Modern society is stressful, anxiety and depression are at alarming proportion. We urgently need to build up our mental resilience. I put forward a novel model in this article as a hypothesis for further testing.
Positive and Negative thoughts
Figure 1 shows the model, the horizontal axis refers to the positive and negative thoughts. Positive thoughts include happiness, confidence, motivation, success, relaxation, etc. Negative thoughts are worry, fear, anxiety, panic, threat, depression, hatred, anger, regret, etc.
People try hard to avoid negative thoughts and like to have positive ones. ironically, the harder you try to avoid negative thoughts, the worse they become. Negative thoughts seem like unavoidable as they emerge by themselves subconsciously. They are not only caused by the events that you experience, but they can also be affected by the diets or even the weather and light. Yet, negative thinking seems like a bad habit which works like a vicious cycle. But if it’s a habit, then that means they are adapted and they can be re-adapted to other good habits, such as positive thinking.
Controllable versus Uncontrollable Events
The reason why we have worries and fears is to prepare for the worse and to urge us to act to avoid dangers. If the thoughts are about something that we can take actions, either to achieve it or to mitigate it (they are controllable or actionable), then we can write down the plans and then act accordingly. Once it’s written down, the mind is relaxed (a little bit).
But for those uncontrollable or unactionable events, or some thoughts still lingering after writing a good plan and taking the planned actions step by step, they are the most difficult thoughts to handle.
We have a good friend, her name is Emoti, she likes motion and emoji, she loves to listen our stories, but if we tell her too many negative stories, she would think to the extreme and becomes anxious. If we ignore her too long or care her too little, she would intensify her expressions to draw our attention.
So we start telling her four stories every day, the GAMA, to ease her mind. The first story, GRATITUDE, is about the uncontrollable positive events that we experience, tell her that we are blessed and we are gratitude to these lucks!
The second story, ACHIEVEMENTS, is about the controllable positive experiences, tell her that we plan to achieve. We take the planned actions and keep her informed on the progress of the achievements. We share our happiness and celebrate our achievements!
The third story, MITIGATION, is about the controllable negative experiences, tell her that we write them down and plan to mitigate their impacts. It can be fearful and stressful to face them, but once we analyze them rationally and make a written plan of actions. Then we take the actions, bit by bit, the results can be soothing, because one of the major reasons why she keeps on whispering and expresses her emoji overwhelmingly is to urge you to take some actions to avoid dangers. If we listen to her, plan to mitigate and act to the plan, then she knows that we care about her and are saving her from her perceived dangers.
The fourth story, ANTIFRAGILITY, is about the uncontrollable negative experiences, tell her that we accept the reality, we acknowledge the threats, we admit the uncertainties, but we embrace it as part of our life when everything that we can do to mitigate it have been done or planned to do. We take it as an opportunity to grow and excel, we know the uniqueness of our lives is the antifragility that we can be strengthened by experiencing continuous modest uncertainties and stresses. We practice and make antifragility our routines and habits such that our mental resilience can become stronger and stronger.
Emoti is more sensitive to uncountrollable negative stories, that is why we have to pay more attention to her responses to our fourth story. Antifragile is defined as things that gain from disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2014). I will write a separate article on antifragility to explain it in more details in health issue. The core concept is that we try to convince her that uncertainties and stresses in modest intensity can be good to us, because our system requires training to become resilient and stronger.
Story time, Emoti!
Taleb, N.N. (2014) Antifragile: things that gain from disorder, New York: Random House.