How, doing nothing can help you thrive ? Check these examples !

How, doing nothing can help you thrive ? Check these examples !

Original publication in Thrive Gobal on October 2nd 2019

Many of us are so accustomed to a packed schedule that when we finally find a bit of free time, we don’t always know what to do with it. With the pressure to be “always on” and the prevalence of hustle culture, it’s easy to feel bad when you have even a little time to dedicate to yourself. As a result, you can become too wrapped up in the guilt to actually enjoy it. But downtime is good for everyone, no matter how busy you are — studies have shown that embracing a quiet moment or time off can lead to increased productivity, focus, and energy. 

We asked members of the Thrive community to tell us about a time they overcame the anxiety of “doing nothing” and used that time to their benefit. Check out the different ways they turned it into an opportunity to thrive, and how you can do so, too. 

Add some color to your life

“For me, doing nothing has lead me to a fruitful space where my often over-stimulated brain can thrive. I have taken up coloring, which I always enjoyed as a child. The creativity that it allows, and the simple joy I derive from the activity allows for moments of pure pleasure. I go back to work refreshed after I’ve had my coloring time.” 

—Jennefer Witter, CEO, entrepreneur, and public speaker, New York, NY 

Tune into a greater purpose

“I took a year off after college to recover from the burnout of operating with an ‘always on’ mindset for so long. During this time, I still had many commitments and projects, but focused on developing a more balanced approach to productivity, which included being more intentional about doing nothing. The key for me was realizing that time spent doing nothing can still have a purpose, whether it’s self-care, health, or just having fun. Although these things may not further our endeavors in a literal sense, they have a great impact on our productivity and creativity.”

—Andrew Gobran, people operations generalist, Minneapolis, MN

Read for greater empathy 

“I work from home and it’s easy to feel like you have to be ‘on’ all the time. A few months ago, I decided that I would  use the time I’d normally spend commuting to tune back into my favorite hobby: reading. I used to read all the time, and it always helped me better understand people and lead with more empathy. Now that I’ve committed to this downtime, I have much more energy, and it’s done wonders for my stress levels and overall outlook. I make better human connections, and I’m doing better at my job, too.” 

—Rebecca Taylor, sales, New York, NY 

Plan quiet moments 

“I can’t remember the actual moment I surrendered my control over everything. It was more like a gradual deconstruction. It could have started with the realization of how much I had lost in terms of time. I may not have associated value with space until it seemed gone forever. I’m still an overachiever, a mother of three, and a business owner. But having felt a loss so great, I now plan moments where I am doing nothing. This involves letting everyone around me know I am having a moment — my phone will go on silent and nothing will be scheduled afterward. That’s the key: Surrender to the mess, say no, and create space.” 

—Ali Davies, entrepreneur, New Zealand

Let your mind wander

“I have such an ‘on’ brain. Earlier this year, I found myself completely burned out — I was uninspired and completely devoid of joy in my work.  At my lowest, I reached out to my business community and offered to volunteer one day each week to help me find my mojo, but to also give my brain some off time. I helped my friend who is a ceramicist clean her studio and mix up glazes, and helped another friend make dog food, of all things! Through the process of standing on my feet, using my hands, and freeing up my mind to wander away from creative or strategic mode, I slowly came back to life. I’ve since stuck with the one day of helping or volunteering per week. I still get the same amount of work done in my business on a four day week, and I’m more creative after the day of chatting, marinating, and just “being” in manual labor.”

—Odette Barry, publicist and agency owner, Byron Bay, Australia

Spend time outside

“My husband and I became empty nesters in 2012. Initially, it was hard to deal with, especially since my husband had recently taken a new job and traveled for most of the week. I was truly home alone. At first, we started going out with friends and traveling together when he was home. We were trying to make up for all the quiet and alone time we now had. After a couple of years, we were even more exhausted than we were when we had the kids at home. Finally, we decided we could live wherever we wanted with his job. So we bought a small house and some land in the country. I found gardening, and I love it. I have also gotten back into reading. We have a hammock, and enjoy it under the moon and stars, and in the shade on a sunny day after working in the garden.”

—Becky C., office manager, Huntsville, TX

Embrace white space

“As a business owner, I used to think any time I didn’t spend working on — or thinking about — my business was time wasted. Then I suffered from burnout. I realized that no one is going to give me permission to slow down but me. Now I incorporate more white space — time where nothing is scheduled — and downtime, where I totally relax, into my schedule. I feel more creative, energized, and motivated every time I come back from a period of ‘doing nothing.’” 

—Stacey Hagen, coach and consultant, San Francisco, CA

Listen to what your mind and body tell you 

“I couldn’t wait to start an active daily schedule after I finished cancer treatment, but my body wasn’t ready to run — literally and figuratively. I had to learn to stop, slow down, and listen to what I needed. Though it was incredibly difficult at first — and sometimes still is — the lesson to slow down and do less completely changed my life for the better. I learned how to meditate, how to cook food that nourishes my body and soul, how long walks get me the movement and mindfulness I need, and I even started practicing calligraphy. In turn, my stress is much lower, my relationships with others are deeper, and my days are more meaningful. I can’t recommend learning how to ‘do nothing’ enough.”

—Calisa Hildebrand, communications, San Francisco, CA

By 

Take a Resilient Holiday

Take a Resilient Holiday

Whether or not you feel tired, it is critical to regularly take holidays and deeply recharge your batteries.

 It is scientifically established that taking vacations reduces the incidence of burnout. It also is the opportunity to reconnect with our friends, appreciate quality time with our loved ones, catch-up on sleep and exercise.

 The Resilience Institute Europe Team wishes you a lovely resilient break!  

Dr Sven on Meditation

Dr Sven on Meditation

By Dr Sven Hansen.

Meditation has gone mainstream for good reasons.

The evidence confidently shows physical, emotional and cognitive benefits [i]
Roughly 2,500 years of dedicated practice proves safety
Meditation presents as a foundation competence for our future
It can be the most enjoyable part of your day and enlightens the rest
So, why isn’t everybody meditating? Even, philosopher of our time, Noah Yuval Harari [ii], recommends meditation. He believes it generates the mental and emotional resilience required in our future of artificial intelligence and increasing human redundancy.

The first reason is overload – the very reason we should be meditating. The second is language. Meditation or mindfulness can trigger xenophobic reactions or seem too intense. The third is the immaturity of the field with a flood of overenthusiastic novices. The fourth is a failure of execution.

The last is the one to be confronted. The knowing-doing gap.

To be fair, I recommend that you secure your sleep and exercise first. To meditate when you are sleep deprived or unfit is wasteful. However, for many their meditation practice is the solution to sleep and the motivation to move.

If meditation is your next challenge, here are some tips to get the wins.

1. Get the language right
Meditation is our word for a strategic investment. Tactical Calm or Breath Control is for quick relaxation. Tactical Focus is for practical attention skills. We have dropped mindfulness as too broad. Be confident in the word you choose. You do not want to feel embarrassed or ashamed when you talk about it. Fortunately, there are many paths.

2. Allocate the time
While at first it feels like booking a dentist appointment, you have to get serious about allocating protected time. There is a theme that the minimum investment for sustainable gains is 8 minutes per day. Be on time for this appointment every day. Imagine it as a confirmed meeting with the CEO of life – which is exactly what it is. Even if the appointment is a mess, stick with the full allocated time. Two to five minutes is a good start.

3. Play – be curious and creative
A big disappointment is when you sit down to control your mind and find perfect bliss. To your dismay, as you sit your mind dissolves into agitated chaos. Within minutes you are miserable – appalled to discover that you have absolutely no control over your thoughts and feelings.

Be relaxed and playful. You are entering a virtual world with a whole new set of rules. You have switched external stimuli such as weather, work, gadgets, and relationships to an inner world of biochemistry, emotions and thoughts. For many this is foreign territory. You will have to learn to relax into this new drama and get to know the characters.

Watch the pain and see how it tugs for attention and sympathy. Really focus into that feeling of anxiety and experience how it wants to take control of your mind and movement. Look clearly into the bubbling stream of thoughts and images and how easily they can snatch away your commitment to focus on your breath – even hijack the entire practice.

Your job will be to discover who you are in this kaleidoscope of sensations, feelings and thoughts. I sense that itch. I feel that frustration. I notice that thought. Be present and attentive to the “I”. Keep coming back to yourself as the subject, the watcher or the witness.

4. Establish your base practice
Your base practice is to sit comfortably on chair or cushion:

Keep your spine light and long.
Let your shoulders roll backward and down.
Breathe through your nose.
Relax your chest and let your sternum sink downward.
Exhale completely over six seconds and pause gently.
Inhale slowly and evenly aiming for four seconds.
Keep your chest, neck and face relaxed
Allow your belly, side ribs and loins (over kidneys) to expand.
Keep your face and neck relaxed.
Notice your pulse, muscle tone, and skin
Focus on the rise and fall of your upper belly – ‘rising…..falling…..rising…’
Breathing at 10 seconds per breath means 48 breaths. Simple. Yeah right.

5. Commit to daily discipline
Regardless of how messy, wasteful, frustrating or disappointing the experience, resolve to sit down tomorrow and repeat. You will miss the odd day. As much as possible secure a daily practice. Even if you need to lie in bed and breathe at the end of a hectic day, it is something. There is also a case for taking a minute every hour through the working day to sit up, relax, drop your attention to your breath and breath slowly (6 out, 4 in) for 6 breaths.

6. Set your basic rituals
Starting a new practice or daily ritual is challenging at first. After about six weeks it will become a routine that requires little thought or effort. For the first six weeks simply sit and breathe with an open, non-judgemental presence to the sensations, feelings and thoughts. Gently fix your attention on the rise and fall of breathing. Use the exhale as an anchor.

As your practice steadies, prepare with a few stretches or yoga poses to mobilise your joints, stretch the muscles and engage your diaphragm fully. Select a place that is quiet, peaceful and comfortable. Once your breath and attention are a little more stable, sense the life force in your body. Encourage feelings of peace, gratitude, appreciation and kindness. Let your mind settle quietly on your point of focus. Reach into the “I” or subject and be present to the show. Your sense of self becomes more stable. This is meta-awareness or meta-cognition. You have a reference point that is separate from the senses, feelings and thoughts.

As you grasp this meta-awareness, begin to lengthen your practice out to 20 or even 40 minutes.

7. Explore variations for deeper practice
When ready, explore meditation variations. In my own practice, I start with a tactical focus to initiate my practice. On Monday I generate feelings of calm, on Tuesday vitality (energy), on Wednesday love, on Thursday contentment (gratitude) and Friday, joy. This is an excellent way to build strength in your positive emotions and if feels like a good build for the week.

Once you are deep in meditation there are three main branches [iii]. All are based on your now practiced ability to sit calm, clear, and present to your breath. The first is focused attention. Select a focus. The rising and falling of the abdomen, the flow of breath at your nostrils or simply a word or a visualisation. Resolve to hold your attention on that focus. Imagine your attention like a beam of light. You are the source that must direct, focus and fix the beam of light on the focus point.

The second is loving kindness. Start with feeling your body and sinking into a sincere acceptance, gentleness and kindness toward yourself. This is called self-compassion. Then bring to mind parents, partner, children and loved ones. Extend a genuine intention that they be peaceful, loving and joyous. As your capacity for loving kindness grows, extend that intention to your communities, all people, all sentient beings and ultimately the universe.

Finally, there is open presence. Imagine the “I” as subject or witness to body, emotion and mind (objects of awareness). You are reversing back up towards the source. You create distance from body, emotion and mind. Become one with awareness. When you ask the questions ‘who is aware?’ or ‘who am I?’, you begin to experience open presence. It is vast, expansive, free and beautiful.

Meditation can be fun. Come and play.

[i] The Science of Meditation, Davidson and Goleman, 2017

[ii] 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Noah Yuval Harari, 2018

[iii] Altruism, Matthieu Ricard, 2015

See article

 

The Benefits of Learning Resilience

The Benefits of Learning Resilience

By 

 

A foundation of resilience provides us with the confidence to approach life creatively.

The resilient individual understands the benefits of relaxation and recovery, has constructed a masterful lifestyle that aligns with biological rhythms and knows how to focus attention.

The most resilient among us will experience Flow regularly – and understand how to cultivate the conditions for optimal performance.

Resilience is a learned ability and the skills can be acquired at any time in life. The key is deliberate practice combined with self-awareness. When we are aware of how we think, feel and act, we can adapt and flourish.

 

4 Benefits of Resilience Training

We define resilience as the learned ability to demonstrate Bounce, Courage, Connection and Creativity.

Let’s explore the four elements of resilience with this extract from Inside-Out: The Practice of Resilience.

1. Bounce

Life delivers serious adversities from time to time. These may be of our own making or a result of external forces. For 50 years we have recognised that some of us respond constructively to adversity, finding ways to bounce back and emerge stronger and more effective. Others react negatively, losing confidence and acting in ways that undermine their wellbeing, vitality and effectiveness.

Those who bounce back effectively focus on what they can achieve rather than blaming. They maintain and engage supportive networks, and display a bias to take action. When in trouble, they focus inward, connect and act. These characteristics can be learned and practised. In fact, adversity may be exactly what we need to realise these strengths and master the ability to bounce back.

Some recommend the administration of small, repeated challenges to train people and society to exercise their capacity for bounce and adaptation. This has been missing in modern parenting and education. We are ‘killing people with kindness’.

Adversity triggers adaptive responses. As comfort-seeking creatures, we are quick to remove the experience of adversity from our lives. Excess safety reduces exploration, medication counters natural healing, tolerance encourages destructive behaviour, and social welfare undermines individual resourcefulness. We are afraid to let people learn.

Depression is increasing despite gains in wellbeing, and it now competes with heart disease as the major disease of our time. Depression rates in children have increased tenfold over the past 40 years, and the age of a first episode has dropped from 29.5 to 14.5 years. With an enormous weaponry of modern medicine and psychiatry, we frequently turn to medication and therapy rather than teaching the skills of bounce.

Bounce is the base camp for a good life in a dynamic world.

 

2. Courage

The second element captures our orientation to change, including the daily challenges of life. Based on the work Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman, we learn helplessness or optimism from our interactions with circumstance. We always hold the option to engage constructively or to collapse, flee or fight. The difference is courage.

We have removed many of the daily challenges of survival. To thrive we must now go out and seek challenge with courage. We can do this through exercise, fasting, exploring, connecting and creating. Sometimes we resent novelty and resist change. We retreat into thoughts (ruminate) on how things were and should be, or worry about the future.

Resistance to change focuses our attention on external causes. This provokes anger, sadness (past) or fear (future). Change becomes a risk to be feared and fought. At other times we take an energised, optimistic and constructive stance to change and challenge. We focus on the goal and leverage resources to engage creatively. This leads to mastery and success, and stimulates an upward spiral of competence and confidence. Our attention is focused on our own actions.

While chasing change for its own sake has risks, someone who takes an engaged and optimistic stance to the turbulence of modern life will be more likely to succeed. Courage embraces the future with a curious mind, an open heart, and the will to take action. It is displayed by positive physical action towards meaningful goals.

 

3. Connection

Connection begins with a respectful engagement with our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts and our purpose. It extends to family, friends, community, workplace and beyond, to nature and our planet. Broken connections cause pain. Connection requires respect inside and out. It is a measure of maturity — an impulse to goodness. It measures how we have lived and defines how we will be remembered. It is an onerous responsibility and mistakes will be made.

Connection is a core ingredient that works synergistically with Creativity. Provided we work with self-awareness, respect, tolerance and compassion, the work of relieving suffering and ennobling others is deeply rewarding at all levels — body, heart, mind and spirit. Our wellbeing, emotional state, cognition and contentment improve when we help others.

Targeted helping (altruism), embedded in our evolution, reaches its finest expression when compassion is discovered and practised by an enlightened human being.

 

4. Creativity

The fourth element of resilience pushes beyond difficulty and tenacity. Bounce and courage provoke learning and growth. Creativity is expansive and ambitious. While our capacity to develop is immense, it is not for everyone.

Reaching our full potential requires deep self-awareness, skill mastery and perseverance. Often experiments will fail. Fearing failure, many settle for mediocrity. Evidence shows that those who discover and stretch their talents experience increased life satisfaction, joy, health and longevity.

Aligning our talents and skills with a meaningful challenge enriches life. As we live longer in an economically insecure world, it will be necessary to find the skills to work well beyond traditional retirement. Our planet’s resilience depends on the creative stewardship of humanity. The world changes, our abilities mature, and what really matters evolves.

It is important not to overstay a phase of life, a job or a role. As the challenge changes and our skills adapt, we can choose to rejuvenate and find another layer of possibility. The creative impulse to advance into novelty is the story of humanity.

Can we Prove the Benefits of Resilience Training?

Actually – yes. Our Global Resilience Diagnostic Report analysed the resilience ratio difference in over 26,000 individuals who received resilience training. The results were clear.

Resilience training has a particularly strong effect on:

  • Reducing depression
  • Improving physical wellbeing
  • Improving cognitive functioning
  • Reducing the effects of stress

Read what our partner Datamine had to say.

Explore the report in detail.