How Can I Develop Mental Strength?
New Year, New Habits: How to Get Mentally Stronger this Year
It’s new year again and I’m sure you are being bombarded with messages about goal setting, visioning, making big changes, etc…
Well, I am no better than all of that. 😬
But, I do think that I can give you somewhat of a different perspective about it. I want to look a little bit deeper into what it takes to continue chasing your dreams and goals. It can get difficult and really dark sometimes. That’s where Mental Strength can help.
Hi, I'm Kaylin. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, emotional wellness coach, and yoga/meditation teacher. I am obsessed with all things emotional wellness, relationships and personal growth! Keep reading to learn more about how to develop mental strength.
What’s Mental Strength?
Mental Strength is how well you cope with negative experiences like setbacks, stress, self deprecating thoughts and the like. Mental strength describes how well you deal with pressure and challenges in your everyday life. Mental strength is also known as mental toughness, mental grit or mental fortitude.
For example, since this is a New Year post, when it comes to your New Year goals and resolutions, mental strength is partly the determination that you have to reach your goals. It is how well you stay on track with your goals, even when things get hard or look like you aren’t moving forward at all.
Mental strength is what will keep you going when the going gets tough. Mental strength is an important part of reaching those big audacious goals you have set for 2023.
(you do have big, audacious goals, don't you?)
Why is Mental Strength Important?
Mental strength is important because it is what's needed in order to get through and endure tough times. But, don’t mistake endurance for resilience. Many burnt out, stressed out, and overwhelmed individuals can endure- and often, that’s exactly how they got to be feeling stressed and burnt out. Resilience is the capacity to bounce back or recover from difficulties. Endurance is to continue through difficult situations without giving way. Mental strength is the combination- it will help you endure AND recover.
Many burnt out, stressed out, and overwhelmed individuals can endure- and often, that’s exactly how they got to be feeling stressed and burnt out.
Recovery is the most important part of mental strength. When our bodies are under high amounts of stress for long periods of time, it can develop into chronic stress or take on form as other conditions, either physical or mental. This could look like anxiety disorders, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, pain, and many more.
Where does Mental Strength Come From?
At this point you might be thinking to yourself, “great Kaylin, I get it. I need to be more mentally strong. But how?”
Where does mental strength come from?
Short (and probably really annoying) answer: It comes from within yourself.
Long version, with more explanation: You must take time to develop the habits that will help you grow your mental strength and fortitude. You must become a person who is dedicated to getting better and building mental grit. You must become a person who knows what they want, is willing to make mistakes, and who believes in yourself. This all comes down to daily habit and routine.
If you don’t feel like you are mentally strong right now, look at what you do each day. Look at how you think and move through your day. What needs to change? What isn’t serving you? What thoughts are on repeat that just make you feel bad?
Keep reading for 9 habits and mindset shifts to help you build mental strength.
Time for Yourself Daily
Challenge Yourself through movement
Meditate/ Practice silent time
Depend on Others
Embrace and seek out change
Brag and celebrate
Eat whole Foods
Stop comparing yourself to others
Take breaks and rest
Take time for yourself daily. The good news is, if you’re reading this far, you’re probably willing to do this. And more good news- you can pick almost anything from the rest of this list and do it daily, and that fulfills this tip too! Taking time for yourself is going to look different for everyone because of our vastly different lives and needs. However, it will always have one thing in common- it feels good to you.
Challenge Yourself through Movement. Our minds and bodies are more deeply connected than we realize. Moving your body in general is good for mental health, but when it comes to becoming more mentally strong, challenging yourself physically creates a bottom-up pathway to do just that. Intentionally challenging your body while thinking about affirmations and reminding yourself that you can do hard things or that you are strong allows the affirmation to really sink in and feel more real or more accessible. While you are working out your body, your mind is going to be less focused on arguing with your new positive thoughts. For example, I used to work out with a trainer and we would progressively add more weight to my squats. Each week I didn’t think I could do it until eventually, one day I was able to squat 5 reps of 200 lbs! By making small changes and reminding myself of how strong I am, each week I was able to prove it to myself.
Meditate/ Practice Silent Time. I put these two together because they both end up with the same result of finding mental stillness. I do not think that meditation needs to be silent and in fact, I rarely do silent meditations. Meditation also doesn’t need to be a seated activity, as it can be done in walking meditations or yoga asana. However, finding that mental stillness when you stop focusing on your To Do list or your constant thoughts, is the important piece here. It gives you space to know yourself, and to spend time with just you. It allows you to just exist for a few minutes each time you do it. If you are interested in learning meditation, there are many apps and websites out there that can teach you. I like the Insight Time app (not sponsored), or if you want some more personalized attention and accountability, I can teach you a few different types of mindfulness meditation. Request more information about that, here.
Depend on Others. Developing deep relationships full of trust and support can make you mentally stronger just by knowing that there are people out there who have your back when you need them. Knowing and trusting that you are not alone in your struggles can give you the hope needed to persevere. When you reach goals or accomplish hard things, it also makes the celebration that much sweeter to share it with loved ones.
Embrace and seek out change. Change can be scary, but it is also necessary to be able to grow. Allowing yourself to change and grow will build and require mental grit. When we change, it inherently means that we have to be new at something. Giving yourself permission to change your mind about things shows a sign that you are learning something new or seeing things in a different light. In its simplest form, this might look like taking a new route to work or just being willing to read this article about change. It might also look like quitting your job and buying a one way ticket to New Zealand and never looking back. It’s up to you, really.
Brag and Celebrate. This is one of my favorite concepts to teach to others. I learned it from my Business Coach. She learned it from her coach and so on. The idea is that we spend intentional time to think about things that we are proud of and actually brag about them! Bragging has always been a naughty word in our culture, but it doesn’t have to be. We are intelligent humans who have worked hard and there is nothing wrong with being proud of that and showing that pride. It doesn’t make you selfish or stuck up. We can celebrate together in community and it might actually bring us together. Bragging is a form of authentic expression. Authenticity is mental strengthening.
Eat whole foods. I’m not a dietician or a doctor, so I won’t go into too many details about specific nutrients or anything like that. But I will say, think about how you feel after eating fast food compared to how you feel after eating a freshly made salad full of greens, and reds, oranges and purples. It’s probably wildly different. Now think about trying to do something difficult after eating that fast food- before you even begin you are probably already feeling sluggish, maybe with some brain fog and in deep need of a nap (or a bathroom break!). Fuel your mind and body with yummy, whole foods for mental fortitude.
Stop comparing yourself to others. This will help you to stop beating yourself up and thinking that you are losing an imaginary game. If you don’t know what anyone else is up to, you can’t think that you are behind or missing something. But the second you start to compare yourself to anyone else is the second that you lose focus on your own goals. Then it can take up more of your mental energy to keep going when you're feeling behind rather than just using the energy to keep moving forward.
Take breaks and rest. I’m sure at some point, everyone has experienced that point of mental exhaustion where you feel like you can’t possibly do another thing like make dinner, make a decision, get to the gym, take a call or even turn on the tv. This is that moment when we just stare at the wall or scroll through tik tok for way too long without actually processing what is happening. In order to avoid that and to stay mentally available for life, it is important to take breaks throughout the day. Breaks long enough to take a walk outside would be ideal, but it can also just be looking away from your work and reaching your arms up above head to stretch. Just like a muscle, your brain gets tired when you use it too much. I would aim for at least a 5 minute break for every hour of work. Speaking of, I’m going to take a break from this article and go lie down for 15 minutes. (it’s 2pm as I write this and yes, I’m really going to go do that.)
This last tip to build mental strength isn’t included in the above list because it is an entirely different concept that could have its own list of tips, but I think it’s an important part of the puzzle anyway. And that is having Self-compassion.
Self-compassion is made up of mindfulness, being kind to yourself, and a sense of our common humanity. Allowing Self-compassion to be your guide will help you build the mental toughness and mental strength needed to work through almost any obstacle that may come your way. Self-Compassion will allow you to be resilient, and to acknowledge when it's time to take a break to rest. It will give you the courage to try again after making mistakes, because you know that everyone makes mistakes and it's part of being human.
Mental strength is required to be a human that grows and thrives in this culture.
I hope that these tips will help you to develop more mental strength and achieve your goals in 2023 and beyond.
Kaylin is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an Emotional Wellness coach. She created the Messy Authentic Newsletter to help others take the chaos in their lives and turn it into an intentional lifestyle that feels good.
Kaylin is obsessed with all things wellness and through her programs empowers women to overcome self doubt to achieve their goals with confidence.
With an all virtual practice, Kaylin is able to provide therapy to anyone in the state of California, and can coach individuals located anywhere.
Learn more here and schedule a consultation call to work with Kaylin.