Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster
Linda Graham, MFT • New World Library
Missing your bus, dropping dinner on the floor, screwing up at work: These everyday hiccups may fluster, frustrate, or at times even tax your coping system, but they don’t usually knock you down, writes Linda Graham. It’s the bigger distresses, such as illness, death, or loss of security—particularly if they come one after another, pile on top of unresolved trauma, or include a heap of self-criticism—that can threaten to overwhelm us to the point of “falling apart and not being able to recover.”
That’s where resilience comes in. The newest buzzword in psychological circles, resilience indicates our ability to recover from adversity. And after rigorous study, it’s also now believed to be the greatest indicator of one’s personal happiness and ability to thrive throughout life.
In this easy-to-read and hugely informative guide, Graham explains the neuroscience of resilience (spoiler alert: Our early influences shape our future coping skills) and how we can continue to develop it throughout our lives.
It’s this last bit—our ability to override old neural patterns, create new ones, and strengthen our minds and bodies to withstand the inevitable hits in any life—that makes this already useful book priceless. Graham combs the research and her own trove of best practices to explain how anyone can become more resilient, no matter where they start from. Through practices that build somatic, emotional, relational, and reflective intelligence, she demonstrates how the mantra of “little and often”—small experiences repeated many times—is the best way to create new habits; undo the effects of negative, harmful, or traumatic experiences; and strengthen your inner reserves.
A DOCTOR’S DOZEN
12 Strategies for Personal Health and a Culture of Wellness
Catherine Florio Pipas, MD, MPH • Dartmouth College Press
“For the first time in history, the current generation of young adults in our nation is less healthy than their parents.” This startling statement introduces Catherine Florio Pipas’s clarion call for personal health accountability. In A Doctor’s Dozen, Florio Pipas, a professor of community and family medicine at Dartmouth, demonstrates that many modern health concerns can be attributed to preventable behaviors and lifestyle choices. She outlines the most common of these preventable issues and prescribes a three-pronged strategy for tackling each through the lenses of self-awareness, self-care, and self-improvement. She presents a holistic approach that influences well-being on every level.
THE LITTLE BOOK OF MINDFULNESS
10 Minutes a Day to Less Stress, More Peace
Dr. Patrizia Collard • Gaia
Here’s one of those books that fits in a purse or pocket—presumably to keep close at hand for when you’re stressing out, zoning out, or simply want to take some time out. It’s chock-a-block full of wee practices of five to 10 minutes’ duration. (The 10-minutes-per-day in the subtitle is a little misleading: If you did all of the more than 20 practices in a day, it would tote up to about three hours.) Many of them are cleverly or intriguingly named (like Standing Starfish and Foot Scan) and playfully illustrated. All are accessible and easy to follow.
Alan Lightman • Simon and Schuster
This slight, thoughtful text lauds “wasting” time from many angles: contemplation, creativity, divergent thinking, and enduring happiness. These qualities, Lightman asserts, are not trademarks of rare genius, but “habits of mind.” Even better, we’re already practicing them whenever we rest, play, or meditate. (As a nostalgic example, he conjures an afternoon spent gazing into a tadpole pond and wondering, not Googling, about the world.) He suggests Western culture could benefit from reappraising where we waste our time. Untethering once in a while from society’s hyperconnected, often counterproductive “grid” of distractions, we can simply be present, letting ourselves idle.
NO PLACE TO GO
How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs
Lezlie Lowe • Coach House Books
Ever gone into a store and bought something just so you could use the bathroom, been told a bathroom is for Employees Only, frantically searched for a place to go (perhaps, ugh, in vain), or waited in an interminable line at the ladies’ loo? Here’s a strong and thoroughly researched case for how mindless our societies are when it comes to one of life’s universal needs. With an aging population, gender fluidity, and shrinking infrastructure budgets, this problem is not going away. Here’s a chance to learn how we got here and what some brave and bright souls are doing about it.
Episode: Leave a Message
Let’s face it: Voicemail may not be long for this world. Technologies like email and texting have largely taken its place: They’re quicker and less intrusive. On the other hand, a 2016 study on the “cuddle hormone,” oxytocin, found that when we hear a loved one’s voice over the phone, our brain’s oxytocin response is almost the same as if we’d actually hugged them. Screenwriter Cord Jefferson considers “the power of the human voice, and what we lose when the voice goes away”—particularly if a family member’s life is cut short, glorifying the audible mementos in a voicemail inbox.
CBC RADIO, SUNDAY EDITION
Episode: You can’t stop checking your phone because Silicon Valley designed it that way
Reporter Ira Basen digs deep into the “attention economy, where the biggest prize goes to those who can grab users’ attention and keep it the longest.” For Facebook, Snapchat, and the rest, your attention is what’s for sale. Basen journeys back to the dawning of “persuasive technology,” a term coined in the mid-1990s by Stanford behavior scientist B.J. Fogg. He taught tech pioneers how technology could supply beneficial tools for habit formation. But did it get out of hand? A lively debate ensues about who takes ultimate responsibility for the habits we form.
Episode: Is compassion fatigue inevitable in an age of 24-hour news?
Elisa Gabbert prides herself on her awareness of goings-on in the world, but lately she has a case of “creeping, psychic exhaustion”: compassion fatigue, or secondary traumatic stress. Psychologist Charles Figley defined this in 1995 as “stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person.” STS commonly haunts first responders and other professional caregivers. But thanks to round-the-clock news cycles, many people now feel emotionally numbed. “What happens,” Gabbert asks, “when the world wants more empathy than we can give?” This episode samples thought-provoking theories on empathy and considers how we might respond to its limitations.