Mindfulness and Hardiness

Relevant to the fourth (and current) study of the W8Loss2Go program, Dr. Pretlow mentioned some of the contrary influences that block the children’s progress, many of which we have discussed in the past. Just one of Dr. Pretlow’s sentences, however, is the inspiration for today’s post:

Many more in our 4th study have been able to rise above these forces and lose substantial weight. We still haven’t figured out why some are able to rise above these forces versus those who are not.

Childhood Obesity News is currently exploring mindfulness, and it just so happens that many of the same practitioners who recommend training in mindfulness are also aware of that mysterious quality that allows some people to “rise above” the pitfalls that trap others. It is called “hardiness.”

The course description for a class offered by the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation’s Recovery Education Program begins by noting that “60-90% of all visits to health providers are stress related.” In describing “Developing Spirituality Stress Hardiness,” the syllabus speaks of embracing positive thoughts, connecting with others, and drawing upon the resources of the “inner pharmacy” to promote health, recovery, and a sense of wellbeing.

“Mindfulness Muse” is the website of Laura Schenck, M.A., who discusses psychological resilience, the quality possessed by individuals who survive and even thrive in situations where most people suffer setbacks. This mindset, also called “stress hardiness,” acts as a protective buffer against the generally damaging effects of stress.

Schenck names the three major components of stress hardiness, which are commitment, control, and challenge. These are brief excerpts from longer explanations:

Commitment translates to full involvement with the task at hand. Developing mindfulness in daily life is one way of increasing active engagement with the present moment.

The thoughts you focus on and the behaviors you perform are choices. This translates into a great deal of control over transforming a potentially disastrous situation into a positive and meaningful learning experience.

Instead of reacting to challenges with defensiveness or negativity, people with a strong challenge attitude mindfully respond to challenges.

“Mindfulness for Adolescents” begins by enumerating all the developmental challenges that young people face. Some have existed since the beginning of what we call civilization — friction with parents, disinterest in school, physical self-consciousness, peer pressure, sexual confusion, and career expectations.

As history progressed, media influences became a factor. Because of that, and hormones in the food, and so on, “these kids today” turn into teenagers at the ever-younger ages. They screw up, a proclivity known professionally as engaging in maladaptive behavior.

At the very least, the maladapted adolescent has a tendency to turn up her or his nose at a great many things, experiencing “perceptions of unpleasantness,” for which one of the examples given is boredom. When the W8Loss2Go team ask study participants about the feelings and forces that drive them to overeat, “boredom” is a frequently-heard answer:

Mindfulness practice offers the opportunity to develop hardiness in the face of uncomfortable feelings that otherwise might provoke a behavioral response that may be harmful to self and others.

In short, the bad news is, we still don’t know why some children seem to arrive in the world equipped with a hardiness that others lack. The good news is, hardiness can be acquired.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Syllabus for Developing Spirituality Stress Hardiness,” BU.edu, Fall 2012
Source: “Hardiness: Courage to Thrive in the Face of Adversity,” MindfulnessMuse.com, 05/25/13
Source: “Mindfulness for Adolescents,” Learning2Breathe.org, Winter 2012
Image by Kron Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

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Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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