Mental strength is a lot like physical strength. When it comes to growing stronger and becoming better, good habits are important. But your good habits will only get you so far in life if you’re performing bad habits right alongside them.
If I wanted to grow physically strong, I might lift weights. But if I really wanted to see some muscle definition, I’d need to give up eating too much junk food. Otherwise, my workouts wouldn’t be all that effective. The same can be said for your mental muscles. You need good habits, like gratitude, to grow stronger. But if you really want to see results, you also have to give up bad habits, like comparing yourself with other people.
It’s important to note that having a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re weak. Just like someone with diabetes could choose to become physically strong, someone with depression can choose to become mentally strong. An illness can make building muscle more complicated, but it’s still possible.
You aren’t either mentally strong or mentally weak. Everyone possesses mental strength to a certain degree. And no matter how strong you are, there’s always room for improvement.
It’s important to keep working your mental muscles too. If you grow lax about building strength, your mental muscles will atrophy. There are three parts to mental strength:
Thoughts—It’s important to develop a realistic inner monologue. Thinking overly negative thoughts like “I’ll never succeed” will drag you down. But you also don’t want to think in an overly positive way. Saying things like “This will be easy” could cause you to enter a situation unprepared.
Feelings—While it’s healthy to experience a wide range of emotions, you don’t have to let your feelings control you. If you wake up in a grumpy mood, you can take steps to feel better. When you’re angry, knowing how to calm yourself down can prevent you from doing something you regret. The more mental strength you build, the more aware you’ll become of your emotions and how those emotions affect your choices.
Behavior—No matter what circumstance you find yourself in, it’s important to take positive action. Whether you go to the gym when you’re tired or you speak up in a meeting when you’re filled with self-doubt, your choices can change your life. Even if you can’t solve a problem, you can always choose to make your life or someone else’s life better.
All three aspects of mental strength are interrelated. If you think, “I don’t have anything valuable to say,” you’ll feel awkward about speaking up. That, in turn, will likely affect your behavior, as you’ll probably stay silent. Consequently, your belief that you don’t have anything to add to the conversation will be reinforced.
We all get caught up in negative patterns like this in our lives. Building mental strength disrupts those unhealthy cycles and helps you develop better habits so you can live a more fulfilling life.