During our work, we encounter many obstacles, some major, many more minor. While this is to be expected, it can take a toll on our mental well being.
How can we become more effective in dealing with setbacks and failures? How can we train ourselves to bounce back quickly, without becoming discouraged or angry?
Two ways psychologists suggest that may help our resilience focus on talking to ourselves, and retraining our mind.
Talking to yourself is the method recommended for countering major failures. What you need to do to combat discouragement and negative thoughts is to challenge them head on. Argue with those negative thoughts in your mind. That’s the advice from psychologist Martin Seligman.
But to come back from the more minor setbacks you face on a daily basis, things that are more annoying than dispiriting, retraining your mind may be the way to go.
What happens when we get upset because of something going wrong is that different parts of our brain are controlling our thinking and behavior. Our reactions are guided not by our rational thought center, the prefrontal cortex, but by other parts of our brain that trigger more reflexive, reactive, emotional responses. These other parts take over. To handle the fallout from a setback, we have to quiet these other areas of the brain and return control to our cortex.
To do this, Daniel Goleman, director of emotional intelligence research at Rutgers, says we must practice what is called mindfulness, which is training the brain to become aware of what it is doing, but without reacting to it. To practice mindfulness, you must first find a quiet place free from any outside distractions. Then focus your attention on your breathing, how it feels as you breathe in and breathe out. Don’t try to do anything at this point, just breathe naturally. If any stray thoughts pop into your mind, wipe them out. Focus all of your attention on your breathing. For this to work, however, you need to practice this mindfulness 20 to 30 minutes each day. It has to become a routine. This kind of training has become more popular among business people, and those who have been doing it report success in being able to shift their thoughts from the emotional parts of their brain more toward the rational part when a stressful situation develops.
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