Lisa Richmon Communications
pitch: Buffer Yourself Against Anything from Break-ups to Bankruptcy. Build Resilience Now.

On her 38th birthday, Mary Pannullo walked into her best friend Krystyna's condo and found her in the bathtub, dead. Krystyna was like a sister, mentor and friend rolled in one. Mary knew that Krystyna was depressed but never expected it to end this way. The shock of finding Krystyna was so disturbing that Mary immediately started to stutter. But her focus shifted to something positive – a memorial service for her friend – and the day of the service, her normal speech returned. I was one of 600 mourners who was moved to laughter by the warm details and funny antics Mary chose to describe the day she met Krystyna. 

Like others who are moved by love and hope during a time of deep distress, Mary tapped into a mindset psychologists call positivity. Now, researchers know that boosting heartfelt positivity, (through loving-kindness and guided-imagery meditation, reframing thoughts, self-distancing and other concrete techniques) can actually build your resiliency, as a kind of preventive measure for difficult times ahead. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill and author of "Positivity" bases her groundbreaking resiliency research on ten emotions: hope, pride, gratitude, awe, inspiration, amusement, love, interest, joy, and serenity.

Dr. Fredrickson's "Open Heart" study showed that 200 subjects who completed a seven-week meditation workshop, boosted their heartfelt positivity. After three months, they reported stronger mental habits: finding multiple approaches to problems, new ways to reach goals and savoring the good in their daily lives. With this increased positivity, they reported having better connections, reaching out to others and living with more meaning and purpose. A 15-month follow-up revealed that these changes are durable. 

Psychologists used to believe you either have resilience or you don't; and that resilient people don't feel things like other people do. Post 9-11 research says tells us that resilient people have deep, intense feelings like everyone else. The pathway to resilience is the ability to feel positive emotions in tandem with highly-charged negative events. Fredrickson says, "Resilient people are more practiced in the art of holding positive and negative side by side. They feel emotions the same way, they just don't hold on as long."

I propose a 2500-word service piece, the first to approach resilience as a preventive, daily, lifestyle practice. I will also craft a 250-word sidebar that offers new techniques for boosting heartfelt positivity, spotting and dissolving gratuitous negativity and building buffers against downward spirals. I'll introduce the 3:1 positive to negative ratio—Dr. Fredrickson's rigorously tested emotional tipping point that divides our lives into two distinct categories: languishing ("just getting by") or flourishing, resilient and making a difference in the world. To spiral upward, she says we need to experience three heartfelt positive emotions for every strong negative emotion.

In a study cited on the effects of stress on women caring for a chronically ill child, one mother said that raising her autistic daughter increased her faith and helped her develop a toughness she wouldn't have otherwise.  She did what psychologists call "benefit finding." When compared to mothers in the study who reported similar benefits and who also reported actually feeling positive emotions, her cortisol levels remained higher throughout the day. Feeling positive is good for you. Saying it, but not feeling it (called insincere positivity) is like anger. It can hurt or kill you.

I will pair Fredrickson's research with three examples of how preventive resiliency works in real women's lives. I'll tell the story of Mary's struggle to recover two years after Krystyna's death by seeking more joy in nature and painting and extending kindness to her family and others. I will look at how to build economic resiliency by profiling a woman who closed her skin-care business due to economic downturn and who uses a rigorous fitness regimen to meditate and reframe her loss. Then I will look at resiliency in a relationship with singer-songwriter Monica Pasqual whose boyfriend of ten years has advanced MS, but whose resilience-boosting positivity registers every time she enters a meditative flow-state as her fingers move across the piano, and an idea for a new song is revealed.

With these personal stories backed by recent research, readers will learn how to boost their own positivity, live with more creativity, awareness and purpose – and build resources to buffer challenging times.

Juicy Verbs. Strong Energy