Resilience, mental strength, call it what you will. Our ability to bounce back when life knocks us down is incredibly important to our overall wellbeing.
Did you know that to maintain a healthy mind our ratio of positive to negative thoughts is three-to-one? To put simply, we should have three positive thoughts for every negative one. The problem with negative emotions is they tend to linger. I talk about this a lot, but it’s important to recognise how different positive and negative emotions are, if we are to become more mindful of them. Negative thoughts/emotions stick with us. Think of the last time you felt angry or sad and how long that lasted. Then compare with the moments of joy, humour or happiness that can often be short and fleeting. This is why we need that ratio.
So why does mental strength matter? Might seem obvious, but if we don’t practice mental strength we can easily let that balance tip. Particularly in tough times… you know, say a global pandemic. Letting those negative thoughts seep in can create chronic stress, which upsets the body’s hormone balance, depletes the brain chemicals required for happiness, and damages the immune system. Ultimately, chronic stress can actually decrease our lifespan.
So what can we do?
Mental strength is when you choose to take notice of what’s passing through your mind, without identifying personally with those thoughts or feelings. Then, finding the determination to evoke optimistic thoughts about the situation.
There is so much reading we can do around this, so I am going to summarise a few hacks for you to practice.
Develop a positive mindset:
Sometimes, building mental strength isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. It’s estimated we have about 60,000 thoughts a day. The negative ones tend to repeat. Creating a positive mindset is only allowing your focus to dwell or repeat on things that really need your action.
- Let go of self-liming beliefs: When you recognise a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true, and then back that up with some positive affirmations. “I am smart enough, I might just need to do more research,” for example.
- Ditch the “all or nothing” mindset. Goals are not something you succeed or fail in. Look at the small steps and the positives from those steps. If you wanted a promotion, but lost out, look at what you gained. Experience, knowledge and all the things that ultimately bring you one step closer.
Find Your Purpose
Building mental strength and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong “why”. Simon Sinek’s well known message “Start with Why” says that:
“Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”
One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a why for. Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.
Connect with your tribe
I know I talk about our tribe ad nauseam, but it’s so important to connect with people who lift you up. Our mental strength is improved by the belief that we are not alone. No one ever did anything great without the help and support of those around them. If you are struggling to connect and find unity with like-minded souls, you can try to find a mentor who can help, but essentially, our friends and family can be our biggest cheerleaders. Lean in to it.
So this is a huge area and much can be said about it, but essentially what I try to remember is the importance of not dwelling on the negative. If we have 60,000 thoughts a day, let’s only focus on the ones we can change. Let’s reframe the ones we don’t like and let’s move forward with our “why” firmly in place.