An Essential Skill for The Most Peace-filled and Resilient Life

Apr 12, 2021

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“Resilent people are really good at choosing carefully where they select their attention . . . and make an intentional, deliberate, ongoing effort to tune into what’s good in [their] world.” —Lucy Hone, psychologist and grief expert

Each of us grasps life lessons at our own pace.

Whether due to our own motivation to grow or the quality resources available to teach us what would be helpful to the student along our life journey, when we see in fact the new skill does make a positive difference, it is then that we are most likely to be convinced of its value and choose to welcome it into our own daily life.

Much of American psychiatry in the mid to late twentieth century focused on the exploration of one’s past to heal patients, and while self-awareness and clarity acquiring as much as possible the full context of past events certainly is helpful, dwelling upon them, ruminating endlessly has in new studies been found actually to have detrimental effects on forward progress and positive growth. Psychiatrist Sally Satel and philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers found in recent research into negativity, resilience and neurology “nothing unanimously liberating about having a good weekly cry in your therapist’s office. Neither is the almost universally accepted doctrine that ‘uninhibited emotional openness is essential to mental health'”.

In sharing this, the guidance and objectivity of a trained counselor can be incredibly helpful; however, the key is to find someone who is forward thinking, and helps you to build constructive skills for living fully, rather than lingering with troubling thoughts. In my own experience, it was my third counselor who I found to be not only a good ‘fit’ but also someone who has helped me look forward and acknowledge and teach the skills needed.

Enter the skill of ‘benefit finding’.

Dr. Tchiki Davis, the founder of The Berkley Well-Being Institute explains “benefit finding involves thinking through and mentally listing all the positive things associated with a situation.” Or as Lucy Hone defined for herself – consciously finding things to be grateful for.

As I was reading Bryan Kazlowski’s Long Live the Queen! 23 Rules for Living from Britain’s Longest Reigning Monarch, specifically rule #14 “Ostriching”, I was better able to understand Queen Elizabeth II’s stoic demeanor and more importantly, see vividly, the benefits of her choice of ‘niggling out the good’.

Upon reflection of my own life, I learned this lesson late – not dwelling or worrying – but I am grateful I finally learned it. While my mother will never admit her relief in my eventual aha regarding this topic as she has kindly and generously been supportive during all of my life chapters, she was burdened with my worried phone calls during times of uncertainty in my life. (Mom, it finally sunk in! I graduated! ;)) Because to be entirely honest, the worrying, the dwelling did exactly as studies found – it “delayed the natural healing process”.

“Being too introspective can become ‘the psychological equivalent of picking at the scab on a wound'” shares philosophy professor William B. Irvine. The difference between learning from the past and dwelling on the past is being honest about what can change and what cannot.

“They have a habit of realistically appraising situations and managing to focus on the things that they can change and somehow accept the things that they can’t.”Lucy Hone, TED Talk

Not only will shifting to seeking out the good, and letting go of the negative chatter help your own mental health, studies have shown those who acquire this beneficial skill perform better at solving problems, are more liked by their peers and enjoy a healthier self-image than their “ruminating counterparts”. Not to compare, but to observe the overall life benefits we gain when we acknowledge what is helpful for an improved quality of life and what is not.

For many years, I too had been convinced ‘venting’ was helpful, but again, even as far back as 1959 as part of psychologist R. Hornberger’s research “observed that when people were allowed to ‘release’ their emotional frustration, they acted more aggressively after the fact than people who contained their frustration.”

Finding healthy ways to ‘let off steam’ such as exercise, mindfulness practices, journaling and consciously building a life which reduces the stresses rather than requires that you ‘manage’ them endlessly assuming you must keep such tasks, practices in your life have demonstrated to be constructive rather than regressive in their effectiveness.

So how do we “tune into the good”?

We intentionally look for it. Jay Shetty, as shared in detail in this post, suggests beginning the day before even stepping out of bed expressing gratitude for something making your life good – from the fact that you are breathing to having the awareness to see the good that surrounds you in that moment and in your daily life.

Here on TSLL blog, each month on the final Wednesday for the past two years I post a list of moments that made me smile. Not only does this exercise help remind me of all that has and is going well, but it reminds me to slow down my life regularly to see all of the good, because there is an abundance.

“A 2005 study led by Martin Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, found that completing this exercise every day for one week led to increases in happiness that persisted for six months.” Walk through the six-step guided process of successfully integrating this practice into your life.

As you will see in the final step shared in the link above, simply welcoming a gratitude practice into our lives won’t be enough. Your new skill of daily gratitude cannot share space with negative thinking. We have to reduce and/or eliminate the negative chatter in our minds, and that in itself is a necessary skill to master as well.

In 2019 I shared 5 Ways to Harness the Power of Your Mind and How It Can Improve Our Lives, and this post, Quality Thoughts = Quality Life in 2017, but it was this post written nine years ago, A Thinking Life = A Happy Life inspired by one of the greatest aha books for my “life class” that extols the value of taking the driver’s seat of our thoughts. If we don’t, we linger in a life of worry, frozen to act in any way that might improve our lives for the better. Instead, when we harness and strengthen our mind, we can quell the need for external reassurance by venting endlessly our worries and fears thinking somehow we are helping ourselves and instead home in on what we have control over and choose well the best decision for a better life moving forward.

The Queen’s mannerisms and approach to living which Kazlowski reveals to readers in great detail may to outsiders at first appear somewhat cold in demeanor or in denial, but the writer biographer describes “Elizabeth is what psychologists more accurately term a ‘purposeful repressor’. Compared to ruminators (people who repeatedly reflect over distressing events), repressors seemingly break all of the rules of our modern mental health culture. They spend very little time talking about, let alone acknowledging, negative events and will quickly exchange a passing unpleasant thought for something more optimistic.”

When we choose carefully what we give our attention to, acknowledging we don’t need to respond to everything thrown onto our path, we give ourselves time to gain clarity as to what we have control over and what we do not. Staying informed is one thing, ruminating and worrying about it is quite another if we have no intention to involve ourselves in change. Expending our emotional energy endlessly at the whim of the cultural’s dictates is to deplete our daily finite resources which when better utilized, elevate each day and reduce our stress along the way.

Today, instead of examining the times in which you dwelled unhelpfully on the past or worried about the outcome of future events, start looking for and celebrating the good, make plans for positive change if your life is calling for a needed shift and then in small steps begin to do so. Along the way and in every day, there is much good to celebrate, and I will be celebrating along with you in my own life. Cheers to living well and letting go of unhelpful past practices.

~today’s images were captured in the past couple of days. All moments which I am deeply grateful to have experienced and enjoyed.


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21 thoughts on “An Essential Skill for The Most Peace-filled and Resilient Life

  1. Shannon,
    Congratulations on another great post!
    I also believe we can choose to be happy. That’s not to say we don’t have extreme difficulties in our lives but that is another story altogether. I have had some times in my life when all I could do was breathe and put one foot in front of the other, so I’m not talking about extreme cases…but we can choose to rant and rave about the person who cut us off in traffic or we can take a cleansing breath and not let something so trivial ruin our day.
    It seems like such a simple thing (and it really is) but making a conscious decision makes life much more pleasant. It really is better for all of us to look on the bright side!
    Have a great day!😁

    1. PKB,

      Indeed, what we focus on determines what we find. While happiness is not a constant state, contentment can be and how we choose to live our lives, what we spend our time on, where we expend our energies determines whether we build contentment or dissuade it from being experienced. As you said, it is simple, but part of the reason it is not easy is because much of the culture (due to gaining customers, likes, purchases, etc.) cannot have us be satisfied and instead needs us to be provoked in order to act or purchase or spend or feel ‘unfixed’. Understanding the pushes and pulls of society and why they occur provides so much clarity and therefore allows us to make the best decisions for ourselves and how we step into the world and engage with it (or not) each day. Thank you for your comment and for stopping by. Wishing you a wonderful week.

  2. Whoa, this blog post really hit home for me! I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been a life-long ruminator and to no one’s surprise, this has NOT served me well at all. Though it feels good, in the moment, to release all the pent up emotions, I have found no evidence in my life of being “rewarded” for this behavior. Thank you Shannon for sharing this wisdom. It’s a wake-up call! Have a lovely week and good luck with the return to school! 😊

  3. I am a lifetime ruminator..while I look on the outside as though I have everything under control and am positive in nature, in my head there is a non stop cycle of worry and going over and over things. It starts when I open my eyes! I think I have moved on, but there’s a never ending ruminating of how I handled it or what could happen in the future. I am determined to cut my thinking off at the pass and figure out a way to rechannel this energy! thanks for the insight and motavation to harness this terrible super power!

    1. Michelle, A ‘rechanneling of energy’ – yes! I love your analogy and when we look at this choice as just that we are acknowledging and valuing our finite energy. Your energy is magic so to speak and where we focus it changes the course of our lives. I know you can do it – embrace your super power. 🙂 xoxo

  4. Wow, this was an extraordinarily insightful post, Shannon. Thank you so much for writing and posting it. It really hit home. I must concede that I have been a ruminator, which is not uncommon for introverts and highly sensitive people. I wasn’t able to articulate how detrimental this was to my mental health until I read your post and you so adeptly described it. It’s damn hard to be happy, to make that choice again and again, over the course of the day. There are so many things that stand in our way, if we let them. For me, understanding the depth and breadth of our choices as to what we allow into our head space makes the uncontrollable more within my grasp.
    Also, this Kazlowski book has got to be something else because you are now the third or fourth blogger to reference and review it. I went right ahead and put it on my request list at the library and cannot wait to dig in. I have always admired HRH, even though many people find her cold. Her composure and her ability to think clearly and do what must be done without spiraling emotionally is definitely something to aspire to.
    Thanks again, Shannon. You make every single visit to the blog worthwhile (and the pictures of Oscar and Norman don’t hurt, either :))) ).

    1. Wordsmithad, You bring up a valid point and observation to acknowledge – introverts and HSP are certainly more inclined to drift into ruminating. Critical thinking and thinking deeply are strengths, absolutely, but I too as I shared let it drift and linger too far and too long in the worrying and unhelpful examination as so many ruminations involved things which were done or out of my control. I do think we have a choice to strengthen the muscle of the skills which are beneficial and just like our physical muscles, it gets easier with time and consistent attention. The initial conditioning, however, is difficult. Once we step over that hurdle, the easier it becomes and the more beautiful our lives and days become as well. Have a lovely day and week and thank you for stopping by. 🙂

  5. Thank you Shannon for this post. The quest for “benefit-finding” is one that I constantly and keenly strive for. It is the over-arching frame of how I wish to define my life.

    I grew up in a family that taught me : your voice is valid, BUT–1) comparisons are wrong and odious; 2) offer a possible solution, not your opinion(everyone has one, and don’t take the ones offered freely); 3) your life is precious and an awesome gift, your only job is to make it sure you give that back to the world in spades.
    My mom & dad were born in 1935 & 1930 respectively. They came from a bit different backgrounds, from the same area, but they looked at life as an adventure and a gift. And they loved to read. Our greeting to each other when entering a room or coming in the front door was, “Watcha reading?” There were shifts of fortune and fortitude and gains and losses. The details of living were sometimes not nice, and sometimes they were magical, but life was ALWAYS awesome.

    In a serendipitous moment today, I came across this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote today, that I thought appropriate to share:

    “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could do. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
    —Ralph Waldo Emerson

    XOXO
    ~R.

    1. I love this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote! I have read it before and can’t recall if it was on this blog or in one of Shannon’s book. Grateful to be reminded of it, Rona!

    2. Rona, Thank you for everything you have shared and taught us today. 🙂 Your parents were wonderful teachers and they have positively influenced more people than they will ever know through what you have shared and the actions they modeled. I absolutely love the greeting of “Watcha reading?” – a note of curiosity and encouragement all at the same time. Thank you and sending love your way. xoxo

  6. Lovely post Shannon, and i am definitely intrigued to read the Long Live the Queen book and learn more. I admire the Queen’s quiet stoicism.
    I myself can lean into ruminating often, sometimes about things that happened long ago! However, i am making more effort to think and live in the present, and focussing on the good every day is a worthwhile practice.
    Thank you for the reminder

    1. Sarah, Thank you for stopping by. The more I learn about the queen, the more I admire her. While none of us will fully understand her or her life, that is not necessary as her long life and dedication to her country and how she has approached managing this beyond human responsibility all while continuing to extend warmth and support in her own way demonstrates she has figured something out. We each certainly have our own temperaments and the queens appears to be more introverted, but we all benefit from engaging well with others and that includes ourselves.

  7. Her Majesty has a deep and abiding faith , which she tells us sustains her in everything, she lives it every day , and demonstrates to us all .
    I think she is remarkable
    She was only in her twenties when she came to the Throne , and she has given exemplary service to our country through her life, and continues to do so, even in the depths of her grief .
    I was very much reminded of the Serenity Prayer as I read your post, Shannon.
    Thank you x

  8. Shannon this is a gentle reminder for me at the moment. I am not one to ruminate and worry endlessly about situations out of my control. My mother was quite good at managing the negatives in her life and provided endless tips to us on how to shift our energy onto the things that were important .But just last week we came up against some obstacles regarding our residency in France due to Brexit and I have to admit I was beginning to feel some stress. My husband and I sat down at the weekend and made a list of what actions we needed to take and yesterday commenced to see how many we could tick off the list . I wake up every day and pinch myself smiling that I’m greeting a new day and look forward to the gifts which might come my way. ( was doing this long before Jay Shetty😊) . This morning wasn’t any different and by this evening we had made some strides. I am reassured now that my daughter will also ‘graduate’ Shannon as she worries at the slightest thing. She is working on it so fingers crossed. We are very good at looking after our physical well being but our mental health seems to take second place. It deserves a workout. So glad you’re enjoying reading ‘Long live the Queen’. I am a great admirer on how she has conducted her life. She is truly remarkable. As Anne pointed out she had a deep abiding faith which is how she copes. A lesson to us all. If as Wordsithad said “some people might find her demeanour cold “they clearly have not noticed her beautiful smile. It lights up the room. Have a great week😊

  9. What a truly insightful post, Shannon. I do have some control-freak tendencies and worry about things and deliberate choices often for far too long because I do like to have a good plan. Obviously, this past year has really been hard for me as a planner! So this year I adopted a word of the year so that I can keep it at the forefront of my mind. I chose the word Open. It’s amazing to me how much more calm I have been these last few months because I remind myself daily to be open to what is there and happening and not obsessing over it. It has been easier to have a gratitude practice because my mind is less cluttered. Now I really have to read that book about the Queen!

  10. What a beautiful and unexpectedly powerful post. Spot on.
    The aching feeling of being stuck in remorseful thoughts…I was that very shy-est little hiding mouse person who grew up and overcame the habit of questioning (rueing!) every move I’d made or word I’d whispered, and am so grateful for the mentors who eventually helped me outgrow those patterns like a too-tight dress.
    And yet….when circumstances converge it still can descend in ways, and feel powerful. Especially digitally, because at times it feels hard to exchange authentic warmth, and it seems like things can start feeling overthought or out of sync, and it’s difficult to have enough emotional information to re-center and connect well. For people like a lot of us here who sometimes tend to worry about their actions it can create a real party of rumination 🙂
    One of today’s gratitudes….thank you Shannon for this extraordinary safe space and for your healing insights!
    p.s. hope the school week is going swimmingly 😘

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