Daily Resilience Boosters, from A to S

June 10, 2020

How each one of us practices resilience—the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties—is personal and valid. And let’s be frank, some days it’s a breeze while others you feel like you’re down in the black pit again. I believe wholeheartedly that having good resilience habits will raise the bottom of your pit high enough that you can pull yourself up and out with greater ease. 

Here are a few tips on how to train your brain chemistry to help you be strong and flexible in the face of difficulties.

A is for the Amygdala  

This is your “fight, flight, or freeze” center, and when managed skillfully can raise your emotional well-being by stimulating the frontal lobe, enhancing creativity and intelligence.

Best practices:  

  • Use positive slogans and affirmations, such as, One day at a time. Be happy for no reason. All is well. I am enough.  
  • Do the things you love that make you happy: dance, sing, go into nature, cook and eat delicious food, play sports or games, read a book.

D is for Dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that relays messages between nerves. When dopamine is depleted, the messages aren’t being delivered properly and you may experience poor sleep, low mood, less motivation, and decreased enthusiasm. 

Best practices:

  • Get a decent night’s sleep.
  • Get regular exercise and keep it enjoyable.
  • Achieve bite-size goals throughout the day to get a hit of dopamine—make the bed, eat a healthy meal, pay a bill, return a phone call, clean the dishes, take a walk. Spread it out throughout the day.

E is for Endorphins

Endorphins released into your bloodstream act as the shield protecting you from stress. Laughter and exercise are the keys to elevating your endorphin levels.

Best practices:

  • Cardiovascular exercise will leave you feeling lighter and brighter; do 20 minutes or more, including core exercises for inner strength.
  • Laugh any way you can: watch comedy, play games, joke around, chant HAHAHA (your brain doesn’t know the difference between real and fake laughter).

O is for Oxytocin

Oxytocin is the love hormone: It is released through physical and emotional connection with others. When oxytocin is released, we feel loved and connected. Self-love practices elevate oxytocin as well.

Best practices: 

  • Share smiles and hugs, snuggle dogs and kitties, kiss babies and sweeties.
  • Get together with friends in real time, Zoom time, FaceTime.
  • Treat yourself to a massage, a hot bath, a luxurious yoga session.

S is for Serotonin

Serotonin levels fluctuate, especially when we feel the vulnerability of change. Feeling lonely, scared, unimportant, or unworthy reflects low serotonin. Boost your mood with positive energy.

Best practices:

  • Compose a daily gratitude list and share it with a friend via email or text or in person.
  • Ask yourself “What went well?” after any situation or at the end of the day.
  • Get Vitamin D from the sun. (Studies show it may help fight coronavirus.)
  • Be helpful to someone; commit a random act of kindness.

If this list feels daunting, start with just one habit and try it for 21 days. Then add another. Remember that you can only start where you are, and your willingness to give it a try is the most important step you will take.

Consider keeping a daily resilience log. Here’s one of mine, offering examples of how you might harness the power of your brain to keep you feeling resilient and empowered throughout your day.

  • Woke up, smiled, and silently said, Happy for no reason.
  • Spent five minutes kissing, hugging, and petting my cat.  
  • Drank lots of water.
  • Did yoga and core exercises.  
  • Made the bed and put away clean dishes.   
  • Prepared for a work meeting, and made it to the meeting on time.  
  • Met a friend for a walk.  
  • Helped an elderly neighbor bring in her groceries.  
  • Ate a healthy meal and watched a funny show.  

I leave you with these words from Thomas Merton: “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”

Evelyn Gonzalez, Kripalu Legacy Faculty, has been on the yogic path for more than 20 years and continues to gather wisdom and skill from inspired teachers, including Erich Schiffmann.

Full Bio and Programs