Mental Strength vs Mental Toughness

When we discuss mental health what often gets missed is how to become mentally healthy.

I’m not going to tell you to go live the life of a monk. There are much better places to find that information. I will give you few exercises or activities that have helped me and my clients reclaim the mental strength we’d lost, and my hope is they will help you to.

First, as always, we need to define what mental strength is.

Mental strength is NOT mental toughness. They are very different and to be honest it is difficult to work with mentally “tough” people sometimes.

Strength according to the dictionary is: • the quality or state of being strong; bodily or muscular power; vigor • mental power, force, or vigor • moral power, firmness, or courage

Here we see words like power, force, and courage. Words we all can strive for.

Now let’s take a look at the word tough: • strong and durable; not easily broken or cut • not brittle or tender • capable of great endurance; sturdy; hardy • not easily influenced, as a person; unyielding; stubborn

Some of you may look at that and say, “I like some of those words”, and so do I, but never just look at what you like, without considering the whole. It would be like staying in a relationship with someone that is consistently unfaithful, because that person makes you laugh.

Cherry picking the nice stuff and ignoring the bad only leads to disappointment and failure. Now if I were talking about a distance athlete than tough is a word I might embrace, but I’m talking about the mind today.

If we look at the whole we see words like, not tender, endurance, unyielding, and stubborn. Endurance in this case means to with-stand/resist.

Those are not the traits of a mentally healthy person.

So we want mental STRENGTH not mental TOUGHNESS.

Here are some simple actions you can do to start to strengthen your mind. All of them require discipline and deliberate thought which are the foundation of mental strength.

1. Affirmations. They’re the easiest way to make you smile, and feel good. Simply write down 10 positive phrases on sticky notes. They can be general, like, “I matter and what I have to offer matters” or, “I’m taking steps to better myself”. You can write more if you’d like. Now post them in places you look often. On the bathroom mirror, on your computer monitor, the fridge, or next to your speedometer in your car (make sure you don’t cover any of those important flashing lights).

There are even apps that will wake you up with something positive to start your day. You don’t have to say them out loud if you don’t want to, but I would encourage you to do so. I do want you to read them every day though. I try to change mine every 30 days or so to keep it fresh. You’ll be amazed at how something so simple can change your mind set in a second. The story below is true in all things: Feed the wolf you want to win!

2. Take time to do some breathing exercises. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. To control your breath is to control yourself. I have a free e-book here that goes into a bit more depth. I stumbled on these techniques/exercises when I decided I wanted to free-dive. One of those life changing decisions for me.

3. Create time to reflect on your day. I know it’s hard, believe me I know. It is important to document your progress and the only way to do that is to keep a record. If you handled a situation better than you thought, write it down. If you thought you could’ve done a better job with something, write down how you could’ve done better.

4. This last one may sound simple and it is, but simple doesn’t mean easy. I want you to set a goal and achieve that goal. Something simple, but out of the norm for you, something like, doing 20 push-ups every day for 30 days in a row or, reading a book for 20mins a day for a month. Again something simple that will only take being deliberate in your day to accomplish. Once you’ve accomplished that goal, set another one. This process will show you that you can do whatever you want, if you are deliberate.

“How you do anything is how you do everything” is the moto I live my life by. To me that means if I only give 80% on one thing I’ll give 80% on anything and if I can give 80% on anything I can give 80% on everything. We are habitual creatures and can use that to our advantage or disadvantage, it's up to us.

What are some things you do to build mental strength? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook.

Until next time

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