One of the blessings of the pandemic has been the incredible range of speakers that my friend Mark at Action for Happiness has had the time and opportunity to interview. I attend these on an almost weekly basis, and this week’s brought the wonderful Tal Ben-Shahar onto my screen. Whilst I miss attending such events in person, the new Zoom culture has certainly enabled more connection with and more access to such esteemed speakers, for which I feel very lucky. And even luckier that Tal is one of those speakers!
A lot of the discussion between Mark and Tal was on the topic of anti-fragility – or resilience 2.0, as Tal thinks of it. He pointed out that while most people have heard of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), few know the concept of PTG: post-traumatic growth. Yet, PTG is twice as likely to occur after a traumatic event than PTSD! And there are two key factors that facilitate post-traumatic growth; firstly, an awareness of the possibility of PTG, and secondly, a knowledge of the conditions that increase the likelihood of PTG occurring.
So, what are the conditions that we should create to allow the development of growth, should trauma occur? As with so many practices for good mental health, accepting your emotions is the first step. Fighting the negative emotion, suppressing or denying it, is only likely to end in more trauma. But, if we embrace and accept our emotions – Tal referred to Rumi’s Guest House that I recently shared with you – then we begin the process of learning from them.
From then on, building anti-fragility is much like the process of exercising a muscle – we need to put load on it, but, crucially, we also need to rest it. Periods of recovery, like a walk in the park, meditation, deep breathing and sleep, allow time in between periods of emotional ‘load’ for our anti-fragility centres to grow. Tal shared that he had actively stepped up his anti-fragility practices since the pandemic began – exercising more often, meditating for longer and sleeping more. Being resilient means being proactive: don’t wait for a dip – plan for it! Of course, depending on the trauma that you have experienced, it may be recommended to seek professional support; a trained therapist can advise on what steps would be best to aid in your healing. If you are truly in a moment of crisis, or your trauma is severe or overwhelming, as we always say please do ask for help (professional and otherwise) and I hope that some of Tal’s insights may support as well.
I would highly recommend catching up with this talk on the Action For Happiness YouTube. It’s a real goldmine! I am sure that I’ll keep returning to this talk to refresh myself on Tal’s tips. What are some of your own thoughts on anti-fragility, or some of the practices you yourself have implemented? Has Tal sparked any new ideas that you might put in place? Please share your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org – it brightens up my inbox to hear from you!