It is normal that everyone wants to look better and improve their health. That’s where most of our focus is these days. We tell ourselves that we want to lose weight, develop a six pack, be more attractive, and so much more. Most of the time, our resolutions fall through, and we do not have enough willpower to become a better version of ourselves.
The key to making all of life’s resolutions and fixing it is by being mentally healthy. With mental health, you will have the proper discipline, determination, willpower, and perseverance needed to not only go along with all the goals and objectives we have set for the New Year but for all the tasks we have to do all year-round as well. Research also shows that people with stronger mental health would make better crucial decisions, be happier and be more comfortable in their skin.
Here are the 12 key points that you should keep in mind when you start developing your mental strength.
1. Spend Time On Reflection
Many people go on with their lives and get lost in the rush of things, but they forget to spend a few moments for themselves to reconnect with their soul. You should practice the 15-minute reflection habit. In only 15 minutes, ideally after a long day of work has passed, you should sit back, relax and think again about not only what has happened during the day, but also in the current month, the past month and the past year. Ask questions of yourself about the problems and decisions you have made.
Questions like, “Am I being the happiest in my life?” and “Why are other people making me unhappy?”, and try to use the reflection period to find out solutions to your life problems. Not only would it help you develop new ways of problem-solving, but it also helps with mental clarity, focus, and self-satisfaction.
2. Step Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
People have their own “comfort zones,” which is their own mental and physical place where they feel safe, content and comfortable – and this is a universal fact. Many people believe that they can achieve true psychological balance when they are within the comfort zone because they do not have to deal with any disturbance or challenges. However, developing mental strength is similar to trying to learn how to ride a bike. Riding a bicycle requires not only regular practice but also falling off and failing often. Falling off a bike is something out of our comfort zone. Similarly, your mind will not get stronger if you don’t push it outside of your comfort zone. So, how can you associate with becoming mentally stronger, and trying to experience things outside of your comfort zone?
Firstly, have the “can do” attitude that you would not back out from trying out new things.
Secondly, sign up for new activities that you like but do not have the time or confidence to do. Activities like taking up photography, going fishing, or even something as simple as singing! Doing these things and finding what you have a passion for would help your mind become more active, outgoing, and open yourself up to a new world.
Thirdly, acknowledge the activities that you fear and feel you would fail at them. The fears could come from negative experiences of the past, or they could come from your “can’t do” attitude that you developed and are afraid of making a mess or failing to do something. Therefore, rather than avoiding the action, it is best to face your fears by actively engaging in these activities and try to get someone to do it with you – having a companion is always better for your mental health.
3. Keep A Journal To Appreciate Yourself
Ever feel like you are mistreating yourself and negatively downplaying your importance in life? Many people don’t give themselves the attention and credit they deserve. Sometimes, it’s because of the fear of being arrogant. The negativity would not help with strengthening your mental health; instead, it leads to depression and weak willpower. The best way to avoid it is to include the habit of writing in a journal, what you have done for yourself and the people around you. The things you write should be in bullet points of the positive and constructive things you’ve done. Stuff like contributing constructive criticism to a project at work, helping a friend, or even thanking your mom for her delicious cooking. This would change the way the world is presented to you. Always be grateful – instead of seeing the negativity; you would see all the positives in life.
If you think that starting a habit of keeping an appreciation journal is too complicated, start by posting sticky notes on your fridge, bedpost, desks, and lamps instead. To write down little achievements during the days on these sticky notes is much easier than keeping a proper journal and writing down entries every day. After two or three months of only sticky notes, move on to write down three to four pages of your journal a week, then keep going at it until you can note as many positive things as possible every day.
4. Take Care Of Your Physical Health
Physical and mental health, unsurprisingly, are not isolated from each other. Within a healthy body, you are more likely to have a healthy mind. This is because during exercise, our stress levels are lifted and replaced with positive stress, thus, taking care of our body with regular exercise, meditation, and healthy food, contributes to the strength of the mind as well. Moreover, by having a fitter and healthier body, your mind is less concerned with the dangerous negativity that comes from low self-esteem or low opinion of our body image.
5. Avoid Negative Inner Dialogue
After a failure, most of us take it hard on ourselves. We tell ourselves things like “That was the worst mistake I have ever made” or “Why did I have to be angry like that?”. However, scolding yourself is not the best way to solve a problem. Indeed, harshness often worsens the mental state you are in, making you feel depressed and sadder than you probably should feel. Instead, try to be kinder to yourself, commit to having positive inner dialogue often, not only during the bad times but also the better times and be at peace with yourself. By being compassionate to your soul, you will not pressure yourself into thinking that you’re a terrible person, but you are relieving the stress of your mind. This contributes to the development of good mental well-being.
6. Be In The Know Of Your Feelings
Children are free at expressing their negative feelings like anger, jealousy, and sadness, but most adults are not. There are many reasons for this. Working adults are told to suppress their emotions at work, as feelings might interfere with their profession or damage their public image. By showing as little of the negative feelings as possible, adults will appear independent and robust. However, it is a well-known fact that emotions play a huge part in decision making, and it is never a good idea to disregard emotions. So, if you do not come face-to-face with your feelings, and think about how they influence your thoughts and actions, there would be a time when all of the negative emotions begin to take over, making you feel miserable, and leading to bad decisions.
Losing emotional control is a direct result of neglecting your emotions frequently. Every individual’s reaction to losing emotional control is different; take anger as an example, while angry, a person might shut himself or herself out of social interaction, while another person might have a fit and start shouting at everyone. These responses are built-in response mechanisms inside your brain, and it is tough to alter this mechanism. They are built on habit and programming of the years we lived our lives. However, the good news is you can learn how to acknowledge and restrain these reactions. Again, taking anger as an example, the next time you feel like you are about to lose control over your emotions, acknowledge that you are upset, then immediately start breathing in and breathing out evenly, so that your brain receives enough oxygen to function with better mental clarity.
7. Spend More Time With Family And Friends
Family and friends are always the best people to turn to when you are feeling down. In your quest to build mental strength, you must remember that you’re never alone. There would always be a network of people who are there and ready to catch you when you tumble. So, rather than keeping all things to yourself, why don’t you try to open up to those who are closest to you? Not only would they cheer you up, but also share their thoughts and advice on what to do and how to feel when you’re down.
After experiencing a bad break-up or being fired, many people choose to be alone and turn to alcohol or drugs to drown their sorrows. However, they should remember that their family and friends are there to help, and it’s the best time to reach out to these people whom they trust the most. Merely talking to a trusted friend is a million times more uplifting than drinking alone, and it’s much healthier too!
8. Give Up A Bad Habit
Everyone has bad habits. Habits like staying up late, smoking, drinking, or overeating. Some people find bad habits harmless, but for most people, bad habits happen because of weak willpower. Because they were not able to fight the temptation of a few shots at the bar, a bag of chips after a long day, or a pack of cigarettes. So you find that having a few bad habits might help you unwind after a long hard day. However, they are not very helpful. Instead, they are destroying both your physical and mental health, they make you feel exhausted, defeated and sad for an extended amount of time, and some of these habits may directly harm other people, like how smoking can harm other people around you. So rather than having the feeling of keeping these indulges, you should act on it as soon as possible. If you want to cut down on smoking, try to stop buying cigarettes. If you stay up late, set a timely reminder to go to sleep earlier. Also, throw out all the alcohol from your fridge that is always tempting you to drink. Soon, you would find that without these items, your mind will be more relaxed and at ease.
9. Having An Actionable Plan To Change
The main reason people fail to accomplish resolutions is that they push themselves and set unrealistic goals without a proper plan of action. Just like real resolutions, mental strength training is not a 1-day, 2-week or 3-month regime. It’s a life-long process. This means there is never a deadline for your quest except for the one you set. So, rather than saying “I’m going to become mentally stronger in the next three months”, just say “I’m going to become a mentally stronger person”. A deadline for your goals are great but don’t look at it as a failure if you failed to reach the target. A good plan for mental strength building should start with specific things within a reasonable period. Things like “I’m going to be less angry this week”, or “I will keep a journal of all the good things that happened today”, then continue with broader, more time-consuming goals such as “I will spend every weekend with my family this month”, or “I will plan a surprise trip for my kids this week”. By starting small, then progressing to something bigger, you put less pressure on yourself and build up durability that grows your mental strength.
10. Accept That You Can’t Control Everything
Being responsible for what you do is a sensible thing but trying to take control of everything will only drive you crazy. People who are mentally strong never try to control everything, because they understand that there are things outside of their capacity. Take the weather, for example. You plan out a perfect trip for Sunday, but suddenly, the news forecasts rain on that day. So, are you going to go mad and shout at everyone? No! You should accept that things such as the weather and other people’s feelings and opinions are entirely outside of your perception.
When you accept that you are not in control of everything, life would be a lot less stressful. However, another mental obstacle that comes up is when you try to prevent problems from occurring. Whether it’s caused by your recklessness or by other people. In fact, life problems could happen out of pure randomness rather than intentions. Therefore, instead of getting agitated at the source of the problem, train your mind to become more focused on getting a solution to the problem. By doing this, all of the negative feelings caused by the problem would be replaced by your motivation and determination for problem-solving.
11. Eat “Slow Carbs”
You might have known that good food is the base for bodybuilding, but do you know that it is the foundation to build mental health as well? We are aware of the fact that not all foods are made equal in nutrients and vitamins, but certain foods are extremely effective in controlling your emotions and strengthening your mental clarity. They are mainly “slow carbs” foods, which generally means they release their energy very slowly. Some examples of foods are brown rice, brown bread, vegetables, seeds, peas, beans, and legumes. What makes “slow carbs” food good for your mental health is that their sugars are not broken down too rapidly during digestion. Therefore, your blood sugar level stabilizes, and you will feel a sense of calmness and mental clarity for the whole day. On the other hand, consuming “fast carbs” such as chips, coke and cereals put your blood sugar on a rollercoaster, which in turn causes frequent mood swings.
12. Get Enough Sleep
Feeling grumpy because you stayed up working late last night? Busy people swap their time for work, and work will always be the number one reason why most of us stay up late. It’s a bad thing to skip or not sleep enough because sleep is the best method for you to heal mentally, to commence the process of storing, selecting and retaining the information into the brain memory, and to increase mental concentration after waking up. That doesn’t even include the physical benefits. If you don’t get enough sleep, even if it’s just one day, your body will release more stress hormones of the harmful kind, your brain does not have enough time to recover, and it will lower your mental focus and productivity for the next few days. Therefore, it is better to tuck yourself in early and sleep tonight, rather than spend the whole day feeling tired, moody and unproductive at work.
Those are 12 practical tips on how to keep yourself mentally strong. Follow these tips, and you will start gaining mental strength with ease. All contents provided are for informational and educational purposes. We recommend you consult a healthcare professional if you’re unsure of any of the methods above or drop a comment below and we will see how we can help!