The sad reality is we live in a world where more often than not, people are more concerned with how they look than how they feel. Bodily vanity and aesthetics have overtaken internal health and, in particular, our mental wellbeing. Yet what people fail to recognise is that without our minds, we are nothing.
Speak to anyone who has experienced some form of hardship and you’ll find that their mental strength played a greater role in getting them through than their muscles. But your mind will give up much faster than your body, if it is not exercised, conditioned and given as much focus as we give our bodies.
I learnt this lesson in the Special Forces selection process. I was up against people who looked much bigger and stronger than me but, when we got underway and I started passing them, my confidence grew and my mindset completely changed. I realised that the process was 80% mental.
With the mind holding such power over our ability to reach our goals, mental strength is often the key to success. Whether it’s in the workplace, in a relationship or whilst battle hardships, being mentally strong can be one of the most challenging yet rewarding traits any person can have.
With all this in mind, here are my top tips for increasing your mental strength:
Mindfulness is perhaps the starting point for all of these tips and, just like any skill, it takes practice to master. Mindfulness is simply focused attention on intention. It’s all about being present and completely aware of yourself and your surroundings which allows you to see challenges, solutions and opportunities better.
When you’re focused and present, your head is cleared of distracting thoughts and, in this state, you have the power to visualise and manifest the life you want and put real intention into taking positive actions towards it.
With the busyness of our daily lives, it’s easy to get distracted and forget to pay mindful attention to the things we are doing. So, I’ve found that scheduling time into my day to focus on mindfulness is the best way around this. I like to wake up a little earlier and spend some time meditating which really helps to get me in the right headspace for the day.
The transition from the military back to normal civilian life taught me that mental strength has a lot to do with finding your purpose. For a while, after I left the forces, I was lost and going about aimlessly which resulted in me falling into some unhealthy cycles and habits.
It wasn’t until I took the time to really understand and address the issues I was facing that I realised I didn’t know my purpose. After much deliberation and some soul searching, I found purpose in helping people which is what I base my day to day life on today.
A purpose gives you something to focus your time and energy on. It should be something that brings you joy, ignites passion and motivates you to get out of bed in the morning.
And, whilst everyone’s purpose is different, with some careful consideration and attention, you’ll be able to find yours and, when you do, you’ll have greater clarity and understanding of your reason to keep going.
Naturally, with a direction to your day and, ultimately, your life, knockbacks will have less of an effect and your confidence and mental resilience will grow.
This tip is a lot easier said than done and will require some open and honest conversations with yourself which will be uncomfortable. We live in a blame culture where everyone is looking outwards for something to frame for their circumstances when in reality, we are the culprit.
In order to build our mental strength, we must take responsibility and ownership of whatever it is we are facing. Blaming someone or something else is the easy route and, as we all know, growth and strength don’t come easy.
Of course, there are definitely situations where suffering is the result of some external event that we had no control over, whether that be childhood trauma or even PTSD from war, but, ultimately, it is down to us to seek help and address the issue head-on.
Everyone has negative thoughts or goes through difficulty from time to time but what really helps with how well we deal with them are our perceptions. Those able to see a silver lining or an opportunity for improvement in what others would consider a negative situation possess greater mental hardiness.
Whilst some are already wired in a way which allows them to take advantage of adversity, or at least see a positive side of things, it’s a skill others can learn. Consider the basic fight or flight concept, for example. When faced with a challenge, how do you respond? If it’s flight, it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and fight.
Fight your negative thoughts and create your own silver lining. Remember that any challenge is a chance to learn, adapt and grow. You’ll never truly know your own mental strength until you put yourself through these tests.
Our lives are a manifestation of our minds and, therefore, a positive mind will lead to a positive life.
Much like our bodies, our minds are a product of what they consume. Mental strength is, therefore, built with healthy, constructive habits.
My personal battle involved alcohol consumption but those of others could be with unhealthy eating, drugs or even social media. Whatever it is, it’s important to understand how too much of something can impact our mental states.
Of course, the effects of alcohol and drugs on the brain are obvious in that they alter perceptions and reduce control but there are deeper, less apparent issues involving dependency and addiction too.
Ultimately, it’s about getting to the root of the problem and understanding why you feel you need these things. For instance, is it escapism? If so, what are you trying to escape from?
Whilst consuming these substances brings short-term pleasure, they lead to long-term pain. So, the best way to avoid falling into a vicious cycle of pleasure followed by pain is by creating, and then sticking to, a routine.
Limit the opportunities in your schedule to go for a drink, pick up an unhealthy snack or scroll through your phone. Keep yourself busy by fulfilling your purpose and, in time, healthier habits will be created.
Building mental strength is a journey, not an overnight shift. Many of us are already well along the way, having faced tough situations during our upbringing or later in life. That has allowed us to build the mental tools we need to overcome difficulties.
But, with the view that we will all, at some point in our lives, face some form of difficulty, it’s time to shift the focus to within and pay greater attention to building our mental strength.
Ready to be mentally stronger? Download our app to practice mindfulness as part of your daily routine and start your journey to a happier, healthier mind.
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