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Climate CoP Session Notes: Build & Sustain Mental Wellness & Resilience

SUMMARY: This session was dedicated to the fourth foundational focus: actively engaging residents in specific activities that build and sustain mental wellness and transformational resilience. The previous sessions discussed previous foundational areas of RCCs, namely building social connections, just transition, and mental health literacy. Bob continued the discussion on mental wellness and resilience literacy.



Resilience-skill pause

Bob suggested that each participant pick a presencing skill that resonated with them. Presencing skills include: 1. Say “soft” as you breathe in and “breath” as you breathe out, 2. Resourcing, 3. Tracking, 4. Grounding, 5. Six-second breathing, 6. Hand on belly and chest breathing or 7. Any other presencing skill that would help participants center and ground themselves in the present moment. When using that skill of choice, notice what’s happening within without trying to change anything. Remember that when you see or experience devastating news, and feel hopeless or helpless, first remember to come back to your breath or other presencing skill before doing anything. Don’t do or say anything until you have touched the peace and calm that presencing can bring, especially when distressed.

Mental Health and Resilience Literacy

Bob reiterated how individuals should learn simple, self-administrable resilience skills such as presencing, which allows management of the “push” of our psychobiological drives through self- and co-regulation skills. When teaching these skills, consider regulation skills that resonate with your community and ways to share them. After individuals have a chance to calm their body, mind, and emotion, help them learn how to find purpose and intensify the “pull” of their desires for meaning and purpose in life.

Everyone has a safe and healthy functioning level, the Resilience Zone, where they can make decisions and live well. Being pushed outside that zone, they can get dysregulated and stuck in an emotional state (e.g., angry, depressed). Presencing skills allow us to return to the Resilience Zone. Many can rise above their normal state and feel an increased sense of wellbeing and ability to hold pain and trauma experienced during dysregulation (Transformational Resilience).

There’s a choice to continue suffering or find a new source of purpose, meaning, and healthy hope by: Learning about the world and self, living out core values, and engaging in pro-social activities that enhance healthy hope. Bob invited participants to practice these skills by recalling a difficult experience within the past 1-2 month, if they considered their core value during or after the event, and what could be learned about the self and world or what new pathways became available. If not, would such considerations have been helpful? How can these questions reframe one’s understanding of their adverse experience?

Reframing is vital to learning about the self and world via adversity. Additionally, one can try to live out their values (how one acts in life) during adversity. Bob asked participants to select their most important value, if they lived that value during their difficulty, and, if so, what the benefit was. If not, considering how living that value could have made a difference. Working with others to help them identify their core values, remember them, and identify the benefits of applying them in an adverse situation can help ground people in stressful situations.

Presencing and harvesting healthy hope in adversity activity: Identify a recent time when you helped another without a sense of obligation or payoff. How did you feel afterward? When we do good for others without obligation, we enhance our self-esteem and self-efficacy, activating “virtuous cycles” of oxytocin which prompts more pro-social and selfless behavior. Helping others and the environment benefits us as much as it does society.

Research has found 3 closely related critical factors that prompt healthy hope: 1) People have a vision or condition they want to achieve, 2) A sense of the initial steps or approach, and 3) A commitment to join with others to move towards that vision despite obstacles. Research shows six practices helpful to building and sustaining mental wellness including: laughing, forgiveness, learning, gratitude, care for self, and simple joys. Create a purposing action plan (see slides) to consider core values and how to enhance well-being of self and others.

Breakout Room: Teaching presencing, purposing, and psychological and mental health first aid can assist others with mental health problems during emergencies. Participants were then invited to practice teaching purposing to others. A public health approach to preventing and healing mental health problems involves ongoing systemic efforts and engagement in specific practices to sustain mental health and resilience and shift our attention from distress to healing.

Dr. Everett Worthington, Commonwealth Professor Emeritus, Virginia Commonwealth University, REACH Forgiveness Campaigns

Dr. Worthington became involved in forgiveness campaigns through a desire to broaden the application of forgiveness interventions outside psychological and clinical settings. Dr. Worthington studied REACH Forgiveness groups, which targeted awareness, forgiveness groups, and emotional writings, versus campus-wide interventions. REACH stands for Recall the hurt, Empathize with the offender, Altruistic, Commit to forgiveness, and Hold on when doubts occur. These campaigns have spanned from Christian communities and universities, secular universities, Monteria, Columbia, and Hong Kong communities.

See Dr. Worthington’s slides or website for publications. He observed that forgiveness is challenging when there is a sense of injustice. There are alternatives to forgiveness including justice, tolerance, acceptance, etc.

There are two types of forgiveness, decisional and emotional, which differ from reconciliation (restoring trust which a single person can’t do on their own). Self-forgiveness was noted to be harder than forgiving others. People can reduce the injustice gap by combining these multiple alternatives within their locus of control.

REACH Forgiveness can be conducted in groups or individually via a DIY workgroup. When developing a more forgiving society, a community campaign can be done in a mediating community (made up of the larger community) such as churches, CBOs, etc. Forgiveness-awareness campaigns include decisional and emotional forgiveness, the benefits of forgiveness, and resources available in the community.

These campaigns worked best when there was buy-in from leaders vs activities that would engage and promote forgiveness. Stimulating forgiveness, therefore, is an important component of these campaigns. Stimulating forgiveness resulted in research indicating improvements in mental health, emotional forgiveness, and forbearance.

The campaigns offered 16 forgiveness activities people could engage in. The more activities people participated in resulted in a linear effect on mental health (depression, anxiety), flourishing, and forgiveness. Knowledge tests, forgiveness journals, animated videos, the REACH workbook, and forgiveness webinars produced the largest changes in forgiveness.

After-action review, Dr. Worthington found that written activities were not effective or engaged in. Brief experiential activities were popular but produced small changes. Engaging videos were both popular and resulted in large changes. Practical lessons for designing a campaign are listed on Dr. Worthington’s slides.


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