• Mindful Mondays: How Can Mindfulness Support Resiliency?

    One of the qualities mindfulness helps engender is resiliency.

    Resiliency is our ability to deal with stressors big and small, expected and unexpected, trivial and extraordinary in a way that makes use of our inner strength, flexibility, creativity, and competence. Linda Graham, in her book Bouncing Back, define resiliency as “the capacity to respond to pressure and tragedies quickly, adaptively, and effectively.”

    We all show resiliency everyday as we try to balance numerous demands and face daily tensions and occasionally when facing bigger pressures like losing a job, feeling ill, or when we experience loss or trauma. As Graham’s book title suggests resiliency is our ability to bounce back from those challenging situations with a sense of well-being and inner strength.

    While resiliency and the capacity to recover from difficulty is a skill all people need, it is particularly important for teachers and the students they’re working with. The particular pressures and numerous demands both teachers and students face make resiliency a key trait needed in schools.

    Rick Hanson in his new book Resilient explains “true resilience fosters well-being, an underlying sense of happiness, love, and peace.” These are definitely qualities teachers can use to manage stress, stay passionate about their profession, and meet the numerous professional and social-emotional demands of their job. Hanson adds more resilient people, "feel less anxiety and irritation, less disappointment and frustration, and less loneliness, hurt, and resentment.” Resiliency will support students as they meet the challenges of learning difficult material, confront the developmental changes they’re undergoing, and learn to work with one another.

    Graham also describes the numerous ways resiliency supports us. She explains resiliency supports finding more meaning and fulfillment because it helps us bring awareness to those things that matter most to us. It increases creativity and productivity as we develop new strategies to meet the challenges we face. Resiliency also supports connection, a sense of belonging, and helps us engage with the world at large as we learn to turn to our community for support. It adds ease and well being as we use compassion to be kind to ourselves and to navigate relationships as we’re being challenged by life’s circumstances.

    To be clear, being resilient won’t solve all our problems or mean we will never feel stressed but resiliency helps us navigate challenges so they don’t feel like insurmountable obstacles.

    Both Hanson and Graham present compelling evidence suggesting our brains are wired for resiliency.

    Wiring for Resiliency

    Conditioning due to our life experiences and the ways adults supported us as we were growing up shapes the way we respond to challenging situations. This highlights the important role teachers can play in supporting their students be more resilient.

    Hanson and Graham also agree that resiliency is something we can foster at any age because of neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to form and reorganize its synaptic connections in response to learning or experience). The Center of the Developing Child at Harvard University explains “research has identified a common set of factors that predispose children to positive outcomes in the face of significant adversity.”

    They're described as:

    1. facilitating supportive adult-child relationships;
    2. building a sense of self-efficacy and perceived control;
    3. providing opportunities to strengthen adaptive skills and
    4. self-regulatory capacities; and
    5. mobilizing sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions.

    These are definitely strategies thoughtful and mindful educators cultivate in their classrooms. Effective teachers help their students feel safe and supported, they create learning environments for independent and student-centered learning, and create learning communities that build on their students' cultural strengths and prior knowledge to help them learn. Thoughtful teachers also know they must support their students in developing greater awareness and social emotional competencies so they can successfully navigate the challenges they’ll face inside and outside the classroom.

    Graham explains that inner resources such as greater mindfulness, empathy, self-understanding and self-compassion will help students feel more secure and confident and help them gain the interpersonal skills they need to get help, be calm, and be courageous in the face of adversity. In other words, helping students be mindful or pay attention to their lives, in the moment, with kindness and curiosity will help them be more flexible and develop the inner strength that comes from having a clearer understanding of themselves, the people they can turn to for help, and the situations they are facing.

    Although supporting students be more resilient isn’t the sole responsibility of teachers, teachers can clearly facilitate learning that helps students build up the resources they’ll need to be more resilient.

    This article is part of our Mindful Mondays initiative. Receive weekly emails with instructions for the practices of the week, links to guided practices, and suggestions for implementation by registering. The program is free for all. Sign up now to access this week's recorded practices for you and your students!


    Argos Gonzalez is a teacher, lecturer, and mindfulness and yoga instructor.  He has 13 years of experience teaching high school in the Bronx and teaches pre-service and in-service teachers at Hunter College School of Education in NY.  Argos is certified through both Mindful Schools and Little Flower Yoga (LFY), and currently serves as the director of professional development for The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY. For more information about Little Flower Yoga and The School Yoga Project, visit www.littlefloweryoga.com. Contact Argos by email at argos@littlefloweryoga.com

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