We can debate whether mental toughness is a developed characteristic or based in genetics, but it’s something we all need a jolt of from time to time. As intelligent beings we crave closeness, and our moods – positive or negative – can have a significant impact on our lives and those around us. When things are going well it’s easier to keep an unclouded mind, but what about when we’re stressed, hurting or angry? This is when we accept less than we deserve and make risky decisions that affect our lives.
Commitment, resilience, fitness and focus are valuable habits that help us stay positive when faced with adversity and are the building blocks of mental toughness.
These top four will help keep you on track.
Commitment – Unbox Your Hidden
When we change our minds, we change our brains, and just like we can become more patient, tolerant, or flexible, we can improve our mental toughness. A big part of this is facing what is uncomfortable and unveiling things we have hidden as a response to trauma, pressure, fear, or circumstance. Commitment is a strategy that sets us up for success and helps break down the steps to accessing our power.
Yoga’s foundational aspects helped me visualize and execute my passions. Committing to difficult poses, shaping the body through pure sweat and pushing through days when I struggled to get on the mat or find purpose, gave me the tools to unpack what I’d buried, creating positive change. The steps to unpacking our hidden starts with commitment to our objectives, then rinse and repeat.
John Kim, aka The Angry Therapist, is a strong backer of commitment to re-worthing ourelves. At a recent wellness retreat, I invited John to share his own mental toughness with clients, and part of his work was helping us see our pseudo vs. solid self. “At a retreat, we take out the daily distractions of stress. That space creates a richer soil to be more present and mindful, which means more potent sessions,” he states about the many break throughs made. When asked how he best connects with clients he says “Talking WITH them instead of AT them. By participating with them in groups and activities. By showing yourself instead of presenting yourself as the “expert” Not afraid to show himself, it allows others to do the same.
Resilience – Thoroughly Grieving Losses
My journey after family traumas, loss and expired relationships included yoga and fitness to push past tough sensations to more spirituality. Many transitions came later in life, after years of repeating hard lessons and being stuck in heartache. Until defining it as grief and allowing it to surface and heal, all the positive affirmations, and pop culture references wouldn’t have helped. Grief, like shame, is hard to assess because it’s different for everyone, and in that time of turmoil, the upheaval forced me to redefine my path and make healthier choices. The more I used my resiliency tools, the stronger they became allowing me to grieve.
Lance Allred previously played in the NBA and grew up using resiliency in difficult situations. “My Capricorn moon, my feminine, does not like emotions, the moon is weakest in Capricorn and my default grieving mode is to work. While I was going through a divorce and transitioning careers, I was avoiding grieving, but as I began to dissect my chart, as I was drawn to astrology at this time, I saw clearly that in order for me to evolve into my next stage, not just professionally, but spiritually, I had to learn how to grieve and be more heart centered and not ashamed of it.” he says of his transition in decoding avatars with astrology readings and coaching people to discover their innate resilience.
Fitness – Intelligent Emotions Through the Body
Most of us know how to build physical strength, but less is given on building mental strength and intelligent emotion. “The fitter you are, the more stress it takes to get you stressed,” says Harvard psychiatrist and author John Ratey. Our bodies are our first line of defense. When testosterone levels are high and cortisol levels are low, people perform well under pressure. They demonstrate all the qualities that we link with mental toughness. When the recipe is reversed you get the opposite: poor performance, anxiety and frayed nerves. shares Riley Holland, Neuromuscular Release professional.
The biggest changes in my life began when I used fitness to shift my thinking, lowering high cortisol levels, situational depression, and negative behavior. This new shot of mental toughness and a stronger, leaner body gave me the experience, motivation and tools to visualize my goals, leading me to provide a place of true body-mind connection for myself and then others. Active bodies create a healthy cycle and chemical pattern to reshape our emotions, naturally raising our mental toughness.
“When you believe you’re worth something, the universe moves. I believe this with every fiber of my being. The internal shift that happens when one is convinced of their value and unique gifts, changes every. single. thing.” The Angry Therapist says of re-worthing tools, including a fitness focus. Understanding the dominate and non-dominate traits of our personalities will help us forge a positive fitness path and shed the armor that has been building up for years
Focus – Rewiring Synapses Through Habit
My fascination with improving body and brain chemistry led me to question exactly how to increase my own willpower. Jeffery Schwartz, author of You Are Not Your Brain, says “Nothing is more confusing or painful than when your brain takes over your thoughts, attacks your self-worth, questions your abilities, overpowers you with cravings or attempts to dictate your actions.” Anyone who’s ever been high jacked by their own mind understands the power we give it and a re-direction of focus is a strong mental toughness habit.
Like our bodies our mental muscles need to be exercised. The more we do this the more we reset synaptic patterns, increasing the brains plasticity. A natural improvement to handling stress is increasing stimuli and breaking restrictive personal boundaries. Creating habits that strengthen our awareness and connection can help us re-wire our brains and achieve our most passionate goals. There’s nothing wrong with bad moods at times but if we allow them to hold power or worse, carve out negative neural pathways, we can be headed for self -pity, bitterness and high anxiety. With focus we increase our mental toughness by lowering our brain wave activity and getting in the zone to create, release and re-wire.
Fellow wellness coach, Lance Allred had this to say about his work with emotion. “’I’m more interested helping people transcend their blind spots and coded reactions to the world, or their ego. As you become self-aware, you become enlightened and able to transcend your ego, no longer reacting to the world, but rather, responding.” This is good news. Our habits, focus, and awareness give us more control over our own brain chemistry, moving our lives – and our neurons – forward.
Whatever you want to call it – cojones, gut, tenacity, intuition – our habits create mental toughness through practice, just like yoga. We can’t expect results without making changes. So, when we need to push through, outlast every obstacle or decide on success or failure, we have the tools to make it happen.
Book; You Are Not Your Brain: https://jeffreymschwartz.com/
Lance Allred: http://lanceallred41.com/
The Angry Therapist: https://www.theangrytherapist.com/
Neuromuscular Release: https://bionicmindmethod.com/about/
Wild Adventure Wellness Retreats: https://wildadventures.life/