Reaching Out

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about emotional contagion and resilience. 

A quick recap of last week before we continue.

Last week, we learned that the number one road block to cultivating resilience is the way we look at and interpret the world around us (1). This makes sense. Our beliefs have consequences (1). While negative emotions are typically an accurate and appropriate response in a moment of adversity, they also narrow our focus and funnel energy and attention towards a particular problem (2). This makes it easy to get stuck in our thinking patterns — for better or for worse.

Positive emotions broaden our focus and build our resources to support well-being (2). This matters, because positive emotions can help us see alternative perspectives and generate ideas that help us positively adapt. They boost our resilience. 

And that’s not all! 

We are social creatures. Not only do our emotions tend to spiral internally (2), they also impact others within three degrees of separation (3). That’s quite a ripple effect! Understanding our ripple effect can help us identify when we are draining or supporting our personal resilience and the resilience of those around us! 

So last week, I invited you to look in the mirror and examine your ripple effect. Did you observe how your emotions impact not only yourself but those around you? What did you notice? Did you practice real time resilience? If so, were you able to create a shift within yourself or within a relationship?

It is possible to shift our emotional dynamic in moments of adversity by using real time resilience (1). Cultivating positive emotions can keep us from sliding on the downward spiral of negative emotions and actually begin to build well-being.

It’s yet another way to practice real time resilience.

Reaching out for connection with others can also broaden our worlds and begin upward spirals of positive emotion. It goes beyond simply sharing our feelings and thoughts during a moment of adversity. Reaching out can mobilize purposeful action, build resilience, and strengthen relationships (1)! 

Yes, reaching out can feel risky (1). Perhaps you learned from a very young age that you should do everything by yourself? Or that asking for help was embarrassing and should be avoided? As humans, we are risk adverse creatures, so it can make us feel vulnerable to reach out. But a willingness to reach out for connection can build intimacy in our relationships and provide a strong safety net in times of adversity (1). 

Remember, being resilient does not mean you have to go it alone (1)! Quite the contrary. Practicing the skills of resilience deepens your emotional awareness and strengthens interpersonal skills. In fact, most resilient folks have strong social networks. This does not necessarily mean resilient folks are social butterflies or have large social networks. It simply means the network they have is supportive. 

Still, reaching out makes many people feel vulnerable. We can not control other people, their emotions, or their reactions (1). So, I am not suggesting that you reach out to anyone at anytime. Choose a close friend or family member that you trust. Someone who values your well-being and with whom you feel safe. Then find a moment when you both have time, take a risk, open up, and share.

If you are afraid to share your story, you may be immobilized by fear and feel isolated. Reaching out can help us expand our world view and cultivate connection (1). And who knows?! You may learn something helpful. Each time you reach out, you are giving the other person an opportunity to support you. When it goes well, it can strengthen your relationship. Reaching out helps to build trust in supportive relationships. This is why reaching out tends to get easier overtime. 

People who reach out do three things well. 

First, people who reach out are good at accessing risk and realistically optimistic (1,4). They are accurate when predicting potential problems and solution oriented, strategic problem solvers (1). This helps folks know who to reach out to and when, so they experience more successful, supportive interactions.

Second, they know themselves well. Folks who understand their thoughts and emotions are typically more comfortable expressing them (1). This can develop intimacy in a trusting relationship, but should not be confused with purging or emotional dumping (1). 

Reaching out is not the same as imposing on others or inappropriate self-disclosure (1). Knowing when to open up and continue versus when to stop sharing is important for the health of our relationships. That said, the cultivated skill of reaching out for support and learning to be vulnerable in relationships can not only support your own resilience, it can develop intimacy and strengthen relationships (1). 

Remember, everyone has imperfections, and no one likes to feel alone.

Third, folks who reach out often find a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in their lives (1). Reaching out can bring a sense of connection to others. This can come from the ability to see a bigger picture and the impact we have one the world around us. Folks who reach out also understand the value of small actions and appreciate progress. 

Like all the other skills of resilience, reaching out is not a panacea. It works best in tandem with emotional regulation, realistic optimism, and impulse control (1). It’s important to note here that the ability to pull back and assess is just as important as the ability to reach out or move ahead. Going inward can provide you with the clarity you need to reach out appropriately or move forward productively. 

That said, reaching out is a wonderful tool to broaden our perspective (1). Reaching out can help you achieve all you are capable of by opening you up to opportunities and aiding recovery from challenges. Research supports that a lack of connection hinders recovery from adversity, while reaching out to build resilience promotes connections and helps you heal (1)!

This week, I invite you to reach out and ask for help. But first thing's first. Do you know what kind of help to ask for? Take a moment to think about it. Perhaps you want to share a laugh or distract yourself for a few minutes to calm down? Perhaps you want to share your adversity to a listening ear? Or maybe you want to generate potential solutions with someone?

Once you have an idea of how someone can help you, reach out to someone you trust in a moment of adversity. Give them the opportunity to support you by asking for what you need. Open yourself to connection, strengthen your relationships, and build resilience.

I look forward to seeing you again next week as we continue our journey to resilience. Until then, I hope you enjoy your week!

Gratitude for the expertise of the following resources.

References

1. Reivich, K, Shatté, A. The resilience factor: 7 keys to finding your inner strength and overcoming life's hurdles. Random House Digital, Inc; 2003.

2. Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity, and thrive. New York: Crown Publishers; 2009.

3. Fowler, J, Christakis, N.  Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: Longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study. British Medical Journal, 337, a2338; 2008.

4. Schneider, S. In search of realistic optimism: Meaning, knowledge, and warm fuzziness. American Psychologist. 2001; 56(3), 250.