September 19, 2019
In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness month, the Idaho Coalition is launching the Collective Thriving campaign to encourage anyone who has experienced harm or violence to cultivate practices to move from surviving to thriving. The campaign highlights practices of spaciousness, abundance, compassion, connection, and being present.
Trauma and harm impact individuals in a multitude of ways – emotionally, cognitively, and physiologically. The practices highlighted in the Collective Thriving campaign are intended to open up or support the journey of healing. The techniques and tools suggested are also beneficial to increasing the well-being of all people, regardless of if they have experienced sexual or domestic violence, secondary trauma from providing services to survivors, or have had other adverse life experiences. This brief overview of the highlighted practices is for advocates, counselors, social workers, or other caregivers and healers to further explain what affects these selected techniques may have on individuals who implement them in their lives.
Incorporating the components of spaciousness into an individual’s life can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as increase their overall emotional and physical well-being (Ma et al., 2017; Maker, 2019). When individuals are under stress, they experience a dysfunction in their autonomic nervous system, which affects breathing, emotion, and cognition. This disruption can create a negative cycle in which their nervous system continually triggers feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression (Ma et al., 2017).
Studies have found that even a simple deep breathing practice (six breaths per minute) can disrupt this dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system, significantly improving psychological well-being (Wang el al., 2010).
Individuals gain even greater benefits, such as significant improvements to emotional regulation, when they adopt a short daily mindfulness practice (Basso et al., 2019). While no singular definition of mindfulness exists, we suggest simply do something that brings joy and focus solely on that and breathing for fifteen minutes a day. Some studies show that improvement in attention and cognitive functioning are seen after only four days of a mindfulness practice (Zeidan et al., 2010).
These simple practices of spaciousness can benefit to all people and are particularly important for individuals who are experiencing trauma or secondary trauma.
According to studies, “intentional activity” plays a large and important role in determining the overall happiness level of an individual (Lyubomirksy, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005). Intentional activity is the many behaviors, cognitive activities (such as listing five positive things about your day), and practices that an individual participates in.
No matter the circumstances, all individuals can word to incorporate these practices into their life. By focusing on these intentional practices, individuals can improve their overall well-being and find abundance in the world around them.
In times of stress or struggle we are often our harshest critic, which is why self-compassion is an important skill to learn and implement. “Self-compassion” is the intentional act of being kind towards oneself in instances of pain or failure rather than being self-critical. Studies have found that self-compassion is a buffer against anxiety and is related to overall psychological well-being (Neff, Kirkpatrick, & Rude, 2006). Self-compassion includes self-love and forgiveness. When individuals demonstrate self-compassion, they increase their capacity for also showing compassion to others.
Forgiveness, of oneself and others, is also beneficial to physical health as well as an important strategy for increasing compassion. Forgiveness and letting go reduces physical pain, improves sleep, lowers heart rate and reduces blood pressure. Additionally, these physiological improvements correlate with lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress (Witvliet, Ludwig, & Vander Laan, 2001).
Another important strategy for increasing compassion is active listening. For example, in one study, participants who received active listening responses felt more understood and closer to the listener than did those who did not receive an active listening response (Weger Jr. et al., 2014). Studies like this indicate that when individuals deeply listen and engage with another person, it opens up the possibility for connection and compassion between even strangers.
We as humans crave social connection with others, and we need these connections to fully thrive. Building and maintaining connections with others improves emotional and physical health (Seppala, 2012). Authentic connections are particularly important in providing emotional stability and alleviating stress. For example, several studies have found that having a close friendship positively alters (lowers) an individual’s perception of their stress (Franco, 2019, Schnall et al., 2008). And, connecting with others is a great way to build in supports to help individuals feel stable and find joy in their life.
Beyond that, individuals who share their emotions with others exhibit more emotional intelligence behaviors and have higher resiliency to stressors (Magnano, Crapar, & Paolilli, 2016). The practice of sharing emotions increases emotional intelligence and builds authentic connections with others. These tools benefit all people and can be especially important for individuals who have experienced trauma.
Being present, the act of allowing your mind and body to simply feel in the moment, is associated with an increase in calm and happiness (Basso et al., 2019). It can be an incredibly important healing strategy and it connects to all the practices above. By being more in tune with the moment, individuals are better in touch with their emotional health and can learn to interrupt unhealthy behaviors such as self-negativity. Cultivating practices that allow individuals to be present will open up the opportunity for compassion, spaciousness, connection, and abundance to take hold.
As you prepare for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we would like to share the updated 2019 Intimate Partner Fatality documents and the updated Domestic Violence Fact Sheet. Please let us know if you are aware of an intimate partner fatality that is not included on these documents.
Intermountain Fair Housing Council | Statewide Training Events
Fair Housing Training | Coeur d’ Alene, ID
October 24, 2019 | 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Community Members, Housing Providers, Advocates, Government Personnel, and Attorneys encouraged to attend.
Save the Date | Collective Thriving
Wednesday, December 4 – Thursday, December 5, 2019 | Boise State University, Boise, Idaho
Tuesday, December 3rd – Pre-Conference
Reclaiming Our Spiritual, Healing and Ancestral Wisdom in Social Justice Movements
Space is limited
The Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence invites you to join us at Collective Thriving (previously Compassionate Communities), a conference where we will explore ways to repair the harm from our culture of domination, extraction, and violence and to re-imagine a world rooted in interdependence, resilience, and regeneration.
Registration opens October 1st on www.engagingvoices.org