Christopher Willard: How We Grow Through What We Go Through

December 13, 2022

Christopher Willard: How We Grow Through What We Go Through

Christopher Willard December 13, 2022

Most of us are familiar with the concept of post-traumatic stress. Fortunately, there’s another way we can respond to extreme adversity. This is what researchers call post-traumatic growth—and it’s something we’re all biologically “hardwired” to access, to turn even our most difficult experiences into a source of resilience and strength. 

In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with clinical psychologist and author Dr. Christopher Willard about “how we grow through what we go through”—which is also the title of his new book. Tune in as they explore how meditation can literally be lifesaving; avoiding the trap of spiritual bypassing; the “10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows” of our lives; embodiment practices and nervous system self-regulation; mindfulness and the capacity to respond rather than react; the practice of stretching the breath; acting ourselves into a new way of thinking and feeling; how there are many ways to healing and recovery—and finding the best for yourself; the power of posture; the connection between self-compassion and personal transformation; the practice of putting your hand on your heart; becoming a source of co-regulation for others; the concept of downstream and upstream reciprocity; and more.

Christopher Willard, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of over 18 publications for children and adults. An internationally sought-after speaker and mindfulness educator, his books include Growing Up Mindful, Raising Resilience, The Breathing Book, Alphabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing, and Alphabreaths Too.

Author photo © Kevin Day

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Also By Author

Christopher Willard: How We Grow Through What We Go Th...

Most of us are familiar with the concept of post-traumatic stress. Fortunately, there’s another way we can respond to extreme adversity. This is what researchers call post-traumatic growth—and it’s something we’re all biologically “hardwired” to access, to turn even our most difficult experiences into a source of resilience and strength. 

In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with clinical psychologist and author Dr. Christopher Willard about “how we grow through what we go through”—which is also the title of his new book. Tune in as they explore how meditation can literally be lifesaving; avoiding the trap of spiritual bypassing; the “10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows” of our lives; embodiment practices and nervous system self-regulation; mindfulness and the capacity to respond rather than react; the practice of stretching the breath; acting ourselves into a new way of thinking and feeling; how there are many ways to healing and recovery—and finding the best for yourself; the power of posture; the connection between self-compassion and personal transformation; the practice of putting your hand on your heart; becoming a source of co-regulation for others; the concept of downstream and upstream reciprocity; and more.

How to Cultivate Generosity in Our Children

 

Nearly every spiritual tradition has a practice of generosity and giving. We call it Dana in some traditions, Caritas in Christianity, Tzedekah in Judaism, alms or communal sharing in others, or in the United States, “The Holiday Season” stretching onward from Black Friday through the New Year. These spiritual (and commercial) practices existed long before the term “positive psychology,” but the principles overlap significantly. We know now that making a practice of kindness and generosity leads to physical and mental health and social and spiritual benefits.

In families, children are often in the “getting” role, while adults are in the “giving role,” but how can we encourage that spirit of generosity in the next generation?

We are wired to be generous, and both neuroscience and well-worn clichés tells us we feel more joy in giving than in receiving. However, our consumer culture tells us the opposite, that getting will make us feel better. These messages run counter to the spiritual and scientific wisdom showing health and happiness come more through giving than getting. Just imagine if our society received just as many messages urging us to give than get, if people camped outside stores for days just to donate to the latest charity.

Among the many benefits, generosity also builds trust between people. Studies show that the giver’s brain regions associated with trust and connection light up, fostering optimism, reducing depression, and creating healthy attachments, showing us why cultures develop practices related to gift-giving. The benefits even extend to just witnessing an act of generosity.

 

So how can we encourage generosity our families? Here are a few ideas to consider.

  • Involve your kids in the decision for charitable giving, taking into account what your family’s values are: Social justice, the environment, health issues that have impacted your family, presents for children or families in need, and so on.
  • Follow the lead of my friend’s grandmother who gave the grandkids $100 each year, with $50 to spend on themselves and $50 she would donate to a charity of their choice.
  • Remember that giving can also include your time or your support. Volunteer as a family, a practice shown to boost happiness, empathy, and build closeness.
  • Give experiences; the happiness will last longer than the lifespan of a toy. Perhaps travel, theater tickets, or museum passes.
  • Donate toys to make space for the new. Notice together which toys are getting lonely and would be happier in a new home, saying thank you and goodbye to old toys, and imagining the happiness they will bring after they’ve been donated.

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

 

Excerpted from Raising Resilience by Christopher Willard, Pysd.

Christopher Willard, Psyd, is a clinical psychologist and consultant specializing in bringing mindfulness into education and psychotherapy. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, teaches at Harvard Medical Schools, and leads workshops worldwide. For more, visit drchristopherwillard.com.

Christopher Willard: Growing Up Mindful

Christopher Willard is a licensed psychologist who focuses on mindfulness, anxiety, and learning issues. With Sounds True, he has released a new book and companion audio called Growing Up Mindful: Essential Practices to Help Children, Teens, and Families Find Balance, Calm, and Resilience. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Chris and Tami talk about the inherent difficulties of being a child and how mindfulness practice can help ease the tensions of growing up. They discuss the different ways one can teach meditation techniques to kids, as well as the different ages at which one can start this instruction. Finally, Chris shares his vision of how mindfulness could be a powerful public health intervention—one that could possibly have an essential place in the future of childhood education.
(59 minutes)

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When people ask for my personal secret to living a life that is authentically happy and liberating, the first thing that comes to mind are my friends. I’ve known for a long time that I am a wealthy and blessed person. The wealth that I’m referring to has nothing to do with my bank account balance. The wealth that I’m talking about are the meaningful connections that have sustained me over the years. What I lacked in familial bonds, the divine provided in long-term platonic relationships.

One of the clearest indicators of someone who is flourishing is their ability to build and keep meaningful connections and quality relationships. When designing a life that supports your becoming the most fully expressed version of yourself, the people who are closest to you can either support or hinder your progress. This is why I’m adamant about being intentional about my connections.

My “Presidential Cabinet,” which is basically what I call my trusted circle of friends, is filled with some amazing folks. I’m forever grateful for my community of friends that became family, strangers that became mentors, and colleagues that became accountability partners.

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An agreement I made with myself in my early thirties was to commit to choosing connection and community over isolation. This decision is the gift that keeps on giving. The investment you make in choosing your connections is the greatest pathway to wholeness, prosperity, and longevity.

What you should consider as you’re continuing to build out your own Presidential Cabinet

Your connections should include people who:

  • Energize you and help you to create a life of ease
  • Encourage you to make your mental and emotional well-being a priority 
  • Consider you for opportunities when you’re not in the room
  • Show mutual support and respect 

Now that you know what to consider, use these prompts to create a plan

  • Who’s in your Presidential Cabinet, and how do they support you? 
  • Who do you need to add, and how will they support your journey? 
  • If you change nothing, what will your life look like three months from now? How does this make you feel?

My hope for you is that you attract meaningful connections that bring you joy and make your heart smile, laughs that make your cheeks hurt, and love that covers you like a warm blanket. You deserve to feel loved, supported, and cared for.

Until we meet again.

Currently evolving,

Chianti


Evolving While Black
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Sounds True

Chianti Lomax is a sought-after international speaker, certified mindset coach, and leadership trainer who thrives at the intersection of mindfulness, technology, and transformative coaching. As a registered yoga instructor, certified personal and executive coach, certified workplace mindfulness facilitator, and positive psychology practitioner, Chianti teaches doable habit changes to help increase our well-being and elevate the overall human experience. For more, visit chiantilomax.com.

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