The Mind Domain of Everyday Resilience

Building A Resilient Mind Main

Setting the Scene

In today’s article, we focus on the Mind domain of the Everyday Resilience Framework.  To date, we have discussed the Body domain and the Community domain, explaining how they contribute to our everyday resilience so we can successfully face the adversity we experience in our lives. 

We’ve also talked about how equally important each of the domains is.  You can’t let one domain ‘slip’ without impairing the others and lowering your overall envelope of resilience.  This is especially true of the Mind domain, and the prominent role cognitive function plays in how we develop and use our everyday resilience.

Today’s Domain: The Mind

We’ve already dedicated a lot of space on the importance of developing a resilient mind – almost as much as our advocacy for physical exercise!  As you can tell from our article library, we’ve become obsessed with the optimisation of the cognitive function in developing resilient humans.  So far, we’ve published four articles on this topic that highlight the importance of cognitive optimisation in developing personal resilience (Table 1).

We recommend that you consider these articles alongside the three practices that we propose here.

Wise Seed ArticleWhat we discussed
Three Strategies to Mitigate Cognitive DeclineThree proven strategies to lessen cognitive decline are:
1. Become a lifelong learner and explore new learning opportunities.
2. Develop character and personality traits that increase your competence such as a strong work ethic, conscientiousness, emotional intelligence, rationality, and personal integrity.
3. Develop and maintain professional and social networks that help you access different approaches and ideas for problem-solving.
Six Ways to Preserve Cognitive FunctionStaying lean, avoiding smoking and alcohol, maintaining cardio-respiratory fitness, pursuing life-long learning, and meditating all help keep your brain young.
Exercise for a Resilient MindAerobic exercise, resistance exercise, and Tai Chi all work to protect your brain from cognitive decline.
How to Improve Cognitive FunctionsYou can improve your self control, focused attention, working memory, and cognitive flexibility by intentionally training theseabilities – they are not ‘set in stone’ and can be made better with practice.

Table 1: Wise Seed articles relating to cognitive optimisation

Three Practices that Build a Resilient Mind

In brief: a strong Mind domain is underpinned by optimised cognitive performance.  Having robust cognitive performance means that you are better able to detect and anticipate incoming challenges, identify good strategies to overcome them, and learn from the experience so that you can become better over time. 

Conversely, if your Mind is not active or operating below its cognitive best, you are more likely to get caught by surprise when adversity strikes, react reflexively (and potentially unsuccessfully), and miss the learning opportunities.  As we discuss below, an inactive Mind also weakens your overall resilience potential, noting that the other resilience domains interact with the Mind domain (as well as each other) in developing the resilience function.

We recommend three practices to build a healthy Mind domain that, in turn, will contribute to your everyday resilience.  These are:

1. Engage in regular exercise.

2. Practice mindfulness.

3. Adopt a lifelong-learning/creating outlook.

1. Engage in Regular Exercise

Building A Resilient Mind Exercise

Yes, we are going to talk about exercise again, but don’t roll your eyes!  The evidence is very clear that our brains thrive when we physically exercise, and this leads to improved cognitive performance 1,2.

Although forming and maintaining exercise habits is very challenging (and perhaps the single greatest understatement across our articles to date), you have to engage in regular exercise if you want to authentically grow your personal resilience.  Also, exercise is not just essential for building the Mind domain, but it also plays a critical role in the Body domain.  Further, it’s worth noting that exercise also acts as a critical contributor to the Spirit domain and plays a key role in assisting with anxiety and reducing stress 3.

Regardless of the domain, the message from the research continues to be abundantly clear – humans are born to move and become less resilient when they don’t exercise. 

2. Practice Mindfulness

Building A Resilient Mind Meditate

It would be remiss of us to not include ‘mindfulness’ within our discussion of the Mind domain!   Although there is a diverse range of definitions of what mindfulness is, for the purposes of this article we consider mindfulness as a mental mode characterised by intense attention to the present moment without judgment or emotional reactivity 4.

Our previous work has cited the importance of mindfulness practices such as Tai Chi and meditation as a way of retaining your cognitive function, and there is firm evidence for the relationship between personal resilience and mindfulness practices 4.  There are ample free resources throughout the internet that allow you to experiment with these practices, and we encourage you to try these.

We also note the opportunities presented by mindfulness in improving self-control 5, focusing attention 6, 7, and extending working memory 8.  These are essential attributes to call on when dealing with situations of acute stress, overcoming challenges, or engaging in high-performance activities.

3. Become a Lifelong Learner and Creator

Building A Resilient Mind Lifelong Learner

Intentionally pursuing a lifetime of creation and learning outlook is essential to maintain and improve your cognitive function 9.  This practice requires you to move into new areas of knowledge and creativity that you are not an expert in. You must intentionally force yourself to learn and push the boundaries of your creativity.  This can involve learning a new hobby, a trade, a new regime of study, or engaging in a new creative space. Alternatively, it can mean diving ever deeper into you interests and art to become a master of your chosen field.

The essential outcome of this practice is to learn something new that departs from what you already know.  This engages the brain differently and preserves cognitive functioning by keeping the brain active 9 – it’s like a form of mental exercise for the brain.  Critically, you must keep using it, or you will lose it!

Looking Ahead

At this stage of our discussion of the Everyday Resilience Framework, you can begin to see the interplay between the different domains and how they all work together to create personal resilience.  In particular, working to enhance one resilience domain creates immediate opportunities to build the other domains, while letting one domain weaken can also degrade the others.   Some quick examples of the interplay between other domains and the Mind domain include:

– if you don’t get enough sleep (Body domain), your cognitive performance degrades 10

– a poor diet (Body domain), leads to reduced cognitive performance 11

– people who regularly help others out of their own volition or who do volunteer work (Community domain) have higher levels of positive mental health 12

– developing and maintain professional and social networks (Community domain) help you bring different approaches and ideas for solving problems 13

Further, we acknowledge the neurobiological overlap between the Mind (i.e. our ways of thinking) and Spirit (our rich range of emotional experiences), but decided to incorporate these aspects into two separate domains to provide a simple approach for developing personal resilience.  Noting this, we will discuss the Spirit domain in our next Everyday Resilience article.

Please click on the link below to download a FREE copy of the PDF of this article.

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The Mind Domain Of Everyday Resilience Infographic

References and Further Reading

1. A. Brunt. et alThe effectiveness of exercise on cognitive performance in individuals with known vascular disease: A systematic review. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8(294) (2019).

2. Chang, Y. Effect of acute aerobic exercise on cognitive performance: Role of cardiovascular fitness.  Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 15(5), 464-470 (2014).

3. Stubbs, B. et al. An examination of the anxiolytic effects of exercise for people with anxiety and stress-related disorders: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, 249, 102-108 (2017). doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2016.12.020

4. Jha, A.P. et alPractice Is Protective: Mindfulness Training Promotes Cognitive Resilience in High-Stress CohortsMindfulness, 8, 46–58 (2017).

5. Tang, Y., Tang, R., & Posner, M. Mindfulness meditation improves emotion regulation and reduces drug abuse.  Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 163(1), S13-S18 (2016). doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.11.041

6. Rahl, H. A. et al. Brief mindfulness meditation training reduces mind wandering: The critical role of acceptance. Emotion, 17(2), 224–230 (2017).  doi.org/10.1037/emo0000250

7. Mardon, N., Richards, H., & Martindale, A. The effect of mindfulness training on attention and performance in national-level swimmers: An exploratory investigation. The Sport Psychologist, 30, 131-140 (2016).  doi:10.1123/tsp.2014-0085

8. Jha, A. et al. Does mindfulness training help working memory ‘work’ better?  Current Opinion in Psychology, 28, 271-278 (2019).  doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2019.02.012

9. Laal, M. & Salamati, P. Lifelong learning: Why do we need it?  Procedia Social and Behavioural Sciences, 31, 399-403 (2012).

10. Killgore W.D.S., Weber M. Sleep Deprivation and Cognitive Performance. In: Bianchi M. (eds) Sleep Deprivation and Disease. Springer, New York, NY. (2014) 

11. Chaput, J. P. Sleep patterns, diet quality and energy balance.  Physiology and Behaviour, 134, 86-91 (2014).

12. Gil-Lacruz M., Saz-Gil M., & Gil-Lacruz A. Benefits of Older Volunteering on Wellbeing: An International Comparison. Frontier Psychology, 10, 26-47 (2019). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02647

13. Iacoviello, B. M., & Charney, D. S. Psychosocial facets of resilience: Implications for preventing post-trauma psychopathology, treating trauma survivors, and enhancing community resilience. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 5(1), (2014).

Ackowledgements

We thank the artists Morgan Sarkissian, Emmy E, Gustavo Fring, Karolina Grabowska and Liam Anderson from Pexels for their wonderful images.

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The material displayed on this website is provided without any guarantees, conditions or warranties as to its accuracy.

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David

David

Dave has a highly successful background in the government, corporate, entrepreneurial, and not for profit sectors. All that aside, Dave is best known as a quiet guy with an unembarrassed love of the mountains, a passion for protecting animals, and as being a great support crew for his wife during her marathon running.

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Woman Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra for Better Sleep

Disrupted sleep increases anxiety and depression. Yoga Nidra is an effective method that has helped many people overcome insomnia.

Beautiful Woman Running On Treadmill

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Emerging research shows that low-intensity cardio is the best way to improve your metabolic and cardiovascular health.

Strong bones, strong brain.

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Regular exercise releases osteocalcin from your bones. Once in circulation, osteocalcin enters your brain to support learning and memory.