When it comes to mental health, building mental toughness is crucial for so many areas of life. Mental toughness determines how we manage our thoughts, emotions, energy, and productivity. Mental toughness means you can cope better with hardship and negativity, and train yourself into healthy habits that will keep you thinking and behaving positively. So far, so good, right?
A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that US Marines who engaged in “mindfulness-based mind fitness training” displayed significant recovery from stress after completing the course. The training, which lasted 8 weeks, included at least 30 minutes of daily mindfulness and self-regulation. It was specifically designed to help Marines enhance their resilience through meditation and mindfulness — and to prepare for, and recover from, stressful combat situations that could result in PTSD and anxiety.
But you don’t need to be a Marine to see the benefits of meditation and mindfulness in regard to building mental strength — it can work for everyone, no matter what level of stress you are dealing with.
Here are three ways you can start building up your mental stamina and strength:
Imagine that your brain needs to be worked out, the same way your body does every time you go to the gym. Just as sustained, regular exercise is good for your body; sustained, regular meditation can help your brain. Mindfulness is about staying present in the moment. And since the only time you can change your behavior is right now, it’s important to be able to focus on the here-and-now. Meditation doesn’t have to be intimidating either. Try an app like Headspace. You can start with just 3-5 mins a day.
Visualize Positive Outcomes.
Years ago I read The Power of Habit and it talked about how Michael Phelps would put in a hypothetical video tape and “watch” his race before he got in the water. Every stroke. What this does is that it trains your brain and opens you up to the fact, not possibility that this IS going to happen because you see it and believe it. This works for all kinds of things, and if something doesn’t go according to plan it isn’t setting you up to be disappointed either, you are better training your brain to open to positive possibilities. I mean, remember Queen’s Gambit??
Visualization techniques can also reduce anxiety. They direct your attention back to the details of your desired outcome. In the process, minimizing the noise of other (less relevant) distractions.
If we haven’t blabbed about gratitude enough — here we go again! It’s a real good one. Practicing gratitude will change your mindset by increasing your resilience, bolstering self-esteem, and helping you to see the positive side of any situation. It can be done with something more formal like a gratitude journal, or you could take turns at dinner listing things out loud, or even while you lather your hair in the shower. Being thankful can have a major impact on how you think, how you feel, and how you act. It's like an underrated superpower that could change your life.