To me has mental strength always been something genetically inherited. Something you either possess, or you don’t. Recently however, I discovered that’s not the case at all. Mental toughness and resilience is something you can actively work on and improve.
I’ve always accepted that I’m mentally not very strong. Told myself it’s almost like a trait of mine, that I’m born that way. Since I was a child I’d often quickly break down if things didn’t go my way or give up if I deemed something too difficult and I just accepted it that way. Probably because it’s what I’ve always known. How could I know anything different?
Last month I initiated a 30-day ab challenge as a way to incorporate more physical activity in my life. It’s basically abdominal exercises that starts off fairly easy in the first days and gradually gets harder as the month progresses. I made it about halfway before I started to feel like it got too difficult. On day nineteen I no longer even tried. The endurance, the fighting spirit, wasnt there. I made a mistake from the get-go. As I thought of myself as weak, it was “OK” to back out if it got tough. That way I wasn’t even aiming at doing the whole month when I started, which negatively affected my success.
That my mind, or me as a whole, is weaker than others is a belief that has limited me for as long as I can remember. I’m almost angry with myself now as I realize how I just adopted that mind-set without giving it as much as a second thought. To me, that was just the way things were back then.
Your mental strength matters more than you may think. Being intelligent is helpful in all its glory, but to really succeed in life it’s not enough to just be intelligent. You need to be resilient, not give up and keep fighting, especially when things get rough. That’s how you reach success. It’s a part of life to have your mental toughness tested again and again. We all go through it. Whether it’s losing your job, a loved one or a business. You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you react, and act to it. We all need to play the cards we’ve been dealt in life and do it the smartest way we can.
Building mental muscle is key to perseverance, grit, delayed gratification and self-discipline. All the ingredients to become the best version of yourself- both mentally and physically.
So what can we do about it?
These are 10 tips to try out to help improve your mental strength:
1. Do at least one challenging thing every week
Aim at doing at least one thing each week to force youself out of your comfort zone. Join a photography class, get a gym membership, or for somebody with social anxiety as myself it can be something as simple as asking a shop clerk for help while out shopping. Facing fears head-on will help you build resilience and chip away at your self-limiting beliefs. It can change the way you view yourself in many ways.
2. Write a gratitude journal
Studies link gratitude to multiple benefits. All from better sleep to reduced psychological distress. Writing down three things you are grateful for each day will change the way you see the world. It will help you focus on the positive instead of the negative. It only takes a couple of minute each day but is a sufficient way to increase your mental strength.
3. Spend at least 15 minutes each day meditating
Get some time to quietly reflect on your progress and think about what you can do better. A few minutes a day to recharge your batteries will help you gain the clarity you need to renew your motivation and in the end, reach your goals.
4. Develop a kinder inner-dialogue
Those inner conversations you have with yourself impact the way you feel about yourself and how you behave. Harsh self-criticism will only hold you back. Commit to talk to yourself the same way you’d talk to a loved one and you’ll discover hidden potential you didn’t even knew existed within you.
5. Take better care of your physical health
In order for your mind to operate at its best you’ll need to fuel it with sleep, healthy food and exercise. It’s not about looking good in a bathing suit though. Instead aim for building a healthy body so that you can enjoy a healthier, stronger mind.
6. Become more aware of your feelings
Most adults are more comfortable sharing certain feelings over others. Being happy or angry are usually easier to own up to than feeling scared or sad. Your emotions play a huge role in every decision you make so decide to become better connected to them. Label your emotions and spend some time thinking about how they influence your behaviour and the way you think.
7. Set a timeline for your dreams
All of us got dreams we’d like to do, or achieve, “someday”. It can be all from wanting to write a book to launch a business (for me it was to start a blog!). If you really want to turn your dreams into goals you’ll need to sit down and create a realistic timeline for yourself. You may not be able to start straight away but that doesn’t keep you from researching and learning more about your dreams now. Right?
8. Spend more time with friends and family
It’s easy to become so caught up in everyday life that you forget to set aside time for your family and friends. However, studies show that it’s crucial for your well-being to spend time with loved ones. Spending time with the important people in your life should be a priority. If you’re like me and have most of family and friends on a distance, at least try to get out and socialize and meet new people.
9. Create a life that is in line with your values
Maybe you value caring for the environment, or to give back to the community and that’s great. It’s one thing to say you value something though, and actually live accordingly to those values. Do an evaluation. Where do you devote your time and energy? Is it in line with your values? If not, you may want to make a shift in your lifestyle to ensure they are. It is essential to your mental health that you live accordingly to your values.
10. Give up a bad habit
Letting a bad habit go can help you work smarter rather than harder. Instead of committing to eating more vegetables, say you’ll give up that bag of chips you eat every day.
Be sure to not overwhelm yourself. Don’t tackle too many changes at once. It’s better to start with one thing and once you’ve turned that into a daily habit you can start working on the next thing. I’m not quite there either myself. In fact, I’ve just begun this journey of self-discovery. What about you? Do you have anything to add to the list?