Mental resilience is a crucial but undervalued skill. With the world as it is today, with the coronavirus crisis still ongoing and a future full of uncertainty ahead of us, a strong mind is essential for helping us keep our heads above water.
But how do you nurture such a quality? How can we strengthen and improve that most vital muscle, the brain? Here we break down four simple tips that you can take action on today.
Embrace the many benefits of exercise
The chemical benefits of exercise for the mind are well-documented — regular exercise releases dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, and other so-called ‘feel-good’ hormones, helping regulate our mood and heightening our sense of wellbeing.
Beyond this, exercise helps nurture a particular sense of grit and determination in ourselves. By pushing ourselves to meet (and exceed) physical goals, we create an aspirational mindset that translates into the rest of our lives, too.
The sense of accomplishment we feel when we run our first 5K, for instance, or achieve our first chin-up, is considerable. It spurs us on to push through physical barriers (being out of breath halfway through a run) and psychological ones, too. It helps us ignore that critical voice in our head and become more resilient as a result.
Track your progress using a dedicated fitness app. This helps you visualize the progress you make, allowing you to recognize your growth and value it all the more.
Give yourself a break
We are our own worst critic — this has been said enough that it’s almost a cliche, but it’s true. Even when we urge our friends and family to look after themselves, to put themselves first, and love themselves, we rarely extend the same courtesy to ourselves. The practice of self-love can be a hard thing to do — there are plenty of simple ways to treat yourself well, but it requires a certain grit and determination to actually follow through with these practices.
Why do we find it so easy to dole out affirmations, and yet are so reticent when it comes to ourselves, arguably the most important person in our lives? Often, it is simply because we are harder on ourselves than our friends, family, and loved ones. We feel as though we don’t deserve self-love, and so we don’t give ourselves a break. But this is essential — giving ourselves the same lenience and patience that we offer to others.
When you feel low, don’t wallow. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend in the same position. Just as you’d remind your friend that he or she is worthy and will get through this, be sure to remind yourself the same thing.
Self-affirmation exercises are pivotal in helping us achieve this. Repeat positive phrases to yourself, such as “I am enough” and “I am worthy” to yourself, preferably in the mirror. This might feel odd at first, but persevere — it’s a simple exercise that reinforces positive attitudes towards yourself over time.
Practice a mindful approach to life
True resilience doesn’t just come from grit and strength — it comes from patience and consideration. Mindfulness can help you nurture these qualities.
Many of you reading this have already embraced a mindful approach to life. But for others, mindfulness seems like a laughable prospect, something more suited to spiritual types than the average individual. However, while it certainly has roots in the spiritual movement, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that mindfulness has a genuine real-world impact, helping people adopt a different approach to life.
A simple way to understand the benefits of mindfulness for mental resilience is to find a piece of fruit, such as an orange, and slowly peel and eat it. As you do, consider how it affects your senses — smell, taste, touch, and so on. Appreciate each element and think about how it makes you feel. Don’t rush it — simply take the time to appreciate its color, its sweet smell, its unique texture.
This exercise teaches us to slow down and appreciate the sensations of a simple act. In the same vein, adopting such a considered and deliberate approach to life also gives us the strength needed to deal with its challenges.
Where we might usually go through life automatically, constantly worrying about work, money, relationships, and so on, a mindful attitude towards life helps you to pause, take stock, and appreciate life in a more deliberate, appreciative way.
Ditch your crutches and build positive habits
The idea of grabbing a glass of wine after a hard day is commonplace — it’s an accepted stress-relief method that many of us lean on.
But while the occasional drink is fine, it can easily become a crutch. Alcohol becomes our go-to solution for any stress we encounter in life, preventing us from dealing with issues head-on.
The same applies to smoking. While it doesn’t alter our mindset in the same profound way that alcohol does, it’s still an unhealthy crutch that hinders, rather than helps. Weaning yourself off these crutches — excessive drinking, smoking, recreational drugs, and so on — helps you build a constructive outlook towards the stresses and strains of life.
As well as ditching bad habits, it’s important to build positive ones into your life, too. I touched on exercise earlier, and making regular activity part of your lifestyle is essential.
But beyond that, you should strive to build positive sleeping habits, too. If your body is a car, sleep is your regular vehicle service — it helps your body repair itself, keeping your heart healthy and maintaining your immune system.
The psychological and emotional benefits of sleep are also crucial. It improves your concentration, strengthens mental acuity, and gives you a positive chemical mindset to deal with emotional stress. The mindful approach I mentioned earlier is also useful here — there are many exercises that can help you find better, more restful sleep through mindfulness. Of course, reducing your alcohol and caffeine intake also helps, but practical steps such as mindfulness exercises make it that little bit easier.
The points above are just a few ways you can build mental resilience. It won’t happen overnight, of course, but by making small changes today, you can pave the way for a healthier, stronger mind that helps you cope with life’s stresses with calm and patience.
About the Author: Orion Talmay is a wellness expert and love coach. Through her integrative approach, Orion’s Method, she helps women awaken their inner goddess and nurture their feminine confidence. Orion is a graduate of Tony Robbins’ Mastery University and holds certifications with the AAPT, KBA, and AFFA.
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