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When considering the biology of resilience we really need to consider both the genetic and physiological factors.
Studies show that roughly one-third of our capacity for resilience is genetic.
- However, don’t let this convince you that you either have it, or you don’t. Not only does that leave the other two-thirds of your capability to work with, but even our genes can be affected by our behavior. Yes, gene expression is malleable according to the actions we take or treatment we receive. Studies with rats have shown a link to paternal care and gene expression. Newborn rat pups who didn’t receive the nurturing touch ( in this case licking) of their mothers had higher corticosterone (stress hormone) production and greater anxious behavior than those who received the nurturing attention of their mother. Clearly resilient biology can be nurtured.
Furthermore, studies on social creatures like the zebra finch and honeybee have given rise to the idea that the give and take between genes and behavior is more of a two-way street than previously thought.
- Knowing that it’s possible to improve gene expression leads us to consider the physiological factors. Our lifestyle has a significant effect on our physiology. Every cell of the human body and exercise can increase oxygen capacity. Stamina and strength are significantly affected by muscle mass which too increases with regular stretching and exercise.
Our culture tells us that food is basically for pleasure or entertainment but our diet either fuels, fattens, or poisons our bodies based on our choices. If our bodies are struggling to function well, clearly our resilience will be low.
So, with the understanding that biology is a critical component of resilience, here are a few suggestions:
1.Eat well: There are a variety of diet options from which to choose. Just remember to include a variety of healthy produce, protein, and healthy fats. Also know that food sensitivities can be an issue as well. Read more about that here.
2.Move your body: Exercise comes in many forms. Go out dancing, take a walk, enjoy your favorite sport, practice yoga, or go to the gym. Meet your body where it is at and just move.
3.Breathe deeply: When engaged in an aerobic activity you’ll get the oxygen you need and if you are not ready for that type of intensity in your workout just intentionally breathe deeply throughout the day.
4.Give and receive nurturing: Ask for hugs from the people in your life and give them out freely