Micro-Resilience and Positive Psychology
My definition of micro-resilience calls for an expanded understanding of resilience – one that includes the daily, seemingly mundane negative emotions and events we all face. There are MANY ways to practice micro-resilience (more to come on that later!), but they are all rooted in positive psychology.
Even though positive psychology serves as the foundation of micro-resilience, there’s no set formula that you have to master in order to get it “right”. You can explore different tools and techniques to find the right mix that is unique, catered to YOU and fits your needs. You don’t need to fit into a specific “box” in order to make micro-resilience work for you; the practice allows you to honor exactly who and where you are in the moment.
What is Positive Psychology?
Positive psychology is a relatively new branch or sub-field of psychology; it was created by Martin Seligman about 20 years ago in response to the effects of World War II on the American people. When WWII ended, psychologists were suddenly tasked with figuring out how to treat the side effects and aftermath of war, including PTSD, anxiety, trauma and more. This caused an undeniable shift in the psychology field; Seligman argued that psychology became hyper-focused on how to treat mental illness – which was, and still is, crucial and invaluable – and thus lacked the tools to address and/or capitalize on all the good and positive aspects of a person’s life.
Up until the introduction of positive psychology, psychology on the whole predominantly looked to heal through an exploration of and focus on what is wrong with someone. Seligman rightly pointed out that this approach only focuses on one aspect of the human experience; positive psychology was introduced as a way to explore, better understand and build on what is going right in someone’s life.
It’s important to note, however, that positive psychology was not developed with the intention to ignore the negative aspects of people’s lives or see the world through “rose colored glasses”. It’s also not meant to replace or discredit the existing psychological approach to healing as it stands. Positive psychology was developed with the intention to add to the psychology field and create ways for the science to benefit both those who are suffering and those who are not.
Seligman made a strong case for positive psychology and called upon psychologists to explore, research and piece together the answer to a succinct, yet wildly intricate, question: What makes people flourish?
Yes, You Can Flourish Too!
Flourishing is undeniably a very positive – and perhaps even boisterous – way to characterize yourself and the state of your life. At first glance, the ability to flourish and the not so shiny parts of life seem mutually exclusive. Especially when placed alongside our conversation about micro-resilience, telling someone that you’re flourishing may feel disingenuous. How can you possibly be flourishing if you’re plagued by – and at times worn down by – daily disappointments, negative emotions and the like?
Regardless of what you're going through, the ability to flourish is in fact something that’s possible for us ALL.
The magic of the word “flourish” lies in its root. Its meaning is synonymous with growth, and it actually stems from botany (yes, another reason to love plants and all things green!). It comes from the old French verb floriss- (stem of florir), which means “to blossom, flower, or bloom, as well as florere in latin, which is translated as “to bloom, blossom, flower”.
What You and Plants (Yes, Plants!) Have in Common
This is around the time you might be wondering what the significance of this etymology lesson could possibly be. And while we're at it, you may also be questioning what plants have to do with your ability to flourish.
Well, in case you’ve forgotten, let me remind you: Plants have everything they need to flourish within… and you do too. Take a moment to let that sink in!
This idea that we have all we need is profound, hard to grasp and easy to forget. For example, consider this: We’re most drawn to the bright flower petals in summer and the vibrant, lush greens in the grass, shrubs and trees following a heavy rainfall. This is when they’re at their peak, but all of this beauty comes from a small, seemingly insignificant seed! We know this, but like most things in life, it’s more common to only focus on something when it’s at its best.
Take an exemplar in your personal or professional life for example. Do you focus more on where they are now and what they have rather than the hard work, struggles and potential hardships they overcame in order to get to where they are today? Now consider yourself and your own life. How do you face and think about your own hardships in the moment versus in hindsight? If you’re anything like me, you tend to only appreciate the hard parts of life once you see the link between where you were then and how they contribute to where you are now. In the moment, I’d rather do without the negativity and upset (thank you very much!).
The significance of Positive Psychology, Flourishing and Micro-Resilience
I’ve introduced positive psychology and flourishing as the first “how-to” of micro-resilience for a reason. It is my intention to emphasize the importance of every moment, interaction, experience and event that makes you YOU.
Similar to the shift in perception around resilience that's required to fully grasp the concept of micro-resilience, both positive psychology and flourishing ask you to shift your perception around the moments that require micro-resilience in the first place. They acknowledge the good and the bad parts of our lives.
So, just like plants, we need the darkness in order to flourish and thrive. And, what’s more, we don’t need to look elsewhere for what we need. Yes, these seeds only grow into something far beyond what we could ever imagine with the right factors and environment, but this is secondary to what they have within.
Your Next Steps
For your first micro-resilience practice, I'd like you to begin by owning both the good and the bad in your day. Allow yourself to be more present and feel the feelings that arise during the not so perfect parts so you can become aware of them. Notice them but try not to let them overcome you (dwelling and rumination is not the goal!). Rather than resent them or push them away, can you see them as part of your story? Can you switch your perspective and perceive them as part of your journey to reach your peak? To flourish?
Try it out and let me know how it goes.
In the upcoming months, I’ll explain micro-resilience in more detail and show how it can be applied to the six pillars of wellness – thoughts, feelings, actions/behaviors, eating, movement and sleep – in bi-monthly blog posts. Click here or enter your name and email below if you'd like to be kept in the loop for upcoming posts and all things micro-resilience.
About The Author
As a former marketing strategist and avid reader, Sofia Adler is a lover of storytelling (especially the stories we tell ourselves). Sofia graduated from Colgate University with a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and is currently getting a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and Education with a concentration in Spirituality and Mind/Body practice from Teachers College, Columbia University (expected December 2018). Sofia is a 200-hour RYT yoga instructor specializing in vinyasa and restorative practices and has participated in multiple yoga philosophy trainings.
Sofia has completed an array of additional courses and workshops on coaching, mindset and the spirit, mind and body connection, all of which have influenced her coaching approach and style.