The Rezl smartphone app uses mindfulness to build up our resilience. Our approach is to be very clear about the way that our brains work and how some habits may cause us problems. Rezl explains how we can change the way that we react and respond so that we become more resilient. In this post I want to explain a little more about how mindfulness can help each of us to change the way that we think.
What is Resilience and what is Mindfulness?
Our resilience is our ability to deal with pressure, challenges and setbacks. The good news is that resilience involves behaviours, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.
Rezl uses something called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy… or MBCT… to build up our resilience. MBCT was developed at the universities of Massachusetts and Oxford… and research shows that MBCT will increase our resilience in a lasting kind of way.
Signs that your resilience may be getting low include difficulty sleeping, irritability and mood swings, poor levels of concentration…. and restlessness. Scientific research shows that Rezl’s MBCT will help you to deal with stress and avoid problems like anxiety and low mood.
Mindfulness makes us more ‘aware of our thoughts’ in an objective, non-judgemental way, so that we are better able to manage our feelings and emotions. This empowers us, so that we build up our self-confidence and our self-esteem, and we reduce negative reactions to day to day events….. In this way we become more resilient.
Let’s go through that last paragraph again: Mindfulness develops the ability to observe the emotions and responses that arise within us – without us making an impulsive response. We learn to not judge these emotions – they are neither good, nor bad – they are just our reactions. We can, if we wish, make a thoughtful response to whatever triggered such emotions. Improving this ability means that we realise that we are no longer controlled by our emotions – and this in turn increases our self-esteem and self-confidence so that we feel more able to deal with the situations that we may find ourselves in. In fact we really are more able to deal with such situations.
For everyone: Rezl will improve your performance in every part of your life. You’ll become more positive and more able to take on challenges. Rezl will increase your empathy, and you’ll be better able to process new ideas, improving all aspects of your working and home life. In fact mindfulness is used by the US special forces so that they can make better decisions when under pressure or in chaotic and high stress circumstances.
Elite performers, at work or in sport, are relentless in seeking out ways to improve. If you want to increase your level of performance then experience shows that Rezl will improve your focus, your engagement and your ‘flow’… so that you see things vividly… and the steps to success become clear… so that you move up to the next level in your field.
And for leaders and aspiring leaders… Rezl will develop your skills to manage in challenging and disruptive business environments. Through Rezl you will attain the objectivity, focus and ’emotional stability’ that you will require in such situations.
So how does it work?
Rezl’s MBCT Foundation Programme is based on science – thousands of successful scientific trials all over the world. To understand the way mindfulness works it is necessary to understand three things:
Firstly … All brains demonstrate the ability to make new connections and modify existing connections which changes the way that we think, and even changes the way we react subconsciously. It just takes some training and ‘practice’. This is called ‘neuroplasticity’, and it is an ability that we all have at any age.
Secondly … Our emotions can control of our reactions, especially if we are stressed or in danger. This can keep us safe, but it can also mean that we may react or respond without giving a situation proper thought.
And thirdly… For most of our day we are unaware of the situations that we react to… or even that we are reacting to them!
It is our ‘Attention’ which ensures that we ‘consciously notice’ what is happening …and how we react… and how we feel. Yet for so many of our waking hours we are actually ‘un…conscious’ – meaning that for maybe eighty percent of our time… we are on ‘autopilot’, and we react on ‘autopilot’ in ways that we might not want to (experiencing anxiety, stress, etc).
You see, our brains are very good at processing events, information and feelings in the background – without our conscious attention. And so, this means that many of our thoughts, reactions and emotions do not arise from conscious thought. They do not arise from ‘our attention’ because we are on “auto pilot”, or, because our attention is elsewhere.
This matters because our brains have developed to think in two different ways… a ‘hot’ or an ’emotional brain’ that responds quickly, yet sometimes inaccurately, to what is happening – and a more analytical ‘cool’ or ‘thinking brain’ which requires more time to consider the different inputs and to figure out how we might respond.
Our emotional brains have evolved to protect us, so that when we are in danger our emotions cause us to respond quickly to keep us from harm – to run, or to protect ourselves. And even today our emotions can be lifesaving …as they alert us to dangers… and cause us to defend ourselves instinctively.
For example. As we walk below a cliff face, we become aware of movement above us. If we only had our intellectual ‘thinking brain’, by the time we had considered and assessed the risk of the falling boulder or rock we’d be in trouble! Thanks to the ’emotional brain’, and, in this scenario, our first wave emotions, we can become aware of the movement above and jump clear, all before the mind has consciously appreciated what the danger is. So, the ’emotional brain’ is a true lifesaver – by design.
Yet modern humans have the addition of the ‘thinking brain’. If we can use the ‘thinking brain’ to help us choose behaviours which are more appropriate than our faster emotional responses we can exist more fully and peacefully. We can enhance our productivity, relationships, and general psychological and physiological health.
But we have a challenge here, because once the faster ’emotional brain’ has ‘hijacked’ its host – you and me – we may sometimes struggle to think clearly ‘in the moment’.
So, because we are so often not consciously aware of the situations around us, or of the emotions arising within us, we can find that our ’emotional brain’ reacts automatically. We may become angry, upset, frustrated, or feel low or anxious without any conscious consideration by our ‘thinking brain’.
We can imagine our thoughts and emotions as a river rushing through a stretch of rapids –and we may find ourselves being tossed around… and pulled under or hitting rocks… yet ‘mindfulness’ is like being able to stand on the edge of the river bank and watch the currents and eddies within the river… without becoming overwhelmed …or starting to panic.
The definition of mindfulness is “to be aware of our thoughts and our reactions …. in an objective, non-judgemental way” …. So, to be mindful we must first become aware of where our attention is, and be able to observe our thoughts and the emotions that arise within us. We need to notice that our ’emotional brain’ may often start to react, and by observing such reactions our ‘thinking brain’ can chose a more thoughtful and appropriate response.
The Rezl MBCT Foundation Programme starts by building-up our awareness, giving us tools to, when we want to, ‘turn off the autopilot’ – so we become aware of when the mind wanders – and also try and reduce the internal distraction within the mind.
Two significant distractions for the ‘thinking brain’ are thinking about the past and thoughts, or even anxieties, about the future – yet unless we are specifically analysing something from the past or planning for the future these thoughts can be distracting and will remove our awareness of the present – the here and now!
The Rezl Foundation Programme uses meditations such as The Bodyscan which practice focusing only upon the topic under consideration – in this case, a part of the body – so that we can become practiced at focusing our attention and at reducing distractions that may cause the mind to wander. And you’ve probably noticed that some Rezl meditations ask you to “focus on the breath” as a way to quieten and avoid distractions of the mind. Focusing on our breathing is in itself calming and prevents us from thinking about the past or worrying about the future…. And it enables us to practice refocusing the mind whenever we find it wandering.
There are a few other themes within the programme:
The Foundation Programme asks us to practice observing the thoughts that may arise within us without automatically judging them as good or bad. If we automatically allow our emotional brain to judge things it may not always make the right call, so it is always better to reflect and consider an appropriate response. The problem with judging things is that in doing so we attach emotions to the event or situation, and this can make our reactions even stronger.
The Foundation Programme also looks at how we see ourselves and how we measure ourselves by the reactions of others. We may find ourselves striving for things that will impress or please others. It’s as if we have given the keys to our happiness to others. This type of behaviour can leave us feeling that we are ‘not good enough’, or that we are struggling to please others.
This introduces the topic of self-compassion. Sometimes, especially when striving to achieve something, we will encounter setbacks. This is a normal part of the learning process, yet many people are far too hard on themselves. The programme encourages us to show ourselves compassion just as we would do so to others. In this way we become more positive and encouraging towards ourselves.
The Foundation Programme also considers how goals are useful to give us direction in life – yet if we are preoccupied by our goals, and the thoughts of achieving them or failing to achieve them, we can often become overwhelmed and distracted from the current steps that we have to focus on.
By becoming more mindful we are able to operate with conscious self-authority – a clear understanding of our responses and actions rather than allowing our unconscious brain to take over. We can increase our resilience to meet the challenges of life, to accept changes in our lives … those which are welcome … and those less so. In creating for ourselves this ‘more harmonious, balanced and peaceful life’… we open the gates to creativity, relaxation, better quality sleep, improved relationships, productivity – and better general health and wellbeing.
Embrace it… to access the very best life.
Take care of yourself.