Developing supportive relationships is one of the cornerstones of resilience. One Harvard article stated that “the single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult.” When raised in supportive, loving communities, children learn and grow with the understanding that they are valued members of their community and of the world.
Contrary to popular belief, the significance of developing stable relationships extends far past infancy and childhood. As we’ve already seen in past newsletters, neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to change through conscious or unconscious attention—is a real thing! This means that the relationships formed and developed now can still have a large impact on brain development. No longer are individuals forced to play out a script formed in their early years. We all have the power to see what we want for our lives and adjust accordingly.
Seeking out friends and mentors who inspire us is essential. Surrounding ourselves with strong, intelligent, and motivating figures provides us both with motivation, encouragement, and good role models. By developing a deep trust in these relationships we begin to build resilience, knowing that who we are and who we want to become are entirely valid.
But motivation and inspiration are not the only reasons to surround yourself with good people. Having a support system for those times when we fail or fall is essential. Our support systems catch us when we fall and remind us who we are. Not only do our relationships pick us back up, but a good support system will also challenge us. We know we are choosing the right people to depend upon when they inspire us to become better, to aspire to greater heights in our personal development.
Contributing to our communities is another way to build resilience. Taking a moment to step outside of our circle of family and friends, how can we use our individual gifts to help our local communities? By starting grassroots communities of resilience—whether they are book clubs, fundraisers for charity, volunteering, or sports clubs—we begin to give to our communities. The vast web of relationships that arises from this can be powerful.
While we could fill this article with links to numerous studies, we will simply state a fact echoed in traditions all over the world: people aren't meant to be alone. In times like these we certainly see the necessity of social relationships for emotional support.
Our relationships in life are so much more than a means of getting through tough times. It is those shared moments with the ones we love, the laughs, smiles, and small conversations that remind us that our lives are good, meaningful, and worthwhile. These interactions rejuvenate us and remind us who we are. It is a gift to extend this compassion to those we know well and those we have yet to know. Though our means may be limited, there is no better time than now to reach out and connect.
Here are some practices to cultivate mindful relationships:
Do one good deed (pay for someone’s coffee, send someone flowers, put money in an expired meter, wash someone else’s dishes) for another person each week or day. Even better, do this anonymously.
Take a moment to ask the grocery clerk or the restaurant server helping you how their day is going.
Listen! Most of us find this difficult. Really hear what the other person is saying, notice when your mind begins to drift or when you try to interrupt.
Give a loved one a call, especially if you have been putting this off.
Write a gratitude list, saying something you appreciate for each person in your life.
Begin a new community based around an interest of yours, reach out to others!
Ask someone how you can help them.
Write an email or letter to someone you look up to, express your gratitude.