Companies demand it. Psychology says, “Embrace it!” Life forces it.

But, do we really want change? Some people do, some don’t. And, there is a significant difference between change we choose vs. change forced upon us; the big C word—Control. Even positive change involves a loss of the familiar and comfortable and a move into the “unknown”. Part of our brains resists change, even more so when we haven’t chosen it and especially when it causes turmoil.

Is it possible to learn how to be more adaptable and resilient? Research tells us we can. One way is to take advantage of brain plasticity. Scientists used to think the brain lost its plasticity, or ability to create new neural pathways by about age 5. Science now proves the brain remains “plastic” throughout the lifespan, meaning you can teach an old dog new tricks.

There are 2 simple behaviors, which can enhance adaptability and therefore our ability to be more resilient in the face of change, chosen or not:

  1. Daniel Amen suggests spending 15 minutes each day learning something new which presents a challenge or pushes us outside our Comfort Zone. Such activities as dancing, playing a musical instrument, learning a difficult subject or language, all create new neural networks. It is just as important to exercise your brain as to do a workout for strength, flexibility and endurance of your body.
  2. “Do one scary thing each day.” Eleanor Roosevelt promoted this idea as a way of becoming more engaged in living life to its fullest. Doing activities that make us a little anxious or put us in the Stretch Zone, heighten our senses, create new neural pathways and increase memory. You are bound to remember the first time you got up on water skis, but less likely to remember the tenth time. Your one scary thing may not be water skiing, but offering to give a presentation or talking to people you don’t know.

You may even be able to combine numbers 1 and 2. And, the good news is, the more you practice a behavior, the easier it becomes. So, the more you practice creating new neural pathways and resiliency, the more adaptable you will become. It is a skill that can be learned like any other skill. People get better at a sport or their jobs the more often they “practice”. The payoff is decreased stress, increased memory, increased coping abilities, increased creativity, increased ability to solve problems, increased efficiency and quicker recovery time when change comes, welcome or not.

An article from a Stress Less Workshop Contributor, Beth A. Planzer, LPCC, BCC