University News

Resilience Resources Weekly: Strengthen Physical Well-Being

by Katie Clare, Associate Director for Resilience Programs, University Life

The next strategy to highlight from Southwick and Charney’s work is the importance of physical well-being for supporting increased resilience. Physical activity increases our immune systems, and it can even change our brains. Scientists refer to “hope molecules,” hormones released into the bloodstream through physical activity, that help to make us more resilient. In addition to its physical benefits, exercise can have profound psychological benefits, such as helping us regulate our emotions to improve our mood and increase our self-esteem.

In terms of our current situation, perhaps you no longer have access to your gym or your face-to-face fitness classes. Perhaps your neighborhood running group is no longer meeting because of social distancing. With telework and virtual school, you may not be walking to and from class like before, and you certainly are not hustling across campus to get to your next meeting. It’s possible that physical activity didn’t play a big role in your day-to-day before, but with the time gained from no longer commuting to and from campus, you might find yourself wanting to build movement into your routine.

To support your efforts around physical well-being, you might be inspired by the following resources:

Reading Inspiration

In this 2016 blog post from the New York Times, you can read about the ways in which physical constraints and physical conditioning can affect resilience. This might encourage you to pay more attention to what your body is telling you as careful listening allows you to increase resilience.

  • What do you think you might discover about yourself by listening to your body?
  • How might your body tell you different things based on different circumstances?
  • How might you be purposeful in listening to your body? Will you try to do it for a 24-hour period, shorter, or longer? Will you try to do it during a specific activity (e.g., eating, sitting, working, working out, making dinner, going to sleep)? How will you record your discoveries?

In this more recent piece, the author encourages you to be creative in maintaining – and even increasing – your physical activity in the face of the COVID-19 quarantine. You are encouraged to think about adding additional physical activity into your day-to-day tasks. In other words, by focusing on your physical well-being, you can increase your resilience right now. You do not have to experience trauma or adversity to develop your resilience.

  • Is there a part of your day that might be prime territory for bringing in more movement?
  • What do you have in your environment that might not count as exercise equipment but might be used to contribute to your physical well-being?
  • What might a 30-minute circuit look like for you in your space?


As a Mason community member, you have access to a great resource called BurnAlong:

  • Set up your free account
  • Check out the resources
  • Set a time to work out with a friend

WBU Reading Group

If you like to read and you like to talk about what you’re reading with others, you’re invited to join the Spring 2020 WBU Reading Group. We’re reading Kelly McGonigal’s The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage. This book points to lots of research and compelling examples that will only further encourage you to devote time and energy to your physical well-being. Due to the current situation, our book group will go virtual with meetings from 12 noon to 12:45 p.m. on April 16, 23, 30, and May 7. To join the conversation, register based on your primary campus affiliation: