Let’s start with a simple question: “What does physical health mean to you compared to physical strength?”
A similar aspect also applies to mental health and strength.
Mental health covers everything from brain and body chemistry to mental states, emotions, and cognitive processes, while mental strength mainly reflects mental resilience.
Mental health and mental strength
If you are physically strong, this can have a positive effect on your physical health. Building muscle requires healthy eating, exercise, and adequate sleep. However, physical strength does not guarantee good physical health.
To a large extent, physical health depends on factors over which you have a direct influence (lifestyle, exercise, exposure to stress, general self-care), but it is also affected by factors over which you have no control (genes, family history).
The same principle applies when it comes to mental health. Certainly, mental strength exercises help in improving mental health, which in turn helps in improving mental health. Better mental health, on the other hand, is the basis for becoming a mentally stronger person. Still, mental strength is no guarantee of good mental health.
What is mental health
Mental health is concerned with the presence or absence of mental health problems. This applies to our emotional, social and psychological well-being, and affects our cognition and behavior. When we are in a state of mental health imbalance, the way we think, behave and our environment changes significantly.
The main factors that affect our mental health are:
- BIOLOGY (neurological, hormonal, genetic processes)
- LIFE EXPERIENCES AND FAMILY
- LIFESTYLE (the way we take care of ourselves – read here about the factors that have a significant impact on depression)
Definition of mental strength
Mental strength is the cognitive and emotional ability to transform negative thoughts and adverse circumstances. It is characterized by several things that relate to immunity. Mental strength can be defined as:
- DETERMINATION (to finish something)
- PERSISTENCE (even when things go wrong)
- FOCUS (even under pressure)
Mental strength also includes emotional and social intelligence, the ability to manage one’s own emotions as well as recognize them.
I encourage you to take a personality test for a deeper understanding of yourself
Three elements of mental strength
According to Amy Morina, there are three essential elements of mental strength and thirteen NOTs of mentally strong people.
The elements that construct our entire mental system are also the elements involved in building mental strength.
- Feelings – being able to manage your emotions, being able to suppress and deny, acknowledging your own and others’ emotions, and being able to accept discomfort – all relate to being a mentally strong person in your emotional life.It may seem that people who secretly suppress their emotions seem strong, but this is only an appearance. Mental psychic strength supports the processing of feelings, the awareness of hiding and escaping.
- Thoughts – dreams and fantasies are important and many times very pleasant, but to bring them into our lives we must be rational. Being a rational person means doing the right thing in a given context. It means being able to distinguish between the realistic and unrealistic worlds and making decisions.Mental strength can also be reflected in our thoughts and in the way we balance positive and negative thinking. In a situation where we are overly self-critical, it is important to know when to stop, stop and show ourselves some compassion and empathy.
- Behavior – many times mental weakness can manifest itself in the lack of sensible action. For example, deciding to skip a training day when there is no real reason to do so, or being too hesitant can be a sign of a lack of mental strength.
Mental toughness means having the courage to take meaningful action as well as practicing self-care and knowing what is good for you.
13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do
Amy Morin in her book lists the following 13 things strong people don’t do:
1. They don’t give away their strengths
Mentally strong people know their strengths, but they don’t reveal them without clear intentions or goals. They know how to use them as their secret weapon.
2. They don’t feel sorry for themselves
Self-compassion is important and should be encouraged, but self-pity is quite another. Regret can lead us to very negative effects, justifying various wrong actions as well as maintaining a toxic and unhealthy status quo. If you want to be a mentally strong person, you must resist the temptation to feel sorry for yourself.
3. They are not afraid of changes
Making changes can be both exciting and scary, but accepting changes in your life is a sign of mental strength. Stepping out of your comfort zone is one of the best ways to face fear.
4. They don’t focus on things they can’t control
“There is only one way to happiness and that is to stop worrying about things beyond your control.” –– Epictetus
This is what we already have, we like to worry. We create millions of black scenarios in our heads and look for solutions to problems that have not yet happened to us. And what is important – it is very likely that they will never meet us.
You can’t help the queue in the store, you can get nervous and force the opening of another cash register, but if the store does not hire a new employee, your anger will not change anything. The same applies to traffic jams, train or bus delays, or the weather. The road is free, you can throw curses, but it won’t disperse the clouds.
5. They don’t try to please everyone
It is impossible to make everyone around you happy. In addition, it is extremely energy-intensive and of little use. It is much more important to focus on the people who are important to you and on your own well-being.
You can’t please everyone all the time, and that’s something worth accepting.
6. They are not afraid to take risks
There are many senseless risks a person can take, but there is also a way to take intelligent risks. For example, starting a business without a business plan is not a wise risk, but starting a business after getting informed and creating the best possible strategy is a calculated risk worth taking.
7. They don’t remember the past
Mentally strong people are aware that life is happening now. So they invest their energy and time in being aware of the present. They make plans, goals instead of dwelling on the past.
8. They don’t repeat the same mistakes
One of the foundations of a growth mindset is the ability to learn from mistakes. Mentally strong people use their mistakes as lessons, and then in the future they skillfully come out of these situations instead of repeating them.
9. They don’t resent other people’s success
There are several problems with resenting other people’s success. First, it reveals that the person who feels resentful is actually insecure, which is why he compares himself to others in the first place. Second, this kind of resentment keeps them from making meaningful friendships with people who could positively influence them.
Other people’s success should serve as an inspiration, not a basis for resentment, so the only person we should compare ourselves to today is who we were yesterday.
10. They don’t give up after first failure
Perseverance is a huge part of what mental strength is. Mentally strong people know that good things take time, energy, and determination. The belief that we must succeed at everything from the first moment is extremely self-limiting. In fact, it stops us from being truly successful.
If you fail, get up and try again. That’s the only way you’ll learn.
11. They feel no fear alone
Being alone does not mean being lonely. Mentally strong people are not afraid of solitude and even set aside time during the day or certain days of the week to collect their thoughts and enjoy solitude
Read about how to spend time and be happy alone
12. They do not feel that the world owes them everything
Very often you can hear people complaining that the world is unfair and society owes them something in life. While these thoughts may or may not be true (it always depends on the position you take in the discussion), they are not very productive. These thoughts are mostly excuses for doing nothing to change your (possibly unpleasant) situation.
Even if the world owes us something and society is unfair, there’s little we can do as individuals if we keep judging and playing the victim. If you want to change something externally or within yourself, you need to take concrete action and accept that the only person who can do it is you.
13. They don’t expect immediate results
Nothing of value and importance in life comes on a plate in front of your nose. The more effort you put into achieving your goal, the more valuable that goal will be. Mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results. They constantly fight and strive for the goal, knowing that they must be patient to get the real and desired results.
How to become mentally strong?
Once you know what mental strength is and what it is not, we can ask ourselves what can I do to increase this strength, to direct my behaviors, thoughts and feelings into mental strength?
Here are some tips that focus on strengthening your thinking, emotions, and actions.
1. Learn to think differently
There are thought exercises that teach you to take different positions and perspectives as you approach a particular problem in your life.
The following exercises are designed to transform your negative thoughts into positive ones and allow you to evaluate your reality rationally.
Every time you feel mentally weakened and your thoughts go to catastrophe and imagining the worst-case scenario, try to think of the opposite: What would this situation look like if everything had gone well?
How close are you to this scenario? What should you do to get there?
Keep a reflective journal
Keeping a reflective journal helps us gather our thoughts about events in our daily life as well as other life events we consider important. It also trains our cognitive system to think about these situations from multiple perspectives.
Keep a gratitude journal
One of the best things you can do to stay rational and mentally strong is to keep a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal not only sheds a positive light on the atomic events in our lives, but it helps us maintain an overall positive outlook on life.
2. Train your emotions
Knowledge of emotions and intelligence are an important part of mental strength. Emotional exercise can increase our self-awareness and make us more tolerant of stressful situations. They can help us read and use our emotions to our advantage and enhance positive or reduce negative emotional experiences.
One of the best ways to achieve emotional stability and mental strength is to practice meditation. Meditation gives us a deeper connection with ourselves and our surroundings. It teaches us to stay calm even in stressful or otherwise unpleasant situations, so it’s worth a try.
Do breathing exercises
If you are prone to anxiety in certain situations or your thoughts become too overwhelming, you can regain mental strength and clarity by doing breathing exercises or other spiritual practices.
Practice healthy mechanisms
While many of the toxic or dysfunctional coping mechanisms we use today have helped us deal with some situations in the past, as we grow up, it is our responsibility to identify and “fix” these dysfunctions.
If you find that you have an unhealthy coping pattern for certain stressful situations, consider the following:
- Identify negative or unpleasant emotions;
- Try to understand how they relate to your coping pattern;
- Think of alternative ways to deal with these situations.
The first step to adopting healthier coping mechanisms is learning to delay your reactions. If you know how to identify negative emotions that arise, you can “stop” the process that usually follows and just let that emotion exist. Don’t react to it. Go for a walk, do breathing exercises or talk to a loved one. Then, when the “storm” is over, try to analyze the situation and choose the appropriate response.
It’s a process of lots of trial and error, but when you find what’s right for you, you’ll know it because you’ll feel more positive, successful, and connected.
Increase your emotional intelligence
Increasing your emotional intelligence can do wonders for your mental strength. By learning how to recognize and manage your own emotions, you gain more control over your reactions, feelings, thoughts, and behavior. But also learning how to recognize and respond to other people’s emotions, or how to stay calm and reasoned in stressful situations, will greatly increase your mental strength and overall well-being and stability.
3. Strengthen your behavioral control
Becoming mentally stronger also means gaining better control over your behavior. This means you know why, when and what you are doing. Behavioral exercise is all about channeling your behavior towards things that benefit you, away from things that only waste your time and energy.
FInd “your” time
Mentally strong people are not afraid of loneliness. They can allocate and enjoy solitude. Socializing is usually healthy and necessary, but so is the time we use to consolidate our thoughts, take care of ourselves, or maybe just relax and enjoy our hobbies.
You time can be extremely helpful in building your mental strength because being alone isn’t always easy. But by learning how to be alone and well, you build up your mental strength and you also learn who you really are as a person.
Take time to do something positive each day
Positive actions increase our self-esteem, self-confidence and bring a positive attitude to life. Taking the time to be positive can mean getting involved in a new project, such as volunteering in a local community kitchen, but it can also mean smaller things like reading a good book after dinner, meeting a loved one, or simply preparing and enjoying your favorite meal.
Devote yourself to a hobby that makes you happy
Hobbies are a very important part of our lives. They help us keep our life energy fresh and shift our attention from everyday and existential questions to more positive, fun and exciting ones.
Hobbies can be a great asset in mental strength training. Whether it’s dancing, sewing, baking or reading, try to devote yourself to it for longer, and the achievements you achieve will help you maintain a positive attitude towards yourself and the world around you.
Being mentally strong is a very important part of the best life. Mental strength means that you will persevere even in the most difficult times, that you deal with stressful situations and emotions appropriately, and that you successfully maintain your joy of life. It is a long process that requires your commitment, practice and rethinking yourself, your values and your worldview – and you achieve this through self-development, growth and mindful, conscious living.