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How to Nurture a Healthy Soul

How do we strengthen our emotional muscles? How can we boost our self-confidence?

We want to feel that we have the tools to cope with challenges. If we are parents - we want to give our children the tools to cope with various life experiences.
What will help us feel stable? Grow after crises? Cope with various situations?

  • Get tools for daily practice
  • Strengthen our emotional muscles
  • Persistently exercise
  • Good results will arrive shortly

The 10 Commandments for Strengthening Emotional Muscles

1. Breathing

Take relaxing breaths (morning and evening):
Inhale (like smelling a flower), count to 4,
Hold your breath and count to 7,
Exhale (like blowing out a candle) on the count of 8.

2. Authentic emotional expression

We tell ourselves: “It’s ok to feel the range of emotions, even if they are contradictory”.
For example: we are allowed to feel both joy and sadness, despair and hope.
Demonstrate empathy and identification with someone else (children or friends), for example: when someone tells us about feeling disappointed that their friends went out without him or a child who didn’t play with him after school – it is important to give him the sense that we are with him, ask him how he feels. If he says that he is sad, you can tell him: “It is sad that friends didn’t play with you, that they went out to play and didn’t’ invite you. I sympathize with this unpleasant feeling”. By doing this, you legitimize his emotions while relaying to him that he is not alone. The very act of listening and your presence relay an important message instead of finding a solution and automatically give advice.

3. Donating, giving and meaning

When we help someone else, a neighbor, a friend, we help ourselves. We feel more valuable, significant, ethical, feel satisfaction and a sense of belonging.
For example: ask a neighbor or friend “How are you?”, share feelings, ask or offer help. The acts of giving and volunteering increase our satisfaction and leave us with a better feeling.

Volunteer activity with senior citizens, at-risk children or people who experience difficulty in the family or their environment, even for a little while, will make us feel better, that we did a good thing, that we have the power to help someone else. It reinforces us, strengthens our resiliency and benefits our physical health.

4. Seeing the good

Gratitude for what we have. Everyone can find something good to be grateful for every day. The ability to assess what we have, even strengths that we never realized we have, will help us during a crisis. For example, remembering the meaningful things in our lives, the people, places, memories, accomplishments, values, experiences. Will we remember what we are good at? What strengthens us? Who is there for us? What resources – internal and external – support us?

We can practice this in writing, verbally or in a conversation with another person – about something good that happened to you.
Practicing attention to the “have” consistently helps alleviate stress, depression and anxiety while reinforcing the sense of efficacy and our emotional and physical health (such as improved cardiac function, improved sleep and concentration).

5. Focusing on the present, on the here and now

Example: even when we cook, drive or spend time with the children, we frequently think about the past: how did it happen? Who is to blame? Why? Or we may worry about the future: what will happen? How will we manage? We should focus on the present, on the action that we are doing at the moment. Remain focused on driving, on washing dishes or on our time with the children. Focusing on the here and now will increase our sense of control and resiliency.

6. Reducing "energy takers" and increasing "energy chargers"

What recharges us? Listening to music we love, meeting friends, walks in nature, a good film, cooking, dancing or any other activity that makes us feel good. It is important to identify something small that recharges us and make it part of our routine.

Screens – our lives center around screens, and we do not notice that they are addictive and deplete us of our energy. They occasionally make us feel we miss "something better", affect our mood, make us track ads and disrupt our sleep. They generate tremendous frustration and actively deplete our energy.

7. Connecting to sources of community support and resiliency

Belonging to a community and significant relationships are a key source of protection and resiliency. A supportive community is extremely helpful in alleviating a sense of isolation. Studies indicate a greater sense of satisfaction as well as better emotional and physical health among people who belong to a community.

8. Self-compassion and self-advocacy

We tend to be judgmental and self-critical, to compare ourselves to others, and even blame ourselves. It is important to remember that we have room to choose how to look at a situation and that we control our interpretations of various situations. It is important to learn to forgive ourselves and show compassion and understanding toward ourselves.

9. Optimistic attitude

Studies reveal a link between our reactions and those we receive from others, particularly when children are involved but not only. Children are particularly sensitive to messages they receive from adults in their environment, whether verbal or non-verbal, such as body language or the tone.

Note that our personal responses and parental presence will help develop our children’s resiliency, not only in coping with the current situation but also during future crises. We are a model for our children and our environment.

10. Moving towards the future

Our ability to hold on to hope and actively move forward is critical not only in signaling to our body and brain that we are still capable of functioning and that the world has not completely collapsed - it also helps create something that gives a sense of resiliency. What can you do today to "anchor" the future? For example: start a new project, learn something, plan a vacation.

We cannot instantly change but if we begin to develop resiliency day by day, we will feel a lot better about ourselves, and will be able to reinforce our ability to cope during both crises and normal times.
We will significantly improve our quality of life – reinforce our resiliency and benefit from a healthy soul.

By Dr. Pninit Russo-Netzer – senior lecturer and leading researcher on the meaning of life, head of the Education Department and Head of the Resilience and Optimal Development Lab at Achva College, author and editor of books on these subjects and Head of the Compass Institute for the Study and Application of Meaning in Life.
And Gabi Peretz – Chief Psychologist, Ministry of Health