Could a simple, five-step method help to overcome GRIEF? Psychologist unveils coping method she claims can boost your resilience in the face of ANY challenge life throws at you

Whether it’s troubles at work or relationship issues, life throws challenges our way that require us to be resilient and bounce back.

And one psychologist believes she has the formula that will help you develop your resilience to any kind of grief that’s thrown your way – from the menial every day grievances to much more momentous events.

As Sam Owen, who has penned Resilient Me: How to Worry Less and Achieve More, explains: ‘Resilience is mental toughness that is at the same time mental flexibility to the changing winds of life. 

‘Like bamboo bending in the wind rather than snapping, resilience allows us to bend and ultimately stay upright and intact, rather than break and collapse. Resilience allows you to keep powering forward in life despite all the challenges along the way, big and small.

‘Resilience is also essential for surviving and thriving in the modern world; whether it be making enough money for our basic survival needs and more; looking after our bodies to stave off life-threatening illness; or creating a family or social network to keep us feeling valued and enable a longer life.’ 

Sam reveals how YOU can develop and maintain resilience so that you bounce over obstacles with ease every time life challenges you – and live a successful, happy life.

Psychologist Sam Owen shares a simple, five-step method to help to overcome grief and boost your resilience in the face of ANY challenge life throws at you. File image

Psychologist Sam Owen shares a simple, five-step method to help to overcome grief and boost your resilience in the face of ANY challenge life throws at you. File image

THINK YOURSELF HAPPY

For centuries, philosophers and psychologists have asserted that it is the way we think about what happens, not what happens, that determines our emotions and our behaviours. If you think to yourself that life’s challenges have blocked you from your goals, happiness and life purpose, then that is exactly what will happen.

Imagine for a moment that the career promotion you’ve been working towards for the last ten months has been given to someone else. If you’re self-sabotaging you might feel sadness and anger, be rude to your boss and consume alcohol to numb the emotions. You might then damage your relationship with your boss, and make it less likely you will get a promotion in the future.

Now imagine the same scenario, but this time your outlook is that life’s challenges are lessons that guide us towards our goals. You might feel surprise, and you might learn new skills to help you achieve the promotion next time, or reassess if this is the right career path. 

For centuries, philosophers and psychologists have asserted that it is the way we think about what happens, not what happens, that determines our emotions and our behaviours. File image

For centuries, philosophers and psychologists have asserted that it is the way we think about what happens, not what happens, that determines our emotions and our behaviours. File image

You might get more skilled and confident, and get the promotion a few months later, or have a successful new fulfilling career. This might feed back into your outlook and reinforce it: ‘Everything happens for the best in the end, even when I can’t understand it straight away; I always end up with a happier, more fulfilling life.’

Thinking positively doesn’t stop the experience of pain; it accepts the pain, but doesn’t get stuck in it. It uses the experience to learn from it, and reset our goals and focus on the benefits of our situation. 

Sometimes these benefits are immediately obvious, sometimes they won’t be, but thinking positively allows us to start searching, and you will eventually find them.

… HOW TO DO IT  

Put your thoughts into this 30 second Thought–Feedback Cycle. Finish these sentences:

‘A frequently recurring negative thought I have is . . .’

‘The emotions I experience as a result of that negative thought are . . .’

‘The behaviours I indulge as a result of those negative emotions are . . .’

‘The outcomes I achieve as a result of such behaviours are . . .’

‘The subsequent thoughts I have that feed back into my emotions as the cycle continues are . . .’

HOW TO BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND 

1. List any negative statements you frequently say to yourself that sabotage your happiness and your goals, and stop saying them. As you identify more, ban them too.

2. Make a habit of talking positively to yourself ALL the time. Remember, do something often enough and it becomes habit.

Notice the pattern of self-sabotage? Next, repeat this exercise by starting with a positive, alternative thought you could have about the same topic. Notice the more self-serving pattern that emerges.

Recognising the enormity of this thoughts–outcomes link gives you the power to stop your thoughts before they hamper your mood, screw up your decisions and actions, and push your goals further away.

BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND

Whether your resilience is being tested by an important goal that’s out of reach, elements of your life that you loathe, the people in your life, or unexpected life-changing news you’ve just received, ensure you talk to yourself as you would want a best friend to talk to you. 

As a simple rule: if it’s negative, deflates you, and knocks your self-belief and confidence, don’t say it; if it’s positive, helps you to have self-belief, feel confident, and focus on your goals, then go for it.

Our words, whether silent or spoken, influence our minute-to minute emotions and tell our mind what to focus on and work towards. Habitual thoughts, emotions and behaviours also change the structure of your brain, so if you don’t consciously create good habits, you can unconsciously create bad habits, however unintentional. From now on, do yourself a favour: be a good gatekeeper of all that you allow into your mind, thereby protecting and reinforcing your resilience armour.

… HOW TO DO IT  

1. List any negative statements you frequently say to yourself that sabotage your happiness and your goals, and stop saying them. As you identify more, ban them too.

2. Make a habit of talking positively to yourself ALL the time. Remember, do something often enough and it becomes habit.

FIND YOUR MEANING

Once you’re thinking and talking positively you’re more likely to discover your goals, and find the motivation to achieve them. For example, a mother who lost a child may help raise awareness or funds for charity, to help prevent others from experiencing the same distressing loss she has suffered. 

Just changing our outlook can gives us a different perspective on what has happened to us in life and why, and can motivate us to want to do something with the experience. Often, when we find meaning, we find strength and purpose. Yet sometimes, we don’t pursue the goals we really want. I remember one client who told me her number-one goal was to write a book, only to find that she wasn’t making progress on finishing her manuscript and hadn’t been for some time. 

What transpired was that the book goal was actually a little further down Caroline’s list of priorities: at number three. Only once she had identified and started to make progress on her number-one and -two goals, which were expanding her social circle and finding her Mr Right, did she start making progress again on her unfinished novel.

…HOW TO DO IT

Rule two columns on a page, in the first write down the important life goal, and in the second, why you are motivated to achieve it. Your answers may change as you go through life. and you may realise that some become more or less important over time. The key is to identify a written list of your ultimate specific goals, with a specific date for achieving them by. Review the list daily if you can, but at least weekly as it’s very important to keep your goals at the forefront of your mind.

FREE YOURSELF FROM FRENEMIES

Positive relationships are a lifeline. People who have good social networks (family, friends, community) are happier, physically healthier and live longer than less well-connected people, whilst people who feel lonely are less happy, tend to have declining health sooner (in midlife) and die younger than those who are not lonely.

Once you¿re thinking and talking positively you¿re more likely to discover your goals, and find the motivation to achieve them

Once you’re thinking and talking positively you’re more likely to discover your goals, and find the motivation to achieve them

One thing I’ve noticed with clients with low-self-esteem is that they seem to actively keep unhealthy relationships in their life, often unintentionally, because of their low self-worth. But when they distance themselves from negative relationships they start to feel better about themselves. Life looks brighter and feels lighter. 

They start spending their time only around those that elevate their self-worth, and this then builds their resilience at such a rapid rate that they transform their lives, within weeks sometimes; such is the power of our relationships.

…HOW TO DO IT

Think about the people in your life who drain your energy, enthusiasm and self-belief. Either minimise your time around them, or work at changing the dynamic between you so that you slowly but surely mould their behaviours with you in a way that will help you to feel more resilient around them.

THE RESILIENCE O-METER:

You can easily check the current strength of your resilience at any given moment by using the physical sensations you feel within your body. That’s because our bodily sensations are connected with our thoughts and emotions, and can help you to learn important answers and make great decisions. 

To use your body as a source of information, tune in to it. If you first need help tuning in, close your eyes and take three or more deep breaths. As you breathe in, hold your breath for four to five seconds and then breathe out with force. Now turn your mental attention inwards to your body’s inner world. Using the acronym OFF (overwhelmed, fatigued, fragility) check how OFF you feel.

With this in mind, try to gauge where your resilience level is hovering at this moment. Think of your body as a glass thermometer, and your resilience as the mercury inside. So if you’re feeling unbreakable, your resilience would be 100 per cent and at the top of your head, while rock bottom — zero per cent — is the soles of your feet.

Once you’ve worked out where you are at the moment, you can then try some of the simple activities to boost resilience and then try the exercise again to discover which approaches work best for you.

Adapted by Laurel Ives from Resilient Me: How to Worry Less and Achieve More by Sam Owen is published by Orion Spring, price £14.99. To order a copy for £11.99 visit www.mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640, p&p is free on orders over £15. Offer valid until 30/10/2017.