Strengthening Your Intellectual Resilience

A common theme I hear when working with clients is the seemingly insurmountable challenge of changing unwanted behavior. I know from personal experience how difficult this is. I do something I don’t want to do. I have looked at the underlying causes, I have identified strategies to implement change but when the opportunity to practice arises, I default to old patterns. It’s a frustrating learning experience but I also know first hand change is achievable. Continuing to practice the new skills is useful so stay in there. I have an idea on how to boost your learning curve. Exercise your brain.
Because change involves neural pathways in our brain, it seems that if we keep the intellectual part of our brain active, growing and pliable, perhaps it will be easier to create new neural pathways. I have a challenge for you. In addition to the work you are already doing to create change in your life, add some brain games.
Many such games exist. You can find them in book and electronic form. I use the Lumosity app to challenge myself nearly daily. As my memory, problem solving and attention skills are stretched, I’m noticing a significant increase in my ability to also solve emotional issues by implementing healthy skills. My experience is not unique and is supported by the research on developing resilience (see my previous post on this). Help yourself out, exercise your brain!

Developing Resilience

I watched an inspiring TED Talk with Jane McGonigal. She is a video game designer. A few years ago she was bedridden after a concussion. During this time she fell into depression with suicidal thinking that freaked her out. She used her gaming background to create a game called SuperBetter that helped her get out of her depression. As she researched why the game was helpful, she came upon information around developing resilience and Post Traumatic Growth (PTG), the opposite of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTG occurs when we get through difficult or traumatic experiences and find we are stronger than we were before the trauma occurred. Four particular resiliences are necessary to experience PTG: relational, emotional, intellectual and physical.
Developing these resiliences is not just for trauma. We can get so much more out of life and experience more joy in a day if we are willing to develop and strengthen them. The tasks are simple. Things like counting backwards from 100 to zero by sevens gets the intellectual part of our brain going. Challenging yourself with Sudoku, a crossword puzzle, word search or memory game will also help. Reaching out to another person by calling or talking to them engages the social/relational part of our brain. To enhance the emotional part of our brain we can do something as simple as looking at pictures that elicit a positive emotion, listening to comedy or reading something uplifting. For the physical part, do something active for even a few seconds. Get up and march in place or lift your arms up and down (or both!). Ideally, we’ll repeat these exercises throughout the day to periodically engage our brain and body. The benefit is increased the more we engage physically, emotionally, intellectually and relationally. Try it! You should notice a positive effect as your resiliences grow 🙂