The green zone and the red zone

I’m currently getting stuck in to Rick Hanson’s ‘Resilient‘ book, which is articulating some really helpful ideas about how we build and maintain resilience.

One piece he discusses is the idea that we have ‘green’ and ‘red’ zones. The green zone is our restful zone, and the red zone is our high alert fight or flight zone. Drawing on the work of Robert M Sapolsky, Hason uses the zebras in the Savannah as a way to illustrate how we should effectively move between the zones. Zebras spend most of their day in the green zone: calm, relaxed, eating the grass, moving around, interacting with each other, responding to the changes through the day. Until, a lion comes to attack them, and they all move into the red zone, they all go into fight or flight and run like hell to try and escape the predator. Once the lion has gone, the surviving zebras go back into the green zone, they go back to eating their grass and interacting with each other and feeling relaxed. They use the red zone when it’s needed, but the majority of the time they are in the green zone.

Humans on the other hand spend much more time in the red zone. Even though it is much better for us, and is in actual fact, our natural state, to spend more time in the green zone, we navigate life from that high alert, fight or flight kind of space. We are responding to life in a way we were not designed to. And that’s why we are experiencing illness, and exhaustion, and depression and unnecessary conflict with those around us. We don’t have enough time to heal, to just be.

Much of this is down the system we live within. There is no doubt we are encouraged, from many directions, to be on high alert. Our media and our politicians have much to answer for. But we do also put ourselves under pressure too. Many of us struggle to really relax, we feel like if we relax we might miss something which will mean everything will fall apart.

But if we look at life with the knowledge that we are designed to spend the majority of our time in the green zone, we can begin to recognise that we are absolutely allowed to relax. We can give ourselves permission to slow down, and to trust that like the zebras, when a situation of high alert comes up we are resilient and resourceful enough to leap into action.

So, what can you do this weekend that helps you to switch into your green zone? How can you be more like those wonderful zebras chilling out there on the Savannah?

With love as always, Hannah and Team Bird

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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