If the challenge of keeping up with a demanding job, a full-on family and a social life sometimes gets too much, take comfort from the conclusions of one trauma survivor in the Harvard Business Review.
Jane McGonigal became fascinated by the science of resilience while recovering from a brain injury. Advised to do as little as possible, she was curious why pastimes generally regarded as a waste of time, such as such as looking at photos of baby animals or wandering around the neighborhood, were the activities that had helped her the most.
Her research led her to four areas that make up resilience, or the ability to bounce back from knocks. What’s more, the areas of physical, emotional, mental, and social resilience can all be deliberately developed – and, strikingly, all by what would be seen as ‘non-productive’ activity.
So kicking a ball around the park with your teenager or making time for a run with a colleague is developing your physical strength. Emotional resilience is driven by the experience of positive emotions: a reason to make time to spend time with and consciously appreciate your family and friends.
Social resilience, she characterises as building a network of relationships around you. McGonigal notes that ‘studies on the effects of gratitude and touch suggest developing habits that connect you to others. Send a thank-you note once a day by e-mail, chat, or text message.’ So taking the time to give your kids or your partner a hug before you rush out of the house, or making a point of thanking colleagues for small tasks, gives you an ongoing advantage for both home and work.
And mental resilience, or willpower, is grown through practice and more practice. If you force yourself to stand at the pitch side cheering on your offspring, go through yet another maths homework or simply keep up the strict regime that a busy family life needs, you’re not just doing it for your kids. Your ability to deal with difficult circumstances is getting stronger by the day.
She concludes that a game of Angry Birds might be a great way of not just switching off, but developing your ability to cope with whatever life throws at you. You might not want to suggest that to your teen, but joining in for a quick game or two might be the best use of 5 minutes you can imagine.