In the modern world it can be so easy to feel ragged and stretched thin as you are pulled in so many directions at once. This can leave you feeling disorientated and distracted, and from there you lose clarity and confidence about the right decisions to make as you face everyday obstacles and situations. You need your resolve and mental strength to kick in so that you can calmly and clearly deal with whatever comes your way and regain a sense of momentum and achievement. To develop mental strength I strongly favour the mental toughness framework built on the MTQ48 4C’s which builds resilience and confidence. However there are other ways to develop mental strength:
1. PHYSICAL EXERCISE
Physical exercise is one of the easiest tools to use to develop mental strength. Exercise is necessary to strengthen you mentally as well as physically and it does this by dissolving the stress that is harmful and draining. The stress magnifies your sense of feeling tired, anxious and sluggish and not being able to focus on ‘what next’. You’ll also likely experience physical symptoms such as insomnia, headaches and stomach aches. Exercise helps you produce a greater supply of endorphins, which reduce stress levels and at the same time reinvigorate you to feel calmer with more confidence and positivity.
If you are exercising in a park or countryside or on the beach, the benefits are even greater. In a recent post “30 Minutes a Week Can Improve Wellbeing and Reduce Depression I described how Australian researchers from the University of Queensland found that spending just 30 minutes a week in a park can improve your mental health and mental strength. The longer you spend in the park the lower your chances of depression and high blood pressure.
2. AFFIRMATIONS AND MANTRAS
I always used to think that affirmations and mantras were the same but whilst they are similar in that they both use your inner-voice to override your mind’s inbuilt negativity bias with positive self-talk, they are slightly different.
Affirmations are defined as positive, specific statements that help you to overcome self-sabotaging, negative thoughts. With them you visualise, and believe in, what you’re affirming to yourself, and in so doing you make positive changes to your life and career. On the basis of what you think and feel translates into how you act and behave, you use affirmations to help you overcome any mental obstacles you may have. These obstacles could be, for example, a lack of confidence and a strong sense of failure so your affirmation needs to specifically support your success in your next situation. You would use something like “I can achieve success” or “success is drawn to me”. When you repeatedly reaffirm this statement throughout the day, your subconscious mind will recognise it and make you feel more confident about achieving success, which will hopefully lead to actual success. What you think determines the way you act. This continued affirmation makes you feel happier and more positive which in turn replenishes, rather than diminishes, your mental strength.
In contrast a mantra is similar in that its something you utter with positive self-talk but defined as a sacred utterance, a syllable, or word believed to have psychological and spiritual powers. It is usually tighter than an affirmation and often associated with meditation. So, if you are meditating, or being mindful in a broader sense, there are good reasons for using a mantra. The most common mantra is a basic ‘Om’ sound but you can use any specific words or phrases that translate into requests for healing or blessings or other things that you want to focus on. Like an affirmation a mantra can help you deflect the thoughts and attitudes that are draining your mental strength. It can help you refocus when you are feeling uncertain, nervous or scrambled and it similarly reinforces your calm clarity and control. This leads to lower stress levels and a more positive outlook towards whatever you’re dealing with.
Yoga is a spiritual practice that uses breathing and postures in meditation and relaxation. I will admit that whilst I have never practiced yoga I know many people who use it regularly and passionately to dissolve stress and develop mental strength. Regularly practicing yoga makes you feel better emotionally and physically because, like with physical exercise, when you take part in the poses, your body releases endorphins that positively affect your mood. Yoga also helps you build your mental strength over time, improving your self-esteem and confidence.