Mindfulness as a tool to build Resilience

What is Resilience? 

My friend and mindfulness colleague, Karina Furga-Dąbrowska, is the Chief Mindfulness Officer at Denton’s Global Law Firm and she recently produced this helpful article on resilience.  I’m grateful to Karina and Dentons for allowing me to reproduce it here.


So you think the glass is half-full, eh? Evolutionarily speaking, it’s probably half empty. You are much more likely to notice, react to, and remember unpleasant, distressful and negative experiences than good ones. Our brain has this negativity bias hard-wired in to ensure our survival, as individuals and as a species. Throughout human history, those more attuned to danger were more likely to survive. 


Despite the sad demise of sabre-tooth tigers, our survival mechanism remains. Dangers come in the shape of tight deadlines at work, heavy workload, job insecurity and in the personal sphere rocky relationships, illnesses and family worries. This stress can impact our health, disturbing the body’s internal balance. 

It’s absolutely normal to have difficult moments, triggering negative emotions. But it’s how we deal with it that counts. How we react to those “dangers” – the challenging situations, emotions and feelings that we all inevitably experience as human beings. 

“People are not afraid of things, but of how they view them.” – Epictetus 

According to the Cambridge Dictionary resilience is “the ability to be happy, successful, etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened”. There is also another definition: “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity” which is a great metaphor for a resilient person. 

Think of someone you believe is resilient. Why are they resilient? What approaches do they use? 

Do you recognise any of these characteristics of resilient people … 

  1. Aware of situations, their own emotional reactions, and the behaviour of others.
  2. Maintain control of a situation and think of new ways to tackle problems. 
  3. Overcome major difficulties without engaging in dysfunctional behaviour.
  4. Keep energy levels up under pressure.
  5. Smoothly adapt to changes.
  6. Quickly bounce back from difficulties. Have strong social connections (friends, family, co-workers).
  7. Look for help (books, psychotherapy, support groups). 

The power of resilient people lies in noticing, soaking in and building on positive experiences: developing a positive outlook and positive explanatory style. Many studies show a direct link between resilience and happiness and meaning in life. 

When the road gets rocky, what do you do? Where do you find the inner strength to manage during difficult times of uncertainty to support your coping and resilience? 

Building Resilience with Mindfulness 

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” – Carl Jung 

You can develop a resilient mindset through practicing mindfulness. It is a powerful tool that offers the opportunity to make a radical shift in orientation. There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives. As we become increasingly mindful, we begin to respond from a place of choice. In other words, we opt for resilience. 

We can develop inner resources that help us strengthen our resilience. These include:  Continue reading “Mindfulness as a tool to build Resilience”

Make space for enjoying your life

I just listened to an amazing podcast on This American Life about an elderly lady who’s family didn’t tell her that the results of her latest health check noticed a tumour on the lung and gave her only three months to live.

The family decided not to tell her and opted instead to protect her from the stress and worry, and carried on as usual.

That was in 2015 and amazingly the old lady is still alive and well today.

When I heard this podcast it reminded me of wise words from great masters, such as Thích Nhất Hạnh and the Dali Lama, that speak of the power of equanimity, or a balanced mind, and the destructive affect of negative thinking. Is it possible that the old lady has survived 4 years because she has been protected from the stress of a terminal diagnosis? We may never know for sure but the idea certainly resonates with me and what I understand about mindfulness.

The whole idea of being mindful is to be aware of how we feel at any given moment – how we really feel I mean. Knowing the attitude of the mind, and feeling the energy in the body is the direct line to our authentic self.

Being connected to our inner landscape enables us to ‘see’ unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and emotions in motion, and only when we are aware can we work with them and be in control. If we remain unconscious of them they will spin out of control and affect everything we do, in turn, this influences our character and our health.

I feel very privileged to be a mindfulness teacher because it encourages me to practice all the time. As well as sitting meditations, I practice opening to the joy of life at any given moment, even when pain or discomfort is present. For example, I recently had a UTI flareup and felt pretty grotty, but even in this state there were plenty of enjoyable things to focus on, and while this didn’t make the pain go away it made space for other experiences. I let in some joy and research shows how positive this little adjustment can be.

Research is confident about the health benefits of mindfulness, but proving that reducing stress can prolong life, even with a terminal diagnosis, might take more time. Meanwhile, it clearly hasn’t done the lady in the story any harm, and long may that continue.