Most people know how to build physical strength, but there's a lot more confusion over the steps you can take to develop mental strength. While there are lots of exercises that can help you become mentally strong, here are three secrets to building mental muscle:
1. Talk to yourself like a trusted friend.
Scientists at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging estimate humans have about 70,000 thoughts per day. That means you have 70,000 opportunities to either make yourself stronger, or tear yourself down.
Your thoughts greatly influence how you feel and behave. In fact, your inner monologue has a tendency to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thinking things like, "I will never get hired for this job," or "Nobody ever listens to me," can alter your behavior in a way that makes those predictions come true.
Practice replacing overly negative thoughts with more realistic ones. When you notice yourself thinking something like, "I'm a loser and I'll never amount to anything," remind yourself that your thoughts aren't necessarily true.
Ask yourself, "What would I say to a friend who said this about herself?" Then, offer those kind and gentle words to yourself.
2. Take charge of your emotions.
Allowing your emotions to control your life will deplete your mental strength. While there's nothing wrong with being in a bad mood sometimes, staying stuck in a negative spot can be a slippery slope. Sadness can lead to self-pity, anger can turn to bitterness and mild anxiety can become paralyzing fear if you're not careful.
A lot of problems stem from a desire to avoid discomfort. For example, people who fear failure often avoid new challenges in an effort to keep anxiety at bay. Avoiding emotional discomfort, however, is usually a short-term solution that leads to long-term problems.
Develop an awareness of how your emotions impact your life. Decide that you're going to be in control of your emotions so they don't control you. Face uncomfortable feelings head-on and take charge of your life. The more you practice tolerating discomfort, the more confidence you'll gain in your ability to accept new challenges.
3. Make productive choices.
It's impossible to feel mentally strong when you're engaging in self-destructive behaviors that sabotage your best efforts. Yet, most people have a few unproductive habits that they indulge in on a regular basis.
Many of these bad habits seem minor--complaining about your boss, hosting your own pity party, or trying to please everyone--but they can wreak havoc on your mental state. When you perform these bad habits, right alongside your good ones, your efforts become counterproductive.
You only have a finite amount of time and energy in life. Devoting those resources to the things mentally strong people don't do will tire you out and slow your progress toward your goals.
Build Mental Strength
Everyone has the ability to build mental strength. Similar to building physical strength, developing mental muscle requires dedication and hard work. With practice, you'll gain an increased ability to regulate your thoughts, control your emotions, and behave productively despite your circumstances.
This article was first published on Inc.