into some of top brain strategies we uncover in our interviews, or weekly episodes and from the feedback I have heard, these short episodes are helpful for learning about the brain in quick, easy to digest lessons, so we will continue with Brain Fact Fridays and I do appreciate the feedback!

Getting back to today’s BRAIN FACT:

DID YOU KNOW:

That Mindfulness[iii] leaves a lasting impact on our brain (Rick Hanson) and when we practice mindfulness, we become more compassionate, resilient, and more skillful with others.

Rick Hanson quotes “If the mind is like a sailboat, growing inner resources is like strengthening and lengthening its keel. Then you can live more boldly.  Trusting you can explore and enjoy the deeper waters of life and handle any storms that come your way.”

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I first started to take a closer look at resiliency when I interviewed Horacio Sanchez on episode #74[iv] where Horacio, who named his company, Resiliency Inc[v] defined Resiliency as “a collection of protective risk factors that you have in your life.” He explains how there are some factors we are born with, and others come in through childhood, family, school, life events and social experiences.

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Horacio further explains that “if you have little risk, it takes less to be resilient. But—if you have a lot of risk, it takes a lot more protective factors to offset the scale.”  This is why two people can possibly respond in two completely different ways after a traumatic experience. One person walks away, and recovers quickly, while the other has a completely different outcome, and needs more assistance.

With resiliency, we can overcome adversity or difficulty and have good outcomes in our life, but you can see why not everyone is born with exactly the same protective factors needed, so we don’t all have the same levels of resiliency. Horacio mentioned that “25% of the population are naturally resilient” so his work focused on instilling resiliency in those who were not naturally resilient due to the number of risk factors associated to them.

This is what I love about this inner resource—that it can be instilled in others, or that we can build our own levels of resiliency, our own psychological strengths, that we can access at any time of the day, when we need it. And when we take the time and effort to do this, we will create lasting changes in our brain over time, as well as others who we instill with this valuable inner resource.

How can resiliency be instilled in ourselves and others? We all want resiliency for our own children, or those we work with or for ourselves. Here are some ideas to build this skill in ourselves and others with the idea that whenever we face a threat (whatever it might be that knocks you off course in life—the Pandemic, the loss of a job, worrying about losing your job, an illness) these strategies will help to provide coping mechanisms, and take away the feeling of helplessness that often accompanies a threat.

  1. APPLY PROTECTIVE FACTORS LIKE BUILDING AND MAINTAINING RELATIONSHIPS:

Horacio mentioned the work he has done over the years with applying protective factors (like teaching social and emotional skills, or involvement with a caring adult) with those children who had many risk factors, and explained that this took time, with many serious challenges along the way as the students he was working with had to learn the changes that take place over time. If we think about it, lasting change, at the brain level does time and effort, but well worth the results in the long run. He spoke about the fact it was clear that everyone needed help with building relationships, and this was a valuable lesson for everyone involved to build family harmony and stability. It’s a lesson we can all use.

 

  1. TUNE INTO A MEMORY OF GRIT: Angela Duckworth put this word on the map with her TED TALK[vi] Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and believes that “Grit is the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term-goals” (Duckworth et al., 2007). She believes that although people are born with grit, that it also develops through experience, just like resilience. I saw a powerful example of building resilience in students with Jemi Thompson’s Thriving YOUniversity’s[vii] facebook group. Jemi wrote “never forget that each student walking into our classroom has years of experience we know nothing about.” Students wrote these responses anonymously, and it reminded me of how much we can learn from our students, and children, or even our co-workers when we provide the opportunity to share.

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(Images from Jemi Thompson Thriving YOUniversity's Facebook Page for SEL Resources).

  1. MAINTAIN A MINDFULNESS PROGRAM: We know from our interview with Dr. Daniel Siegel[viii] of the powerful benefits of adding a mindfulness program to your daily practice. He mentions six science-backed benefits that can be seen in the brain:
  • Integration of structure and function of the brain (promotes well-being)
  • Reduction of the stress hormone, cortisol.
  • Enhancement of immune function.
  • Improvement of cardiovascular risk factors.
  • Reduction in inflammation via epigenetic changes.
  • Optimization of telomerase that slows aging.

Our brain fact for this week was That Mindfulness[ix] leaves a lasting impact on our brain (Rick Hanson) and when we practice mindfulness, we become more compassionate, resilient, and more skillful with others.  It’s just one of those pieces of research we can only believe as we begin a practice ourselves. There are a few Mindfulness programs I recommend, but the learning only occurs with action. If you want to learn more about the Mindfulness programs I use, I’ll list them in the resource section.

When we can take the time to look within for answers, this gives a sense of power or inner confidence, and then add deep breathing to this and we’ll be activating the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system that helps us to feel rested and grounded. It’s much easier to feel optimistic in the face of a threat when you have your body and mind working for you, not against you.

I hope you find this Brain Fact Friday useful! Let me know if you use any of these strategies in your schools or workplaces.

Have an incredible week, and see you next Friday!

RESOURCES:

Resilience: How Your Brain Helps You Bounce Back by Stephen Southwick, MD. June 4, 2020  https://brainworldmagazine.com/resilience-brain-helps-bounce-back/2/

Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #60 A Deep Dive into Dan Siegel’s Wheel of Awareness Meditation https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/the-science-behind-a-meditation-practice-with-a-deep-dive-into-dr-dan-siegel-s-wheel-of-awareness/

Daniel Siegel’s Wheel of Awareness https://www.wheelofawareness.com/

Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #98 with Dawson Church on “The Science Behind Using Meditation: Rewiring Your Brain for Happiness: https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/dr-dawson-church-on-the-science-behind-using-meditation-rewiring-your-brain-for-happiness-resilience-and-joy/

REFERENCES:

[i] Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength and Happiness by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. (March 27, 2018). https://www.amazon.com/Resilient-Grow-Unshakable-Strength-Happiness/dp/0451498844

[ii] Resilient| Rick Hanson| Talks at Google Published on YouTube October 17, 2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nqR9XNU7Wk

[iii] IBID

[iv] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #74 with Horacio Sanchez on “How to Apply Brain Science to Improve Instruction and School Climate” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/leading-brain-science-and-resiliency-expert-horatio-sanchez-on-how-to-apply-brain-science-to-improve-instruction-and-school-climate/

[v] https://www.resiliencyinc.com/about-us

[vi] Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance  TED TALK April 2013 https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance?language=en

[vii] Jemi Thompson’s Thriving YOUniversity’s Private Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/thrivingyouniversitybecomingbettereducators/permalink/3315911391986109

[viii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #28 with Dr. Daniel Siegel on “Mindsight: The Basis for Social and Emotional Intelligence” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/clinical-professor-of-psychiatry-at-the-ucla-school-of-medicine-dr-daniel-siegel-on-mindsight-the-basis-for-social-and-emotional-intelligence/

[ix] IBID

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